Improving Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated People

Improving Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated People

The Re-entry Acceleration Program, also
called REAP, is Columbia Business School’s response to the need for the
business community to help people with criminal records, those who formerly
incarcerated, have better employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. This past semester I had the opportunity
to teach “Getting to Yes,” was which is a basic negotiation course. It was really
great, especially having taken negotiations in a prior semester, to
teach some of the same exact cases that I got to go through as a student to
these students who are incarcerated. A lot of business school classes talk a
lot about various types of disfranchised people including formerly incarcerated
people. But REAP provides us a really rare and important, a really powerful
actually, opportunity to work with those very people to understand what their
concerns are, to understand what we can do as future business leaders to empower
them. I think one key takeaway from me was that these are people who are just
really, really smart they have so many great skills and it’s just been a matter
of unfortunate circumstances that have kind of put them where they are, but I
think one thing that have been very inspiring for me was how forward-thinking
they are. And the fact that they aren’t letting the past and the things that
have happened to them really impact how they think about the future. And so that
means that they come to class very prepared. Business school students and
MBAs particularly are really positioned to be able to create some really
sustainable solutions to how we think about hiring formerly incarcerated
people. These are individuals who will go on and they will be in positions at
corporations who will have hiring decision power and decision-making power to be able to influence the strategies that these companies take when they’re
thinking about who they hire. The Tamer Center was a huge factor in my deciding
to come to Columbia Business School. It was really important to me to know that
I would be supported in pursuing social justice work when I was here at Columbia
and there’s really nothing like it at other business schools. REAP has really
cemented the work that I want to do post-business school.
I’m constantly thinking about, as a participant or now an alum, to re-think CBS once I graduate then how do I continue that advocacy.
Whether it be from the hiring side or whether it’s from even thinking about
how companies invest their philanthropic dollars.
We now are developing a blueprint where we can be a thought leader and take this
model to other universities and other business schools around the country who
also want to engage in this this large social problem that we are all trying to
collectively solve.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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