Meet Kingsley Rowe: MSW ’06
March 28, 2016
Kingsley Rowe serves as the Re-entry Program Administrator at NYU’s Prison Education Program. Mr. Rowe is a proud alumnus of the MSW program at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. He has dedicated himself to serving formerly incarcerated individuals and connecting them with various social service resources as well as a college education. Mr. Rowe joined the new Prison Education Program at NYU to address the complex needs of formerly incarcerated men in order to help them transition smoothly into society after serving time. He actively engages in advocacy and education on topics of mass incarceration, gun violence, and issues of access and opportunity for the formerly incarcerated.
Silver School (SS): Can you tell us about the work you do at the NYU Prison Education Program?
Kingsley Rowe (KR): The NYU Prison Education Program (PEP) engages incarcerated men at Wallkill Correctional Facility through the facilitation of college courses leading to an associate degree in liberal arts. Upon release, NYU PEP seeks to help stabilize them in the community and continue their education through college level courses leading to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The program is only a year old, but through a successful partnership with the deans of Gallatin and the College of Arts and Sciences, we are providing a quality education to the participants in the program. NYU tenured professors teach core college courses as well as classes in the arts. Participants work with our staff close to the time they are being released for referrals to housing, mental health services, finding employment and most of all continuing to pursue their education. I often talk about how our participants had to be incarcerated in order to have access to a college education. It’s telling of the lack of opportunity and access to a college education in socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
SS: How has your time at Silver impacted your work?
KR: What stands out about my time at Silver is learning the importance of direct service, being where the client is and the art of advocacy and activism in social justice issues as a way of improving the lives of the people we serve. I also gained a heightened personal awareness and understanding of my role and responsibility as a social worker and as an involved citizen within society. I have great memories of my classes and professors and still go back for talks and to help with recruitment efforts.
SS: What inspired you to pursue prison education work?
KR: I was formerly incarcerated. I see this work as paying it forward for the support I received in reaching my goals. I believe in the transformative nature of education to improve the lives of people involved in the criminal justice system. I am living proof of that fact. My passion and commitment to fighting gun violence, fighting for common sense gun policies, and supporting people who are incarcerated fuels the work I do.
SS: What did your education and career trajectory look like?
KR: While incarcerated for ten years, I earned an associate’s degree at St. Francis University Prison Education Program in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon release, I applied to NYU for a bachelor’s in computer science. At the time, I figured no one would care about my criminal record as long as I fixed their computer. I was driven to do social justice work as a way, in my mind, to repair the damage of my tragedy. I decided to pursue an MSW, ultimately becoming a Silver Scholar. It was a long and, at times arduous road, but I kept my focus on my goals and aspirations of being a productive and contributing member of society.
SS: How can students and community members support the work of NYU’s Prison Education Program?
KR: Speaking out and educating others goes a long way. You can volunteer with organizations doing this work or take a class at Silver on understanding the prison industrial system and the challenges faced by incarcerated individuals. Contact your local, state and national politicians and make your voice heard. Reentry is an emerging and vitally important social issue for the formally incarcerated, and it factors mightily into addressing housing, mental health, and employment and a host of other issues plaguing this population.
SS: What advice would you give to current MSW students?
KR: Think deeply about what kind of work you want to do. The nature of social work is to empower the people we serve to overcome their obstacles while keeping in mind their dignity, self-determination, and worth with social justice at its core. I believe you should have an interest in understanding injustices and in taking action.