“Pay it forward” is a phrase often tossed around in Fisher. The idea of taking the support students have been given and trying to return the favor whenever possible speaks to the core values of the business school. A group of Honors Cohort students have taken this message to heart.
A requirement of the Honors Cohort program is for students to craft and execute a year-long service project throughout their junior year. While the Honors Cohort can supply resources via its extensive alumni network, the students are tasked with taking initiative and making a difference.
The process of selecting a topic to tackle with nine group members was the first of many hurdles. Thus, they began by thinking broadly. They understood the root of the problem in Columbus’ community service programs: “there are many one-stop resources. These resources do not work together. We want to work toward uncovering an ecosystem,” says junior finance major Annelise Dahl.
Once this baseline was established, the direction seemed to come naturally. Select members of the team were passionate about smoothing the transition from prison to life post-incarceration, and that passion was infectious. Thus, Resume was born.
Resume revolves around the development and implementation of a career readiness curriculum within the Pickaway Correctional Institution.
“Our focus is to equip current inmates with the resources they need to lead a successful life post incarceration,” states junior accounting major Katie O’Brien.
“We are not a social enterprise, government service or nonprofit organization,” junior finance major Joe Kline clarifies. “We are a group passionate about making an impact on society by paving the path toward employment.”
“We are the middleman, connecting resources with similar missions,” junior finance major Ellen Zuercher adds.
Resume’s logo features a moth, representing rebirth. As eager students actively involved in developing their own careers, the Resume group feels that they are in a prime position to breath life into individuals who may have forgotten how to live it.
Given their limited access to inmates, marketing the program relies on the distribution of flyers within the prison. The group is confident that their program will be in high demand. The Pickaway Correctional Institution has limited programming as is, and many opportunities offered have created extensive waitlists.
“Most of them will jump on opportunities such as this. They want to change and improve,” O’Brien asserts.
Twenty inmates will be selected to participate. They must be within one year of release, in good standing and voluntarily request access to the program.
In order to ensure that their program meets the needs of the inmates, Resume has reached out to focus groups, including Clean Turn Enterprises and the Franklin Medical Center. John Rush, CEO of Clean Turn Enterprises, has been an invaluable resource for the team, outlining the characteristics he looks for in hiring inmates. They have also conducted mock sessions, asking fellow classmates and professors to provide feedback. Through conversations with peers, employers and previously incarcerated employees, Resume has managed to construct a program that caters to the interests of the inmates and the companies looking to bring them on board.
The curriculum features four sessions centered around resumes, interviews, panel discussions with community partners and career readiness. From the outset, participants will be offered the opportunity to express what they expect to get out of the program. They will be then given the option to fill out a survey in the first and last sessions to monitor changes in their stress and comfort levels as the program unfolds.
The resume session will allow participants to delve into the significance of the resume in large and small groups. Whether it be previous roles that they may have been fired from, failed pursuits of degrees or relevant skills and hobbies gained from work and educational experiences within the prison; the inmates will be encouraged to exude a sense of pride in their accomplishments and interests. A driver’s license, competence in plumbing and even an interest in sports can augment their profiles. Resume will be working one-on-one with the inmates to craft a resume, and will bring a finalized hard and electronic copy for them prior to the next session.
Lessons learned from Fisher courses will come in handy for the interview series. Resume will stress the importance of professionalism and emphasize the dress code, eye contact, firm handshakes and proper body language. Mock interviews will be employed to hone the inmate’s ability to pause, collect his or her thoughts, respond confidently to interview questions, draft questions to ask inreturn and hammer out the steps to ensure a follow up.
The panel discussions will work to build awareness of surrounding community resources.
“The inmates do not know what is out there for them. In many cases, their criminal history is a roadblock to being promoted and becoming a manager. They need to find jobs that level the playing field, and that is what we aim to do in the third session,” Dahl elaborates.
Clean Turn Enterprises, Hot Chicken Takeover, Dress for Success and Alvis House will be brought in to network and hash out concerns with adjusting to new cities and circumstances. The four companies share the vision of offering employment to those with blemished records.
The final session will bridge the gap from learning to applying. By recapping lessons extracted from previous sessions and mapping out individual long-term goals, Resume can facilitate an atmosphere conducive to self-reflection.
“Our priority is career development, not job search,” Dahl says.
For Resume, sustainability is success. The group has already established a connection with Ohio State’s student-run employment empowerment initiative PassGo to continue and fine-tune the program in the future. Resume believes that securing the long-term existence of their program will help assemble a framework with which prisons across Ohio can emulate and implement.
While only some members of the group came into the first team meeting with the intention of exploring prison reform after graduation, the entire team has come away with similar takeaways.
Kline and finance major, Aleks Tomic, alludes to a “new perspective other than a corporate office.”
“We have always participated in community service, but this group has opened our eyes to the challenges of those that do not have the privilege of working toward a degree from Fisher and a potential job on Wall Street,” states Tomic.
O’Brien appreciates a new way of approaching a position in management: “if I have the chance to hire in the future, I will think differently, keeping prison reform in mind.”
Resume urges Fisher students to address societal concerns that bother them. Tomic suggests that once students highlight an issue, they should “partner with people already looking into it, understand the need and feed off of the energy of others.”
Junior finance major, Erin Halleran, summarizes the group’s mindset as they approach launch in mid-February: “it has been a privilege to use the skills developed at Fisher and apply them to help whoever we can. We hope to make Columbus better. We want to leave a legacy from our time at Fisher.”