Submissions for Rise Up Conference: Honoring the Past While Shaping the Future
September 9th, 2022 marks the 51st anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, during which hundreds of men incarcerated at Attica banded together, after years of abuse, to take control of the facility until their demands were met. The men’s demands were simple: better living conditions and opportunities to improve their lives. The same spirit and belief in the transformative power of positive programming can be found in people pursuing higher education while incarcerated today. Directly impacted practitioners offer not only lived experience, but also expertise we’ve honed through academic study and training both inside and after prison.

In 2021, the inaugural Rise Up conference drew over 650 registrants, and raised over $25,000 to fund the conference and compensate directly impacted presenters for their time and experiences. The conference featured speakers from throughout the country as well as from around the world! We were honored to hear the stories of system-impacted individuals who’ve been released and are now working in incredible positions once thought unattainable, such as physicians, lawyers, directors, professors, and more. We hope to expand on this incredible start with our second annual Rise Up conference in September 2022.

Higher education in and after prison is a field that has experienced a period of rapid expansion over the last twenty years. Although the field has discussed the importance of including directly impacted people, it is rare to see directly impacted people are leading the conversation. Many college-in-prison programs include directly impacted people as tokens but rarely in leadership positions. The time has come for those with lived experience to set the full agenda for the conversations we believe need to be had. While there is value in working with those who were not incarcerated as collaborators and thought partners, these conversations must be led by those affected by college in prison programs. After all, our expertise and perspectives should be strongly valued in the field, because we lived through it and thrived!

Several partners have come together to work collaboratively and collectively to create this truly innovative conference. We are now seeking formerly incarcerated presenters to join us in advancing this work. Rise Up is especially interested in innovative yet unrecognized ideas, experiences, and informal experiences that challenge ways of knowing and being. We’re also especially interested in submissions from incarcerated people and will work individually with these presenters to find a way to showcase their expertise. Note: Directly impacted scholars can present with non-impacted allies as second authors or contributors.

Rise Up will be a two-day online convening hosted on September 8, 2022 to September 9, 2022. This conference will include a keynote, individual presentations, discussion, and networking. We’re also hosting an online screening and discussion of Attica.

Rise Up is centered on the theme of honoring our past while shaping the future. First, and foremost, we hope formerly incarcerated scholars continue to use this forum to advance their liberation from spaces “solely developed” by and for people with no lived experience and expertise. While we welcome all stakeholders who believe in collective liberation, we seek ideas and experiences from directly impacted people. We call for proposals that call attention to past giants who’ve fostered thought and action that have helped our people begin rising from our internal and external constraints as well as proposals that offer ideas and plans for accelerating this liberation. As an education-centered conference, we’re especially interested in the transformation of prison-based and post-prison education as well as transformation that can occur through them. We particularly value ideas and plans that center our assets, expertise, and potential rather than our deficits and how to correct them. Our lived and scholarly expertise allows us to think in ways that are fundamentally different from the thinking of traditional experts. This, combined with our unique perspectives and ways of thinking, provide the potential for innovation. We believe your ideas will not only serve our liberation but that of the education field.

The five tracks include: 1) Equity and Inclusion, 2) Advocacy, 3) Programming and Informal Education, 4) Research, Science, Technology, and Math, 5) Pathways to Professions. Each track is described below:

Equity & Inclusion
Classism and Racism are pervasive in all institutions in the United States including prison and higher education systems. We seek proposals that call to the surface the pervasive reality of oppression, as well as possibilities for true equity and inclusion to transform and abolish systems.

Policy change is a necessary and essential goal. We seek proposals that uplift advocacy efforts led by currently and formerly incarcerated people to increase access to education and opportunities for meaningful careers within the field of higher education in prison.

Programming & Informal Education
Education is not limited to experiences recognized by institutions. We seek innovative models for education inside and outside of prisons led by currently and formerly incarcerated people.
Research/STEM: Research allows us to better understand our experiences and contribute to collective knowledge. We seek proposals that demonstrate and uplift the transformative potential of research in all areas with an emphasis on STEM, which is often neglected in higher education in prison programming.

Pathways to Professions (new this year!)
Are you working in a field in which formerly incarcerated applicants face particularly difficult barriers to entry, promotion and advancement, or professional success? In this track, we seek presenters from professional fields traditionally inaccessible to those experiencing lifelong collateral consequences of incarceration. We hope to see presenters from the fields of medicine, law, finance, business, academia, tech, and more who can speak to their experiences and explain how they overcame the barriers to work in their field.

To make the conference organizing more manageable this first year, we’re limiting submissions to a presentation format. Individual 10-15 minute presentations will be grouped together with similar presentations to form symposia. However, those who’s submissions aren’t selected for presentations will have an opportunity to showcase their ideas and experiences in other ways.

Please submit your presentation proposal using this google form or by email as a single PDF that includes the presentation title, your name(s), affiliation, and email address; the track you’re submitting to (Equity & Inclusion, Advocacy, Programming & Informal Education, Research/STEM or Pathways to Professions); and a 250-word description of the ideas and experiences you’ll be talking about as well as how these ideas fit with the conference’s theme. If applicable, we recommend that your description include a brief introduction, overview of methods, results, and a discussion.

We’ll review proposals according to how well the ideas and experiences fit with the conference’s theme, how well the proposal fits with the track selected, the potential for ideas and experiences to contribute to liberation, the potential for the ideas and experiences to transform the broader field of education, and how clearly ideas are organized and communicated.

Submissions are due July 5, 2022. We’ll review these the following month and notify presenters of our decision by August 9, 2022. Presenters will then have a month to prepare their presentations for the September 8-9 convening.

If you have any questions about Rise Up and/or the process of submitting, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by emailing 

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Name: *
Email: *
Phone Number:
Organizational/ University Affiliation (if applicable):
Have you been incarcerated? *
The first author must be either currently or formerly incarcerated
Have you presented at a conference before? *
This will be used to highlight rising scholars
Which track are you submitting to? *
Title of your presentation: *
Maximum of 10 words / 50 characters
Description of presentation: (250-word description of the ideas and experiences you’ll be talking about as well as how these ideas fit with the conference’s theme. If applicable, we recommend that your description include a brief introduction, overview of methods, results, and a discussion. ) *
Maximum of 250 words / 1625 characters
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