The Lipscomb Initiative for Education Program

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The LIFE Program (Lipscomb Initiative for Education) provides Lipscomb University students an academic and service-learning experience like few others. Up to 30 traditional students (“outside students”) each semester enroll in a liberal arts course held on-site at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPW) and study alongside  residents of the prison (“inside students”). The mix of students and specifically designed coursework provides academic and character-building benefits for both students at the prison and students from campus.

LIFE students at TPFW develop better self-confidence, expanded life experience and good study habits. In fact, Lipscomb’s traditional students are afforded an eye-opening experience to get to know and befriend the residents, an encounter that many students say has affected their life choices well after completing the class.

The program was founded in January 2007 by Lipscomb professor Richard Goode, who served as director of the LIFE program from 2007-2016. It began with 15 “inside students” and 15 “outside students.” Kate Watkins is the current director of the LIFE program and an assistant professor in the College of Professional Studies. 

In December 2013, the Lipscomb LIFE program celebrated a significant milestone as nine “inside” students completed the requirements for an associate degree from Lipscomb University. They received their diplomas in a special commencement inside the Tennessee Prison for Women. In December 2015, the second cohort of “inside” students earned their associate degree.

About the LIFE Program

LIFE_300_3• The LIFE Program is one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. to offer a college degree to prison inmates.

• Program coordinators are currently working to offer a bachelor’s degree option to the students at the Tennessee Prison for Women.

• LIFE Participants, selected by the Department of Correction, must have a two-year record of good behavior and a high school diploma or GED in order to participate in the program.

• Several paroled TPW students have gone on to take additional courses on the Lipscomb campus after they are paroled.