Instructors and Staff
Joan Parkin, Ph.D. - Director and Co-Founder
The Graduate Center of the City University of New York – Ph.D., M.A.; Boston University – B.A.
I am the proud director and co-founder of the Incarcerated Student Program. Dr. Michael Bagley and I co-founded the ISP program in 2007. We first met while he was the Chief Instructional Officer (CIO) at FRC, and he was the hiring authority for the English faculty position that I received on a national search. I knew that I had met a kindred spirit when Dr. Bagley asked me to team up to develop the first-class incarcerated student program that you see now. I felt as if I had spent a lifetime preparing for such an opportunity.
My years of teaching language and literature to students at colleges in New York City, Chicago, and now Quincy, California, have taught me the value of an education in transforming one's circumstances. Today, I firmly believe that no one, regardless of class, creed, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, should be denied access to the pursuit of a college degree, and that educators should remain steadfast in preserving open admissions policies for all who seek access to higher learning. I believe that a college degree holds special meaning for the incarcerated because, as B. B. King so eloquently said, "the beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you."
I feel fortunate to be surrounded by instructors at Feather River College who not only believe in our mission to educate a diverse student population but also are dedicated to putting it into practice. I am the luckiest of teachers who gets to see her colleagues transform before her very eyes as they bring their full knowledge to some of the darkest corners in California's penal institutions. Every day, I am astounded by our staff and faculty who find new meaning in our work and seek to make our program the best it can be for those who are behind bars.
I will be forever indebted to our former CIO and Co-founder, Dr. Michael Bagley, who took a chance with a controversial idea and gave me the platform to launch a program for the incarcerated that has changed so many people's lives. I am also pleased to work with our current CIO, Derek Lerch, who continues to guide and support us and help our program to prevail. I am genuinely thrilled to see the pro-rehabilitative policies that so many California prison administrators and educators now embrace a program that allows the college instructors to walk through the gates and tutor their students. A special thanks must go to High Desert State Prison’s Vice Principal William Wilson and California Correctional Center’s Principal Richard Tice who first opened the doors of CDCR for ISP. Finally, I am proud of all of our incarcerated students, especially those men and women who have donned FRC's cap and gown and walked proudly across a stage to receive their Associate Degrees. Those graduates are the true pioneers, for they have shown that rehabilitation through education is possible and become role models for their communities on the outside paving the way for the thousands who are reaching out for the opportunity to have that "beautiful thing," higher learning.
I spent decades studying English and French literature, philosophy, and history, at Boston University, New York University, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in pursuit of my Ph.D. I have traveled throughout Europe and the United States gaining as much knowledge as I could obtain in search of some elusive truth about the world and civilization. I completed my dissertation on Richard Wright's “Native Son” and Albert Camus' “The Stranger”, believing I finally understood the value of experience. But it wasn't until I first tutored a class of incarcerated students in a maximum security prison that I understood that truth for this educator and scholar does not lie only in the pursuit of knowledge but also in the ability to convey it to those who have the least access.
In closing, please allow me to end with an anecdote. Recently, at Pelican Bay State Prison, while lecturing to a group of students about the value of education as a rehabilitative tool that would be useful to them at parole hearings, a student interrupted me and said, "I get what you are saying, but for me, I just want to learn. I caught a case when I was sixteen and have been locked down ever since. Now I'm thirty-eight years old, and this is the first time I have been given the opportunity to get an education. I just want to learn something." I am humbled by this experience. We have the privilege of being surrounded by those who are not simply interested in learning for the sake of a career or how it looks on paper, but for the freedom it offers the mind.
Years ago, my mother, single with two children to raise, told me that education brings freedom as she typed her way through a college degree and into a new life. Teaching the incarcerated and directing Feather River College's ISP has taught me that education is more valuable than gold because it allows the mind to soar beyond the walls of his or her circumstances. FRC's Mascot is the Golden Eagle. May every student, on campus and incarcerated, adopt the Golden Eagle’s wings and learn to fly.
Instructional Assistant and Coordinator for the ISP Program
I work for this program because it changes lives while creating new thought. I am proud to repair the damage done to secure a brighter future for us all. Caring for humanity is the only way to change lives, and that starts with education. I was a single mother of three and had many foster children come through my home. I have seen the difference listening, understanding, non-judgment, and support can do to encourage growth. Incarcerated students who enter our program want to make positive changes and open their world.
Senior Office Assistant
I recently joined the Incarcerated Student Program at the start of the fall 2014 term as a student worker. I decided to join the team because of my passion in helping people overcome challenging times and helping them make positive changes. I am currently enrolled in Administration of Justice Program. I hope to eventually work with troubled youth in an outdoor setting.
University of California at Davis – Ph.D.
Michael N. Bagley is a proud co-founder of the ISP program along with Joan Parkin. Dr. Bagley and Dr. Parkin first met while he was the Chief Instructional Officer at Feather River College and was the hiring authority for the English faculty position that Dr. Parkin received on a national search. Dr. Bagley immediately knew he had a leader and visionary with Dr. Parkin and when an opportunity came to pioneer a new program to serve the incarcerated, he teamed up with her to develop the first-class program that you see now.
Michael earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis in Civil and Environmental Engineering. As part of his graduate work, he minored in applied and theoretical mathematics and statistics. While at UC Davis he was able to teach engineering and math classes as a lecturer, a position where he ultimately won a graduate student teacher of the year award. Dr. Bagley was able to hone his skills in program development in his next position as a faculty director of engineering at South Texas College where he started an engineering program from scratch, where his students participated in engineering competitions across the state.
Michael is a first-generation college student who has personally seen how education can transform lives. He strongly believes in the power of people to transform themselves and find greatness, even after failure. Dr. Bagley believes that the ISP program is one of the most meaningful and powerful programs for creating opportunities for people to find the freedom and hope that higher learning brings. Dr. Bagley encourages his students to follow two great ideas that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave to the world, "Be your best at whatever you do (from his street sweeper speech)” and even though life can be tough, "Don't be bitter, be better."
Dr. Bagley believes that the Feather River College ISP program has the potential to be even more life impacting. He plans to work closely with Dr. Parkin and ISP team staff to find outside funding sources to create scholarships for students to continue for a bachelor's degree and to create further learning opportunities while in the FRC program. He and Dr. Parkin believe that an entrepreneurial approach with vision and tenacity will result in profound continued success.
Chief Instructional Officer
University of California – B.A.
Stanford University – Ph.D., M.S.
After receiving his B.A. in Geophysics from U.C. Berkeley, Derek worked as a consultant doing low-level computer programming for digital mapping solutions for mining companies. After this work, Derek returned to school to pursue higher degrees at Stanford where his research techniques focused on active-source crustal seismology and geochronology. Derek came to FRC as an instructor in the Environmental Studies program and has served the college as the Division Chair for the Professional and Technical Studies Division.
I think it is wonderful that I am able to help incarcerated individuals prepare themselves to successfully navigate the often hostile world they will rejoin after their prison release. They need life & job skills to not become a recidivist. We are providing them with education & critical thinking skills that can help that become a reality.
Northern Arizona University – Ph.D., M.A. California State University, Chico – B.A
I teach political science, history, and sociology courses. I teach courses in American politics, international relations, world politics, U.S. foreign policy, multi-ethnic America, and others. I am dedicated to the public education system of California and see the Incarcerated Student Program as an important component of education’s purpose.
I have been involved with the ISP almost since its inception. While on campus in Quincy, I worked on the administrative side of the program getting books and materials to the students at the prisons we serve.
I was privileged to meet in person many of our students at the time, and was gratified to see just how important the program is to them. Now that I am away from campus, I miss the personal student contact, but I try to make up for it in my correspondence with my students. Teaching this class has allowed me to combine two of my favorite interests: history and art.
When asked what I do, I am proud to let people know that I teach dedicated students who are trying to better themselves and become productive members of society.
I teach Math 303-304- Intermediate Algebra. I have worked for the ISP since 2007. Working for the ISP gives me a sense of pride knowing that I'm helping students further their educations.
University College, Dublin - BA; University of West Florida – MA
I have been an ISP instructor for the last seven years and really enjoy working with incarcerated students. I was born in Australia, raised in Ireland, and came to US as a 21 year old. I started college teaching career at Thomas University where I taught English, reading and history.
California State University, Chico – B.A.; California State University, Chico – M.A.
I have taught ISP English classes since August 2008 and have a B.A. in Linguistics, an M.A. in English: Language and Literacy, and a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). I’m dedicated to helping students succeed and have better lives. Teaching in ISP has been rewarding!
Benedictine University – B.A.; University of Illinois – M.A.
I have worked at FRC for over four years and worked within the public school system for fifteen years as a social worker and counselor. During that time in addition to counseling, I have taught psychology and health to various grades as well as coordinated school-wide healthy lifestyle programs. I worked extensively with college and high school students in the areas of drug/alcohol prevention, along with empowering students to make healthy lifestyle choices.
My undergraduate degree is in Psychology and social work from Benedictine University in Illinois; my graduate degree is in Social Work from University of Illinois. I am originally from Illinois, but I now live in North Port, Florida. I am a proud mom of a five year old son in kindergarten and three year old boy/girl twins!
I have taught several courses at FRC, including: Principles of Healthy Living, Introduction to Psychology and College 100, both for online students as ISP students.
University of California, Berkeley – B.A.; Mills College – M.A.
I have taught English and Spanish in colleges in California and Nevada for more than thirty years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master's in English from Mills College. I also work as a writer, interpreter and translator.
My time with Feather River College in the ISP program has given me ever more reason to dig into what we know about ourselves and to share that with others. I am pulling for each and every student and hoping that my offerings are helpful in some way.
Michelle Petroelje is new to the ISP program. She previously taught laboratory classes for the Cal Poly Biology Department. Currently, she works for the FRC Upward Bound program. This Federally funded program helps disadvantaged high school students succeed academically and prepare for college. The Incarcerated Student Biology staff consists of Anna Thompson, Michelle Fulton and Michelle Petroelje. For several years now, the Biology Department has offered courses to incarcerated students and we strive to make the learning experience for the students as similar as it would be on our Feather River College campus. And, because we teach the biology labs on-site in the prisons, we relish having the rewarding opportunity to get to know our students personally!
Before coming to teach ISP English for Feather River College, I taught ELL in Boston and taught English in the public school system and community college system in Virginia. I strongly believe in how education can serve as a venue for positive reformation and lifetime success. Being a part of the ISP program is very rewarding, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such diverse students.
José Rico III
I was trained as a mechanical engineer, but soon found an aspiration to be an educator. I have taught physics, mathematics, and engineering at the high school and college level. I believe mathematics is an awesome human invention and that studying mathematics is not only interesting and useful, but also has the ability to move an individual inward. I look forward to being part of ISP, and wish all my students an enjoyable time learning mathematics.
Ohio University – B.F.A.
California State University, Chico – B.F.A.
Since 7th grade I have wanted to teach art, and I have been drawing ever since I can remember. Although I have two degrees in art, have studied art in Florence, Italy, and have been teaching privately over twenty years, the ISP experience has been unique. Some of my students have said that they see things around them so differently after the lessons. Most have not had any previous art instruction, yet the progress that they make in their drawing skills by the end of the class is phenomenal. In addition, and more importantly, the students are able to access the right side of their brain or their R-Mode while drawing. It can be very therapeutic. The ISP class has thus been rewarding to the students as well as to me.
The Incarcerated Student biology staff consists of Anna Thompson and Michelle Petroelje. For several years now, the Biology Department has offered courses to incarcerated students and we strive to make the learning experience for the students as similar as it would be on our Feather River College campus. And, because we teach the biology labs on-site in the prisons, we relish having the rewarding opportunity to get to know our students personally!
Tulane University – B.S.
I began my teaching career focused on biology and math, but over the years I broadened my background in English and social studies. For many years, my greatest passion in teaching has been to build bridges between the science/math realm and the humanities. I love to help my students discover the inherent interconnectedness of all the academic disciplines that traditionally have been kept separated.
In my first year in the ISP program, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to pursue my passion through teaching English 180, Nature Literature in America. This course is a natural for showing how the sciences and the humanities are just different windows on the world. The incarcerated students who took this course in the fall of 2013 have shown us, through their brilliant writing, yet another window on the world. A world more people on the outside need to look through. I look forward to continuing to learn from the students in this program and to share with them the knowledge of the natural world and nature writing that I have gained over the years. I currently maintain a Natural History blog at blackoaknaturalist.blogspot.com.