50 Years of Transformative Education Prison Education at BU, 1972-2022

With a history that reaches back to 1972, Boston University has the distinction of being one of the longest continuously run programs to offer a college education to incarcerated individuals. Now, BU is taking the opportunity to honor its groundbreaking Prison Education Program and its hundreds of graduates with an event that will explore the future of prison education.

Looking to the Future of Prison Education

Featuring Keynote Speaker Noel Vest, PhD, and a Distinguished Panel of Corrections Experts and Program Graduates

This event will commemorate 50 years of BU’s Prison Education Program and explore the future of prison education in the United States. Featuring a keynote address, “Learning with Conviction: The Transformative Nature of College in Prison Programming,” led by Dr. Noel Vest, Assistant Professor, Boston University School of Public Health, as well as a panel discussion with faculty, corrections experts, and Prison Education Program graduates. A reception will follow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024, 3–5 pm
Metcalf Trustee Center, 1 Silber Way, 9th Floor
In-person and live streaming

RSVP (required)

Program Overview

Dean’s Welcome
Tanya Zlateva, Dean, Boston University Metropolitan College & Extended Education

Keynote: “Learning with Conviction: The Transformative Nature of College in Prison”
Noel Vest, Assistant Professor, Boston University School of Public Health

Panel: “Personal Insights and Perspectives on Prison Education”
Moderated by Mary Ellen Mastrorilli, Director, Boston University Metropolitan College Prison Education Program


Keynote Speaker

Dr. Noel Vest is an assistant professor with BU’s School of Public Health. As a formerly incarcerated scholar, Dr. Vest advocates for social justice issues and public policy concerning substance use disorder recovery and prison reentry. His research interests include mental health, substance use disorders, poverty, social justice, addiction recovery, and pain. He was recently awarded a K01 early investigator award through the National Institute of Drug Abuse to study collegiate recovery programs through an implementation science lens. He received his PhD and master’s degrees in experimental psychology from Washington State.


Dr. Mary Ellen Mastrorilli (Panel Moderator) is director of Boston University’s Prison Education Program. Her research interests focus on female offenders, community corrections, and law and society. She holds more than twenty-four years of experience in positions ranging from correction officer to prison administrator. She is the recipient of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts’ Professional Excellence Award, as well as the Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award given by the National Center for Women and Policing. Dr. Mastrorilli teaches courses in criminal justice and sociology.

José Bou (MET’08,’15) is a senior associate with Great Schools Partnership, a nonprofit school-support organization working to redesign public education and improve learning for all students. Bou holds a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University. He lives in Holyoke, Mass., with his amazing partner and two beautiful daughters.

Carol A. Mici is the recently retired commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC), where she managed the care and custody of approximately 8,500 incarcerated individuals in 16 correctional facilities with a staff of 4,500. Commissioner Mici had been with MADOC for more than 37 years, starting her career as a correctional program officer. In her five years as commissioner, she oversaw the vast expansion of college prison education programs within the agency.

Lynne Sullivan (MET’09,’21) is regional manager for Massachusetts and Rhode Island with the Petey Greene Program, the largest provider of tutoring and college readiness programs for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in the US. Sullivan has been involved in the criminal justice system and prison education for over fifteen years. She was valedictorian for the Boston University Prison Education Program class of 2009, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in sociology. A first generation college graduate, Sullivan went on to earn her Master of Science in criminal justice from Boston University in 2021.

Dr. Abraham Waya (STH’98) is a lecturer with the Applied Social Sciences department at BU’s Metropolitan College and a recipient of MET’s 2021 Roger Deveau Part-Time Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. A native of Nigeria, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in international relations and strategic studies, both from the University of Jos, and received his doctorate in defense and security studies from the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1995, Dr. Waya moved to the United States to study at Boston University School of Theology, where he earned his Master of Divinity. Today, he is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, currently appointed to serve in Brockton, where he has established the “L Street Mission” providing care for the homeless.

Sam Williams (MET’92,’13) is the executive director or Concord Prison Outreach, an organization composed of a coalition of individuals and faith communities committed to helping people who are incarcerated build better lives for themselves and their families. He has been instrumental in various initiatives across the city of Boston, including prison rehabilitation and re-entry, impacts of racial profiling, community economic development, urban planning, youth development, and public safety.