An inmate in the Fluvanna prison system may be surprised to find a professor from one of the nation’s premier business schools leading a workshop on entrepreneurship– but this vision of self-employment can be one that transforms the prospect of life after prison in an otherwise bleak job market. Greg Fairchild is a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and was ranked by CNN as one of the top 10 business professors in the globe. His work as a professor employs principles of strategic management, entrepreneurship, and ethics in solving social problems, and it meets reality in helping provide prisoners new pathways to improve their lives.
How did this start? What was the inspiration?
My interest in prisoner reentry has roots in my work as an educator, as well as messages I received as a child. As an educator, I have seen firsthand the transformational capacity of the tools and techniques we use everyday at the University of Virginia. I believe that if we stretch ourselves, we can find that the same techniques can have impact in solving tough social problems. I am also certain that messages I received from the pulpit as a child were an influence. I can recall John Bradford, and “There but for the Grace of God go I.” I was reminded by my parents that much had been given to me, and much was expected.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Project is one component of a larger initiative, Resilience Education. My wife, Tierney, has been my partner from the inception. We share a hope in the unseen, and a belief that many communities and individuals go overlooked. Our current projects include entrepreneurship education for prisoners reentering society, and financial literacy for victims of intimate partner violence.
When did you begin to suspect this could be a success?
One of the biggest advantages in getting this going has been that so many people get why this work is important. It is difficult not to notice the size and growth of the currently and formerly incarcerated in our community, to recognize the staggering costs in dollars and personal suffering, and not want to do something to help others make an affirmative transition.