The University of Michigan is effecting change with a novel educational project titled "Bringing Knowledge Exchange Inside & Outside of Correctional Facilities," otherwise known as the bI/O program. Abrianna Soule, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology with Marjorie Weber, is leading this effort alongside fellow EEB faculty, staff, and students. The program's aim is to bridge the gap between academia and incarcerated individuals at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, by providing a rare educational experience.

Scheduled two to three times per semester, the bI/O program presents a panel of three researchers who give succinct and engaging presentations, each lasting between 15-20 minutes. These are carefully designed to be both enlightening about scientific research and appropriate for the environment. The program aims to create meaningful engagements between scientists and the incarcerated population, encouraging empathy and dispelling myths.

Each presentation is followed by a question and answer period when inmates can delve deeper into the subject matter and discuss future scientific and professional prospects. This interactive feature facilitates skill-building in science communication for researchers and brings educational benefits to a frequently marginalized demographic.

Moreover, the presentations are designed for researchers to provide mini-talks as well as insights into their career journeys and what being a scientist looks like behind the scenes. This often opens up discussions about post-incarceration career opportunities relating to scientific fields.

Open to STEM professionals and enthusiasts from any stage in their career, bI/O encourages those with a passion for science and a commitment to social progress to participate.

Postdoctoral fellow Matthew Moreno, a member of the bI/O organizing committee in EEB, has developed a website that provides information about past sessions as well as avenues for involvement in this innovative program.

Soule and her colleagues in EEB have expressed their enthusiasm for the program's ability to connect individuals with a diverse range of experiences through the medium of science. The program has already had a promising response, with over 40 students, faculty, and staff in EEB registering to present at future sessions, demonstrating significant commitment to the program and its potential.

For those interested in contributing to this initiative, additional information is available on the bI/O program's website or feel free to reach out to Abrianna Soule

 bI/O Members: