Posts Tagged ‘baylor prison’

Rich Lubbers, the first MBA/MDiv (Master of Divinity) student at Baylor University, wrote the following on his blog here … and we just had to share it with you!

This last Friday, I got to be a part of a rather unique trip to Cleveland, Texas with my fellow MBA students.  It was something that I never thought I would do (at least on purpose) as part of an MBA program – we went to prison!  While there, we were able to work with a group of people who are trying to help inmates who will be getting out soon (within the next 1-3 years).  The scope of the program was far greater than I knew before going on this trip, and it seems like a special organization.

One of the things that prisoners get as a result of this program is training in basic business concepts.  Their lives when they get out of prison are significantly more difficult, as a result of their choices that resulted in them going to prison.  However, the way that this program saw it, they wanted to graduate people from the program, as well as from prison, never to come back to such a place.  In providing training in these basic business concepts, the hope was that they would be able to find the kind of job that would be willing to overlook some of their past indiscretions in favor of giving them an honest shot at an honest living.

As a person of faith, I cannot begin to tell you how much this seems to tell the kind of story that I would want to tell.  This is the kind of story of second chances for people who have worked hard to make a change.  Furthermore, I was reminded of all the times when I was young and stupid when I could have been in their shoes.  There, but by the grace of God, go I…

Another item that is addressed in this program’s time with these inmates is that they all put together business plans, looking at profitability timelines, hidden costs, and all of the other things that I still have to learn.  The way that they were already thinking about these things showed me that they were not too far behind me, if not already ahead.  Some of them have been thinking about these things ever since submitting a 20-page essay-based application.  Many applied, but only a few got in.

One of the specific tasks that we did was hear them pitch business ideas.  For ten minutes at a time, 90 of us went face to face with a convicted felon who was just beginning to work on a business plan.  They told us their ideas, we tried to use whatever expertise to help them focus (and sometimes reorient) their thoughts.  Simple.  Easy.  Right?


I feel like I learned something so basic from them.  I’ve heard all of the stories, felt fairly cynical towards prisoners.  But when I got one-on-one, they were just like you and me.  Some told me of wanting to provide for their families, some wanted to lift their families out of horrible backgrounds, all wanted a better life than the one they had chosen up to that point.  The vast majority came from terrible family backgrounds. I couldn’t help but empathize with some of them.  I’m really rooting for them, and I hope to see what they do and contribute to society.

The payoff?  When they graduate, they get a certificate from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.  Same place I get my degree from.  I’m proud of that.

Baylor University Certificate in Entrepreneurship

William G. was among the first PEP graduates to earn his Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business

Graduates from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program can now earn their Certificates in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University‘s Hankamer School of Business through a new partnership between PEP and the university. See the official press release here.

“We offer a ‘mini MBA’ program within the Texas prison system that transforms inmates into entrepreneurs,” said Bert Smith, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). Through the program, the inmates also develop complete business plans for a real venture that they can pursue after release.

During PEP’s Business Plan Competition at the Cleveland Correctional Center north of Houston, these inmates will pitch their business plans over 120 times — including to groups of more than 50 “free world” executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students who attend PEP’s in-prison eventsLearn more in this recent article in The New York Times.

Founded in 2004, PEP is a privately-funded nonprofit that engages executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students as volunteers in a values-based entrepreneurship boot camp that is offered within the Texas prison system. Each year, more than 5,000 inmates apply to be a part of PEP – but only the top 5 percent are selected for this elite program.

“Our graduates invest over 1,000 hours of work into our six-month Business Plan Competition class, which incorporates a college-level curriculum supplemented by Harvard MBA cases, the AP Writing Stylebook, Toastmasters, an employment workshop and a financial literacy course,” Smith said. “In addition, we focus at least half of our time on character assessment and development, built around PEP’s Ten Driving Values.”

“What impresses me the most is how these men not only complete this very rigorous program within a prison, but they do so while completing a full business plan for a real venture that they can launch after release from prison,” said Dr. Gary Carini, associate dean of the Graduate Program in Management & Entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, and a member of the governing board for PEP.

PEP participants pitch their plans before panels of executive judges in a “Shark Tank” format at PEP’s monthly events. The presentations prepare the men for making their case in the free world – including to potential employers once they are released.

“I had been arrested four times before my 21st birthday,” said Harvey M., who graduated from PEP’s Class 10. Harvey is now rolling his first food truck in Houston. “Most of the world had written me off – but not PEP. They gave me the tools that I needed to succeed and even helped me to open my own business.”

Thanks to the preparation that they receive while in PEP, 100 percent of PEP’s graduates find a job within 90 days of release from prison. More than 120 of them have started their own businesses, including at least two that are now grossing more than $1 million in annual sales. And most impressively, the organization boasts some of the lowest recidivism rates in the country: PEP’s three-year recidivism rate has been as low as <5 percent, compared to the national average of nearly 50 percent.

“After reviewing the caliber of PEP’s curriculum and the quality of their results, Baylor University has agreed to award a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Hankamer School of Business to every graduate from PEP,” stated Carini.

The partnership began in December 2012, when 70 PEP graduates earned their certificates by completing the PEP Business Plan Competition class and graduating in a full cap-and-gown ceremony attended by their friends, family and PEP executive volunteers.

Established in 2004, Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) is a Houston-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are servant leaders on a mission to transform inmates and executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring. Our groundbreaking results include a return-to-prison rate of less than 5%, employment rate of 100% within 90 days, and the successful launch of more than 100 businesses.

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visit and follow on Twitter at