Six years ago, Gregory Fairchild (Darden ’92) and his wife, Tierney Temple Fairchild (Darden ’93, Curry ’96), launched an initiative that prepares inmates for transitioning back into the workforce. A few years later, they created a nonprofit, Resilience Education, to help manage the growing enterprise. Each year, the Fairchilds recruit MBA, Curry, and Law students to visit local prisons to teach inmates entrepreneurship and prepare them to join the business world.
Gregory Fairchild said the program is committed to providing Socratic education to those who have been marginalized by society—citizens returning from incarceration, labor-force challenged veterans, and women that have been past victims of domestic violence.
“It’s inspiring to see the transformation that occurs while teaching men and women in prison,” he said. “I feel we’re making a little change in these people’s lives.”
The programs are based on the case-study teaching method long cherished at Darden—presenting typical challenges faced in the small business workplace, in financial decisions, and other situations. The goal is to help participants enter the job market with an understanding of how firms operate, and the importance and nature of their roles within firms that may hire them.
Previous participants sometimes contact the Fairchilds after they’ve graduated. Some of them continue their education at community- and four-year colleges. Many are working in productive jobs. “One is a paralegal in Newport, Virginia,” he added.
Fairchild, the Isidore Horween Research Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business, teaches entrepreneurship, in addition to ethics and business strategy. He is also academic director of the Initiative for Business in Society, which prepares leaders to make a positive impact on society through business.
In 2012, Fairchild was named one of the Top Ten Business School Professors in the World by CNN/Fortune and one of the 50 Best Business School Professors by Poets & Quants.
The Fairchilds established the prison entrepreneurship initiative in 2011 after a meeting with then dean of the Darden School, Robert F. Bruner. Bruner shared a letter he had received from a prisoner in Southwest Virginia asking for help finding a job after his release.
“That really struck me. I realized, we need a solution to put people on firmer footing when they get out of prison,” Fairchild said. “Darden students are fortunate to be here. They’ve worked hard to get here. But what about the person who made bad choices. Should they denied the opportunity to succeed for the rest of their lives?”
The classes are offered in two Virginia corrections facilities, Dillwyn Correctional Center and Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women; along with one federal facility, the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution (in which Darden alums lead the classroom teaching). The participants have the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion in Darden’s special entrepreneurship, financial capability, and foundations of business courses.
The class meets two nights a week for nine months. A graduation ceremony is held, replete with “pomp and circumstance,” said Fairchild. There’s even a cake.
Fairchild is grateful for the funding he received from UVA’s Jefferson Trust, the Tayloe Murphy Center, and the Bankard Fund.
Other schools have reached out to Fairchild, expressing interest in implementing his program. This past spring, the Fairchilds launched a collaborative program with Columbia University at the Taconic Correctional Facility in Westchester County, New York. UVA and Darden alums will teach along Columbia MBAs. Fairchild would like to see more departments at UVA bring their resources to the inmates.
“UVA is out in front of this kind of program,” he said. “There are a host of other subjects that could be taught in prison.”