Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2008Kellogg School of Management
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Students' business insights help Texas inmates start over

By Aubrey Henretty

Many Texas inmates are well versed in the laws of supply and demand. In fact, their business skills are what got them into trouble with the law in the first place. But what if someone could show them how to use those skills to set up sustainable — and legal — enterprises?

Eight Kellogg students have taken up the challenge. This year, Barbara Geluda, Raj Datta, Ranu Bhatia, Rick Perez, Sarah Montgomery (all '08) and Sarah Gillis and Sarah Harrison ('09) are volunteering their time and expertise with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Texas-based nonprofit that helps inmates create sound business plans to implement after their release. The program prepares inmates to carve out their own living in a world in which few employers are willing to give ex-convicts honest work.

The students review the inmates' work and submit suggestions via e-mail.

"I thought it was a really great way to give someone a second chance," says Bhatia, who is offering advice to an inmate on a plan to help develop technology for a Texas industry. Student volunteers also help inmates write, refine and polish r�sum�s. "They're not starting from scratch when they come out," adds Bhatia. "They're getting the background work done."

Jonathan Moerbe, a PEP marketing and public relations associate, says inmates have to work hard to secure a seat in the program. "They must take multiple tests and pass multiple rounds of interviews," he says. "It's pretty intensive."

Kellogg student Perez says this volunteering has helped him think and speak more clearly about business basics that his peers take for granted: "It may seem obvious to an MBA that you need a differentiated strategy even with a small business, but it is not a given for a high-school graduate. I've also learned that even the most advanced strategies can be understood by the inmate that I'm working with. It is just a matter of communicating it in a way he understands."

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