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COVID-19 Executive Leadership Support Program

About the Initiative

The Alliance for Higher Education in Prison is launching an initiative to support executive leadership/executive directors within the higher education in prison stakeholder community as they face the unique leadership challenges brought on by COVID-19 in the weeks and months ahead. Initially, this support will focus on both cohort-based support as well as one-on-one technical assistance sessions to address specific needs in a confidential setting. We recognize that this is an emergent crisis, which will require remaining nimble and adapting as we learn where the greatest needs are. The initiative seeks to help higher education in prison programs be responsive to the crisis, support those individuals tasked with leading, and ensure that these groups emerge out the other side and are able to continue delivering their critical programs.

About the Facilitator

Jasmine Nielsen draws on two decades of experience leading New York City nonprofit organizations to provide strategic advisement, coaching and training to boards of directors, executive directors, and senior management. A trained facilitator, she is adept at guiding groups through challenging conversations. Jasmine’s holistic approach to organizational development encompasses strategic planning, governance, fundraising, communications, and fiscal and operating systems. Her current and recent clients include the 92nd Street Y, Friends of the High Line, USA for UNHCR, GivingTuesday, Restore the Mississippi River Delta, and the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, where she facilitated an elevator pitch workshop for our recent Advisory Board retreat. 

Jasmine is also an adjunct instructor in Steinhardt’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, serves on the Board of Directors of Certified Naturally Grown, and is a founding board member and Treasurer of Equity Advocates. From 2014 to 2016, she was the Executive Director of Just Food. Prior to that, Jasmine spent 16 years as the Executive Director of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education (now the Love Heals Center for Youth and Families at GMHC). Jasmine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Vassar College and a Master of Arts in Food Studies from New York University. Originally from Urbana, Illinois, Jasmine has lived and worked in New York City since 1996.

What to Expect

If selected as a member of the Executive Leadership Cohort, you can expect:

  • Biweekly 60-minute facilitated video calls with a group of 10-15 of your peers
  • Access to monthly half-hour virtual technical assistance/coaching sessions
  • Email updates on resources
  • Emergency council on an as-needed basis (24- to 48-hour response time)

Our intention is to evolve these offerings based on what we learn from the cohort. We know that your needs are immediate and growing by the day, so we are looking to launch the initiative as quickly as possible. 

Project Timeline 

  • 3/24 – Applications Due
  • 3/26 – Participant Selection Announced
  • 3/30 (and then ongoing) – Biweekly Cohort Calls 
  • 4/6 – Coaching Sessions Begin
  • 5/4 – Program Assessment and Decision about Next Steps

Participation Requirements

In order to be considered as a member of this leaning cohort, applicants must fit the following criteria:

  • Be a staff member of a program or nonprofit organization that delivers higher education in a prison, jail or detention center.
  • Be the Executive Director or otherwise serve as the chief officer (lead decision-maker) of your program/project.
  • Have a need for professional support, including peer-to-peer mentorship, coaching, ideas, and resources. 
  • Be prepared to commit, at a minimum, to biweekly hour-long video conference calls aimed at knowledge and resource sharing among your peers.

How to Apply

Does the above sound like you? If so, please complete and submit the application below, which should take no more than 15 minutes of your time. Don’t feel obligated to write lengthy paragraphs; brief bullet points are just fine. Any information you share will be held in confidence. Mary Gould, Director of the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, and project facilitator, Jasmine Nielsen will be the only individuals reviewing your responses. 

We have space to accept up to 30 people, who will be divided into two cohorts. If you have any questions about the application or about the initiative more broadly, please feel free to reach out to Jasmine at Thank you.

If you are interested in joining this learning cohort, submit your application by 11:59pm EST, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. 


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