Pell Grant Restoration and the Future of Higher Education in CA Prisons
Tuesday, March 23rd, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. PDT
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California’s Master Plan for Higher Education has been an engine of social mobility and economic strength for the state and a masterful exemplar for our nation. With the recent restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students, California has an opportunity to draw from the success of the Master Plan by expanding bachelor degree granting educational opportunities for upward mobility, employment, and civic engagement to currently incarcerated students.

Join the Michelson 20MM Foundation, on Tuesday, March 23rd, to discuss what federal Pell Grant restoration means for California’s incarcerated students. The panel of subject matter experts and champions of higher education in prison will discuss their shared vision for the future of higher education in California. Topics include what Pell grants support; the challenges, risks, and opportunities Pell grant restoration presents; and how California is posed to lead the nation.

Speakers Include:

Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education, Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom
Lande AjoseDr. Lande Ajose is the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education for Governor Gavin Newsom. She is responsible for developing and shaping the Governor’s higher education policy agenda, which is focused on protecting college affordability, preserving college access, and increasing system efficiency in order to meet the state’s need for a skilled and educated workforce.  Prior to this appointment, she served as executive director of California Competes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project that develops and advocates on behalf of policies to equitably boost California’s postsecondary degree attainment.  Her experience in higher education spans college admissions at Vassar College, education and workforce development funding at the James Irvine Foundation, and research and evaluation at MDRC, where she managed a comprehensive evaluation of the Achieving the Dream Initiative. An ardent advocate for college affordability, in 2014 she was appointed to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) by Governor Jerry Brown and served as chair for two years until her resignation in May 2019.  She has served on boards of the Institute of College Access and Success (TICAS), the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and, until her appointment to the Governor’s office, she was a WASC Senior College and University Commissioner. She currently serves on the advisory committee for the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California and on the Board of Trustees at Occidental College. A graduate of Occidental, she earned her master’s degree from the School of Public Affairs at UCLA and holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater.

Executive Director, California State University, Los Angeles, Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good
Taffany Lim HeadshotTaffany Lim, Ed.D. is the executive director of Cal State LA’s Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good where she oversees campus programs and initiatives that promote community engagement and collaboration.  She is the founding director of Cal State LA’s Prison BA Graduation Initiative, the only face-to-face bachelor’s degree program for incarcerated students in the state of California, and also oversees Project Rebound at Cal State LA, a program to help formerly incarcerated students succeed in higher education.

Graduate Student, CSU Long Beach
Danny Murillo HeadshotDanny Murillo transferred from Cerritos College to the University of California, Berkeley. At UC Berkeley, he co-founded the Underground Scholars Initiative. As the former Program Analyst at the Campaign for College Opportunity, Danny led the Campaign’s efforts to increase awareness for the unique challenges facing currently and formerly incarcerated students in California’s public higher education system. He is the primary author of the Campaign’s latest report: The Possibility Report: From Prison to College Degrees in California. Currently, Danny is a graduate student in the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education program at California State University, Long Beach.

Program Director, Project Rebound, California State University Fullerton
Romarilyn Ralston headshotRomarilyn Ralston, is Program Director of Project Rebound at California State University Fullerton  and also serves as the Co-chair of the CSU Project Rebound Policy and Advocacy Committee.  Project Rebound supports the higher education and successful reintegration of the formerly incarcerated with a vision that higher education disrupts the revolving door practices of mass incarceration. Romarilyn is a black feminist prison abolitionist scholar working to interrupt criminalization at the intersections of race, gender, and education. She is also a long-time member of the CA Coalition for Women Prisoners and serves as a consultant and policy advocate. Romarilyn is an advisory board member for Million Book Project at Yale University and Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition.  Romarilyn earned a Master in Arts from Washington University in St. Louis and a Bachelor in Arts from Pitzer College.

Program Director, University of California Irvine Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (UCI LIFTED)
Keramet Reiter headshot
Keramet Reiter is Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society and at the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine. She holds a J.D. and Ph.D. in Jurisprudence & Social Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about prisons, prisoners’ rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems. She has evaluated the impacts of: medical experimentation on prisoners, gun control laws, and long-term solitary confinement in the United States and internationally. She is the author of two books: 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement (Yale University Press, 2016) and Mass Incarceration (Oxford University Press, 2017). She has a long-standing commitment to prison education; she has taught in jails and prisons in California, Massachusetts, and New York, and she is the director of LIFTED, the recently established UC initiative to offer BA degrees to incarcerated students in California.

Senior Director, Rising Scholars, Foundation for California Community Colleges
Rebecca Silbert headshotRebecca Silbert is the Senior Director of the Rising Scholars Network at the Foundation for California Community Colleges, where she works with more than 40 California Community Colleges serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. Rebecca previously led Corrections to College California, an independent nonprofit initiative that was the precursor to the Rising Scholars Network. Corrections to College was co-directed with the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and was housed at The Opportunity Institute. Prior to The Opportunity Institute, Rebecca was Senior Policy Associate and then Executive Director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law. Prior to her five years at the Warren Institute, Rebecca tried cases for nine years as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Northern District of California. She earlier worked as an associate at the law firm of Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP in San Francisco as well as with the Harvard Project on Schooling and Children. Rebecca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1996) and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Berkeley (1991).


Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Learn more at