Meet the PEP Interns: Thu-Lan Unsoeld & Talia Weine

The Prison Education Project (PEP) relies on the time, energy, and efforts of so many passionate people on WashU’s campus, including its incredible interns! PEP currently has two interns: Thu-Lan Unsoeld, a senior majoring in Sociology and minoring in Design and American Culture Studies, and Talia Weine, a senior majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in Children’s Studies and Writing. In addition to working for PEP, Thu-Lan and Talia are also good friends who interviewed each other for this article! Read more about Thu-Lan and Talia below.

Thu-Lan Unsoeld 

How did you get started working with PEP?

I first started working with PEP at the beginning of my sophomore year. I found the job listing on one of WashU’s job posting pages, applied and began working! Prior to that, I had not heard a lot about PEP on the WashU campus, so it was kind of random and I was one of the first interns to work with Dr. Hudson and Meg Galindo. I am so happy I randomly found the job, because now I’ve been with PEP for the last 3 years! 

What do you do for PEP?

When I first started with PEP, I completely redid the website, which was one of my all time favorite projects. Since then, I’ve worked a lot on maintaining the website and keeping it up to date. I also help run the social media accounts – specifically Instagram and Facebook. And I do some graphic design work for the website and social media, as well as other little things that need graphics or layout help. This summer, I helped out with the layout and design for the reentry guide, which was another one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on for PEP. And I will also just work on random administrative tasks when they come up.

What is your favorite thing about working with PEP?

I love working with the people – the faculty who are a part of PEP, the administrative team and the PEP students. I love that PEP has impacted everyone involved in a different way and I am very proud of the ways that PEP has grown and continues to grow. 

Why do you think prison education is so important?

In high school, I watched the movie “Where to Invade Next” by Michael Moore. In that movie, Moore travels to different countries to investigate certain things that they do better than America. In one part, he visits a maximum security prison in Norway, where their prison system is based on restorative justice – which focuses less on punishment, and more on moving forward and learning and preparing to reenter society when their sentence is over. There is communication and trust among guards and incarcerated individuals and the recidivism rate in Norway is only 20%, one of the lowest rates in the world. Prison education is just one facet of restorative justice, but it is an incredibly important building block in changing the prison system in the U.S. Education should not be a privilege. Thus, it doesn’t matter where someone is – at home, in prison, in school – they should have access to education. 

What do you do for fun?

I like to watch TV, cook with Talia and our friends, read and go on walks! 

 

 

Talia Weine

How did you get started working with PEP?

I volunteered at St. Louis’s Juvenile Detention Center in 2018, and it made me really interested in the importance of prison education because a lot of the kids at the Center fall behind in school. Thu-Lan was already working at PEP, so over the summer of 2019 I asked Natasha if I could get involved and she said yes!

What do you do for PEP?

I started out mostly fulfilling research requests, and that’s been a big part of my role. But I also write articles for the website, file student’s academic assignments, and organize class preferences each semester. Most recently, I helped students in the leadership class find their leadership strengths by taking the VIA character assessment survey.

What is your favorite thing about working with PEP?

Overall, my favorite thing about working with PEP is fulfilling students’ research requests because I learn so much by finding information for them. But also, last year, I got to type up everyone’s personal statements for the UCollege application, and it was really inspiring hearing about every student’s reason for getting their degree and how much PEP has meant to them.

Why do you think prison education is so important?

I think prison education is so incredibly important because everyone deserves to keep learning. For me, my education inspires me to make the world a better place and I can tell that it does the same thing for the PEP students.

What do you do for fun?

In my free time, I love to read (I just finished The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, which was great), go on runs, and hang out with Thu-Lan!

 

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