16:02 PM

Transformation: From Criminal Inmate to a UST Ed.D

Talk about a transformation. Here’s the astounding story of high school dropout and former felon Brandon Warren, Ed.D ’21. Now 40, he has been an adjunct professor since 2011, living his passion for changing the lives of the incarcerated through education and helping the formerly jailed with successful re-entry into society.

Warren said, “The kind of transformation that occurs through an appropriate high-quality education is second only to religious conversion because of the effect it has on people’s hearts and minds.”

He speaks from experience.

Until the age of 10, Warren lived with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather who “was always looking for work or getting run out of town.” As a troubled teen, he ran the streets and joined a gang. He was a tough, even violent adolescent. Warren’s first experience behind bars was in 1996 at age 16, and he would be remanded to prison twice more before he was 20.

3rd Time Was the Charm

Against all odds, the third time that he was brought up on charges was the proverbial charm.

Warren recalled, “By my third criminal event in 2000, it just clicked in my head that the road I was on was a dead end and made no sense. I was risking death and imprisonment for people who didn’t love me; it was foolish. After praying about it, I decided to spend my time while locked up getting an education.”

Life-saving, College-in-Prison Programs

Warren completed his GED, and thanks to college-in-prison programs and grant money for individuals like him, forged ahead to earn an A.A. in Humanities from Lee College in Baytown.

After his release from incarceration in 2004, he stayed on the academic course. The motivated and focused young man secured his B.S. in Biblical Counseling at the College for Biblical Studies in 2009. His Master of Divinity came in 2015 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which employed him as an administrative assistant, then adjunct professor, while pursuing his first graduate degree.

UST Offered the Right Ed.D Program

Realizing that part of his calling was to teach in prisons, he sought the right doctoral program in education to round out his credentials. University of St. Thomas’ Catholic intellectual tradition had his respect. On top of that, he had been reading Aristotle and Thomistic philosophy — virtue and ethical leadership resonated with him.

“The Ed.D program at UST was a place where I could thrive,” he explained. “I took my interest in philosophy and theology and virtue and translated that into social science research on intellectual merits like open-mindedness, humility and moral reasoning.”

UST’s Dr. Andres Garcia, one of Warren’s professors and a member of his dissertation committee, said, “In every interaction, Brandon brought a significant level of insight and an analytical perspective. Most importantly, he was always willing to apply that same critical eye to his own work. He was focused and inquisitive, traits that will undoubtedly set him apart in any of his future endeavors. Getting the opportunity to be a part of his academic journey at this juncture has been a privilege.”

Warren works full-time for Lee College, which serves eight prisons. “I go inside the prison teaching courses, including philosophy, and I serve as a re-entry specialist.”

A Crystal Clear Calling & a Respected Voice

U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, recently invited the uniquely qualified expert to meet and consult on how the administration should manage Pell grant funding for college-in-prison programs.

“We know that the programs work at reducing recidivism,” he offered, “But I stressed that we need to move beyond that fact and acknowledge the exponential effects too. A quality liberal arts education transforms hearts and minds to lead to family restoration, develop community-mindedness and translate to gainful employment. Such character development is even relevant for the person who may never be getting out of prison in the sense that it results in a safer, more peaceful mindset.”

Warren’s Video Blog

Warren advocates with energy and conviction as persuasively online as he does in person. He regularly updates a compelling and enlightening YouTube video blog and Facebook page. These are sites for learning more about his personal story and the multiple criminal justice issues near and dear to his heart. Expanding college-in-prison programs and advocating for the Second Look Act are at the forefront.

To contact the transformed and inspiring prisoner-turned-professor, Brandon Warren, email: brandonscommentary@gmail.com.

For information on UST’s 3-year, interdisciplinary Ed.D in Educational Leadership, go here.