Kary BosmaKary Bosma

After a nationwide search, Kary Bosma has been named co-director of the Hope-Western Prison Education Program operated by Hope College and Western Theological Seminary to provide a Christian liberal arts education to incarcerated men at Muskegon Correctional Facility.

Bosma is coming to HWPEP from the Calvin Prison Initiative, where she is director of operations and has been on staff since 2016, and provided leadership in establishing the statewide organization of colleges and universities that operate such programs.  She will begin at HWPEP on July 1, and will serve as co-director with Dr. David Stubbs, professor of theology and ethics at Western Theological Seminary.  She succeeds co-director Dr. R. Richard Ray, a professor of kinesiology at Hope who is retiring this year.

“We are thrilled to have a person of Kary’s experience and character join HWPEP’s leadership team in this critical role,” said Ray, who with Stubbs has led the program since its inception more than five years ago. “Few people have a deeper or more impactful history with college-in-prison than she does. And fewer still understand and are as committed to the character and mission of a Christian liberal arts college and the ways that such a college can transform the hearts, minds, and spirits of incarcerated students. She and David Stubbs will be a winning combination.”

In addition to her eight years with the Calvin Prison Initiative, Bosma has actively supported the flourishing of prison education programs (PEPs) across Michigan, including HWPEP. Beginning in 2021, she convened a monthly gathering of Michigan colleges and universities involved in PEPs alongside leaders from the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to share best practices. In 2023, the group formally organized as the Michigan Consortium for Higher Education in Prison, with the goal of promoting higher education opportunities for incarcerated students, sharing best practices, developing shared educational standards, and learning from one another’s experiences. 

Bosma graduated from Calvin University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.  Prior to joining the staff of the Calvin Prison Initiative, she worked at Calvin serving students in student life and academic departments.

Participants in HWPEP pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hope while taking classes at the prison that are taught by faculty from Hope and Western with seminary and college students serving as assistants. The HWPEP students are recruited from among the 31,000 male prisoners in the 26-prison system operated by the Michigan Department of Corrections.  Prospective students apply to the college and, if accepted, are moved to the Muskegon Correctional Facility.

HWPEP began as a pilot initiative in March 2019 with non-credit courses.  In the fall of 2021, the Higher Learning Commission, which is the college’s accreditor, provided formal approval of Muskegon Correctional Facility as an “additional location” to the Hope campus and to include incarcerated students among the student body.  HWPEP enrolled 20 students in for-credit courses that fall and has increased the total by 20 students each year, building to a total anticipated enrollment of 80.

Ray noted that programs like HWPEP elsewhere have proven positive effects on prisoners, prison culture and prison systems.  For example, he said, studies of similar programs have found a 70% reduction in misconduct incidents, and improved safety and positive culture in prisons.  For parolees who participated, results have included a 43% reduction in recidivism and a 13% increase in post-release employment.

Bosma noted that she joins the HWPEP team eager to contribute to the program’s continued flourishing. “The HWPEP has built a strong foundation under the leadership of Co-Directors Richard Ray and David Stubbs. I am eager to help lead the program through its next stage of growth and development. We’re working toward a student body of 80 students at Muskegon Correctional Facility, which will require the development of sufficient academic supports and integration into the systems of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. In 2025, we will celebrate the graduation of our first cohort of students; and there is work to be done in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Corrections to develop post-graduation jobs for graduates to positively impact the prison community. I am hopeful for the future of the HWPEP and am honored to contribute my gifts toward its success.”

Additional information about the Hope Western Prison Education Program is available at hope.edu/hwpep