UC CECH alumni to receive Outstanding Distinguished Alumni Award for education reform effort

Dr. Reginald Wilkinson

Reginald Wilkinson, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, is mostly known for his prison and education reform work that he began as the director at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for the State of Ohio, a position which he held for more than 30 years.

The 1989 University of Cincinnati College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Information Technology graduate worked with policy makers, government officials, politicians, community leaders, and educators to push forward the agenda of providing education to inmates.

Wilkinson came from a fair middle-class family, attended public inner-city schools, and became one of the first members of his family that would attend Ohio State University where he earned both a bachelor of science degree in Political Science and a master of education degree in Higher Learning Education. 

In the beginning of Wilkinson’s career, he primarily focused on prison administration where his responsibility was to oversee the day-to-day operations of the correctional facilities, management staff, and facility managers. Through his experience and exposure to the deficits in the prison system, Wilkinson determined there was a strong need for education reform and resources allocated to inmates.

Wilkinson’s effort of “trying to break the cycle of incarceration with the use of education and giving the kids and adults a way out”, did not come without resistance.

“There was definitely push back. You have some people who didn’t think it was fair for people who committed a crime to be given free education. While others who did not commit a crime struggle to pay for their education,” he said.

Although Wilkinson understood the opposition in front of him he still pushed the notion that “education should be available to all, not just a chosen few.”

Now serving on the Ohio State Board of Education, Wilkinson is now focusing on how to increase the education system over all, while still being an advocate of education reform in the prison system, “especially in the juvenile detention centers”.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) published in 2016, nearly half of all individuals released from federal prisons are rearrested within eight years of their release, and around half of those rearrested are sent back to jail.

The same study found that individuals younger than 21 who are released from federal prison are rearrested at the highest rates of any age group. Individuals who did not complete high school were rearrested at the highest rate — 60.4 percent — while those who had a college degree were rearrested at a rate of 19.1 percent.

While incarcerated young adults and school-aged children are more likely to be rearrested, they also have a lot to gain from educational opportunities while in prison, according to the report.

With palpable data and research such as this, demonstrates the need for the Wilkinson’s influence.

Reginald Wilkinson

Because of his profound work, research, and a trusted advisor for many advisory boards, including the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services and Information Technology’s Dean’s Advisory Board, Wilkinson has been recognized by multiple organizations and institutions.

In fact, this year Wilkinson will be awarded the Outstanding Distinguished Alumni Award from CECH’s Dean Lawrence Johnson. The recipient of this award is voted by peers, faculty, and members of the community who recognize the great work and esteem of a specific candidate.

Humbled by this acknowledgment, Wilkinson said, “I don’t seek out awards or accolades. I don’t do the work for the honor.”

Wilkinson is consistent in his work of increasing the effectiveness of education. He attributes his passion to not forgetting where he came from.

“It’s important for me, at least, to ‘not forget from whence I come’ and so when I have the opportunity to pay it forward, stay involved, and counsel persons who can benefit from my years of experience, then that’s what I’m going to do. I do think many others can be helpful by committing to something similarm" he said.

Wilkinson graduated from CECH in 1989 with his doctorate in Educational Foundation, now called Educational Leadership. He is the president and founder of Connecting the Dots, LLC, a consulting company. He has gone on to publish many journals, articles and a 2018 book, "Leadership Management and Connecting the Dots."

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