Since earning his bachelor's degree from NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) in 2014, Aspen Global Leadership Network member Marlon Peterson has blazed a dynamic trail as an author, social justice advocate, podcast host, and media entrepreneur. Peterson joined us to discuss the struggles and challenges that led him to NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS) and his mission of activism.
Peterson spent his twenties in the New York State prison system, where he earned an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice and served as the head of the Transitional Services Center, which creates programming and curricula for men transitioning from incarcerated life.
The Ebony Magazine Power 100 honoree is currently the host of the Decarcerated Podcast, and his first book, Bird Uncaged, was heralded by Kirkus Reviews as, "a worthwhile contribution to evolving conversations on race and criminal justice."
As executive director of College & Community Fellowship (CCF), Peterson plays a critical role in helping women get connected to higher education following prison. "I look forward to stepping into a legacy of helping formerly incarcerated women through their wellness and higher ed journeys—and to connect them to global possibilities. "I care deeply about people—particularly marginalized folks: black folks, brown folks, folks of color—so that's why I'm in this role."
"I've been using my voice to speak about issues of mass incarceration since I was incarcerated myself," adds Peterson. "I connect the global reasons that lead to incarceration—the socioeconomic factors. Incarceration is more than an individual accountability issue; it is a societal one."
Peterson discovered NYU when participating in an Exploring Transfer program at another school. "A friend of mine was applying to big-name schools. At the time, I was only a year out of prison, and I didn't think schools like NYU were accessible to me," says Peterson.
But his friend encouraged him to apply. "I came to an NYU SPS orientation and was sold. For anyone considering this program, it is fast-paced and probably more career-driven than anything,” he says.
When asked if there were any key takeaways from his time at NYU that have helped benefit his career, Peterson notes, “I had a full-time job while I was a full-time student. Implement what you learn in class to the day-to-day work, and bring your day-to-day work issues to the classroom."
Peterson shares sage advice for others considering DAUS. "Don't be intimidated by your age. At the time, I was in my early thirties and a lot of my classmates were older than me, alongside students in their twenties. Don't be discouraged. Don't be intimidated. Exceed your own thoughts of what's possible for you—have fun!"