Dr. Harper earned her M.S. from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences in 2006, and an M.S.Ed. from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in 2010. In May 2011, she received her Doctorate from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include ex-offender reentry, especially the challenges faced by former prisoners as they reenter the workforce. Her doctoral dissertation explored how those most closely involved in assisting former prisoners to reenter the workforce conceptualize the challenges they face after a period of prisonization-the negative socio-psychological effects of the prison experience. She presented the results of her research to the Criminal Business Committee, a group of Federal Judges who oversee the reentry effort in Philadelphia. She has also presented her research to the Reentry Team at the Federal Probation Department. Jessie has lectured and has facilitated ex-offender employment workshops at private workforce development firms.
She has several years of various types of teaching experience. In addition to teaching American Racism in the School of Social Policy and Practice, Dr. Harper has worked as a part-time Instructor at Project H.O.M.E., an agency in North Philadelphia that offers general education classes and workforce development training to Philadelphia residents. As Adult Education Instructor, she taught Language Arts, Writing, Pre-GED courses, and other job preparatory subjects to adult students.
A course that Dr. Harper developed and currently teaches is entitled Examining the School to Prison Pipeline: Implications of History, Policy, and Race. The course draws from contemporary scholarship in literature, sociology, criminal justice, education, history, and law. This course seeks to: (1) examine the historical context and policies that have contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline, (2) analyze the workings of contemporary racism and its relationship to education and corrections policies, and (3) explore interventions for an alternate approach.