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Catherine Rohr to Speak at UNC

Catherine RohrPrison Entrepreneurship Program founder Catherine Rohr to speak at UNC Oct. 5.

Chapel Hill, N. C. — Catherine Rohr, founder and chief executive officer of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), an innovative and high-impact prisoner rehabilitation program based in Texas, will be featured speaker at a free public lecture and reception on Monday, Oct. 5, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rohr and former offender and program graduate Jason Wang will discuss the PEP program and answer questions at the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Maurice J. Koury Auditorium at Kenan-Flagler Business School. A reception will follow in the Kenan Center Dining Room. Both are free and open to the public. Visit www.kenaninstitute.unc.edu/PEP/ for details and to RSVP.

With one in three ex-offenders released from North Carolina prisons returning within three years and 28,000 ex-offenders released each year, it is a major social and economic challenge for North Carolina. Gov. Beverly Perdue in September appointed a 34-member StreetSafe Task Force, co-chaired by Attorney General Roy Cooper and Department of Corrections Secretary Alvin Keller, to develop a plan to combat recidivism and reintegrate offenders safely into the community.

PEP provides one model for success. The nonprofit has achieved remarkable results helping inmates redirect their ambitions through values-based entrepreneurial training and ongoing support, enabling them to re-enter society as productive citizens.

Jane Murchison, a senior economics and history major and entrepreneurship minor in the College of Arts and Sciences and a PEP supporter, arranged Rohr's visit to UNC to inspire students who are interested in using their knowledge and skills to address pressing social concerns.

"I thought bringing Catherine Rohr here would be an amazing opportunity to see how ideals can be put into practice," says Murchison. "She is a person who is pursuing her passion, giving up a high-powered job on Wall Street to start this program. It is inspiring to see the impact PEP has on the lives of its participants and on everyone who comes in contact with the program."

A former Wall Street investor and graduate of the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, Rohr started PEP in 2004. She has recruited more than 7,500 executives, entrepreneurs and MBAs from 30 business schools to work with and support inmates in Texas and has received national attention for the program's results. Among them:

a return-to-prison rate of less than 10 percent. an employment rate of more than 80 percent within 30 days of release. a rapidly growing network of entrepreneurial startups. Rohr attributes much of the program's success to the entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring of the professionals and students who volunteer for the program.

The Oct. 5 event at UNC is co-hosted by the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise with the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, Minor in Entrepreneurship, UNC Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Campus Y, Governor's Crime Commission and N.C. Department of Justice.