Columbia or prison: similarities and differences?

Terry Gross’ interview with Scott Spencer (of A Man in the Woods) notes that the author has “taught fiction writing at Columbia University, and in prison” (1:10; I think she says “in prison,” although it might be “at prisons”). The tone sounds like this sort of trajectory is completely normal, like a sandwich and soup. To me, it invites questions:

  • Can I be the only one who finds the juxtaposition of those two fine American institutions curious or notable?
  • How many writers or professors have taught at an Ivy League school and a penal facility?
  • Is teaching at the one pretty much like teaching at the other?
  • If you’ve currently got a gig at a prison, how do you make the transition to Columbia? I assume relatively few people want to make the opposite leap.
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