Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons


Christopher J. Agans, Acting Director & Director of Transitions

Chris is currently Acting Director for all NJ-STEP operations and NJ-STEP’s Director of Transitions, leading the supports for NJ-STEP students once they transition home into community. He is a graduate of both Rutgers College and Rutgers Graduate School of Education where he earned a Masters Degree in Educational Administration. Prior to developing the transitional supports for formerly incarcerated students at Rutgers University (now known and the Rutgers Mountainview Communities),  Chris was the Director of the federally funded TRIO Student Support Services program for Rutgers New Brunswick. There he managed all aspects of academic and personal support services for low-income, first-generation college students. He has served at Rutgers since 1999 in a wide variety of other roles as well, including: IT professional; residence counselor; and a course instructor for various programs and departments.


Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez,  STEP Academic Counselor

Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez is the Academic Counselor at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility. She is a graduate of both Rutgers University and Douglass College, where she completed her Joint Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies, and Information Technology and Informatics with a minor in Social Justice – graduating cum laude. As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Amarilis researched the effects of migration on gender identity in Puerto Rican women. She was also an Aresty Undergraduate Research Fellow and the recipient of the 2013 Dee Garrison Award for Justice and Peacemaking. Amarilis also earned an MA in Criminal Justice from Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in 2018 and currently serves on the Rutgers – Newark Staff Council.


Regina Diamond-Rodriguez, Mountainview Community Counselor – Rutgers Newark 

Regina provides direct support to NJ-STEP students enrolled at Rutgers – Newark through the Mountainview Program. Regina is a Licensed Social Worker and graduate of Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service (MSW). Regina earned her BA in social work at Rutgers where she earned a number of awards and scholarships for her leadership in the LGBTQ Community as well as her service and involvement with the Mountainview Program. This includes her role as co-founder of the Mountainview Project Student Organization (MVP-SO).  Regina joins NJ-STEP after spending several years as a care manager for children and teens with mental, emotional and behavioral health challenges.  Her work included advocating for court-involved youth and linking children and families to resources in their communities and within their school systems.


Derek Elkins, Data Manager

Derek worked with NJ-STEP as the Admissions Officer for two years assisting students with college enrollment and financial aid after release from prison. Derek transitioned to his current role with NJ-STEP after leading the implementation of the Edvance Software System. Derek measures data needs for specific projects, determines course needs and schedules, establishes data quality standards, and oversees all reporting to VERA, Sunshine Lady, Ford Foundation, Rutgers University, and other NJ-STEP partners.

Derek spent several years working in admissions for the graduate and theological schools at Drew University. Derek holds two M.A. degrees in religion and education from Union Presbyterian Seminary and Drew University; he earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A focus of Derek’s academic work was the resilience of children with incarcerated parents. His article, “Lift Every Voice: The Humanizing Work of Children’s Testimony in Response to the Effects of Parental Incarceration,” was published in the 2012 volume of the Journal of Childhood and Religion.


Joshua Eaise, STEP Academic Counselor

Josh is the Academic Counselor at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ, where he provides academic advising and support to incarcerated NJ-STEP students. Prior to joining NJ-STEP, Josh taught for several years in the Political Science Department and the Rutgers Writing Program, both at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University-Camden and earned an M.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.


Isaiah Fudge, Completion Counselor

Isaiah serves as NJ-STEP’s Completion Counselor, assisting STEP students in the transition from correctional facilities to college at any of New Jersey’s community or state colleges.  Isaiah’s background in education spans 9 years, where he has held various roles in middle school, secondary, and higher education. He has first-hand experience with many of the flawed systems that negatively impact underserved groups. A certified teacher in the state of New Jersey, Isaiah spent countless hours designing lessons that broadened his students’ thinking about the world around them. He transitioned into guidance when he recognized his ability to impact students in a less confined role.  His approach helped students on the front-end of being “caught in the system”. Now, Isaiah hopes to help students recognize, establish, and explore a new “front-end” in their lives by being a supportive resource as they journey through college.


Reginald Gaines, STEP Academic Counselor

Reginald Gaines is an academic counselor at Northern State Prison. Before joining NJ-STEP he served two terms as an AmeriCorps Service Member and remains a dedicated community volunteer as an alumnus. Mr. Gaines is involved in community projects and civic leadership. His activism encompasses outreach, focus groups, and public forums focusing on a range of issues associated with social, economic and environmental circumstances. Mr. Gaines earned his BA degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers as an NJSTEP participant and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Labor and Employment Relations at Rutgers University.


Gerardine Philippe, Institutional Liaison

Gerardine Philippe is the Institutional Liaison for NJ-STEP, serving as the primary point of contact between NJ Dept. Of Corrections , NJSTEP Staff, and Institutional Partners. She maintains regular communication with the different entities to help ensure that that overall goals of NJ-STEP are met. Gerardine earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Montclair State University. At MSU she had the privilege of teaching Psychology to first-year students before her departure. Gerardine also earned both her M.A. and Ph.d. in Educational Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she served on various research team boards. Her own research focused on understanding the self-regulatory skills and motivation of students deemed academically underprepared upon college admission. Gerardine is an active member of her church community, Maranatha Baptist Church, where she enjoys leading in the Young Adult department.