Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons


Christopher J. Agans, Executive Director 

Chris Agans is Executive Director of New Jersey’s Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons consortium. He leads the NJ-STEP administrative team and oversees the delivery of NJ-STEP’s B.A. Program in Justice Studies. In this role he has managed the coordination of services for students attending college in New Jersey’s prisons, and their bridge to college in the community since 2017. Prior to this he led the development of the transitional supports for formerly incarcerated students on Rutgers University campuses (now known and the “Rutgers Mountainview Communities” or MVCs) and facilitated their expansion across the Rutgers system over a five year period. Chris is the former Director of the federally funded TRIO Student Support Services program for Rutgers New Brunswick. There he managed all aspects of academic support services for low-income, first-generation college students. He has served at Rutgers since 1999 in a wide variety of  roles and is a graduate of both Rutgers College (B.A. English) and Rutgers Graduate School of Education (E.d.M. Educational Administration).

Talib Charriez, MVC Counselor – Newark

Christopher “Talib” Charriez holds a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University-Newark. Passionate about understanding human behavior and its implications, he is always seeking opportunities to apply psychological insights to various aspects of life. Talib serves as the primary support contact for NJ-STEP students on the Rutgers University-Newark campus. As a justice-impacted scholar, his research delves into intersectionality, criminal justice, and the education system.

Regina Diamond-Rodriguez,  Director of Transitions 

Regina oversees all transitions support for NJ-STEP students reentering their communities throughout New Jersey. This includes supervision of the Rutgers Mountainview Communities, providing support for formerly incarcerated students at all three Rutgers Campuses. 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 Communities. 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.

Latoya Hamlin, Director of Counseling

Latoya is the Director of Counseling for NJ-STEP, where she provides strategic leadership and supervises the in-prison counseling staff. Prior to this she served as the NJ-STEP Academic Counselor at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility and Garden State Youth Correctional Facility for five years. She is a graduate of Rutgers University College of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick, where she majored in English. Latoya is also a graduate of Monmouth University’s School of Education where she earned an M.S.Ed. in Student Affairs and College Counseling. Latoya is a nationally certified counselor with a passion for academic advising and social justice issues.

Natasha Collins, NJ-STEP Counselor

Natasha is the NJ-STEP Counselor at Garden State Youth Correctional facility. Natasha’s professional background is in behavioral health and education. Prior to joining NJ-STEP, Natasha worked as a Client Intake Specialist for Penn Medicine/Princeton House Behavioral Health and as an Instructor and Program Coordinator/Academic Advisor for the New Jersey District 1199J Student Training and Development Fund: “Youth Transitions to Work Apprenticeship” program. She holds a dual Bachelor of Science degree in both Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Lincoln University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Forensic Counseling from Walden University. 

Joshua J. Eaise, NJ-STEP 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.

Elizabeth Harley, NJ-STEP Counselor

Elizabeth is the Academic Counselor at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, NJ, where she provides academic support to NJ-STEP students working toward a degree. Elizabeth is a Rutgers Newark Alum with both Bachelor and Masters Degrees from the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration. During her time as a student, she interned with NJ-STEP from 2018-2020. Prior to returning to NJ-STEP as an Academic Counselor, Liz coordinated multidisciplinary field study programs for students on the Rutgers – Newark Campus. Currently, Liz is completing a certificate program in Violence Against Women through the Rutgers School of Social Work.

Holly Polakiewicz, MVC Counselor – New Brunswick

Holly is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) with a professional background in volunteer management, trauma-informed care, and education (adult basic ed, GED preparation, and prison ed). Prior to joining NJ-STEP, Holly served in the nonprofit sector as the New Jersey Regional Manager for the Petey Greene Program for 4+ years. She is currently the Mountainview Community Counselor for the Rutgers Newark campus, after serving as an intern for the program from 2015-2017. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Saint Joseph’s University and a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) with a specialization in Violence Against Women and Children from 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 , NJ-STEP 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.

Tiece Riddick, MVC Counselor – Camden

Tiece is the Counselor for the Mountainview Community at Rutgers University–Camden. Tiece’s background in social work spans nearly fifteen years, during which she held various roles in both public and non-profit organizations with particular emphasis on mental health. Tiece received both her Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Rutgers -Camden. She has worked within the Department of Human Services providing mental health and case management supports to children and adults in institutions and the community. Tiece joins the NJ-STEP team after working with School Based Youth Services (SBYS) of the Camden City School District where she provided program coordination and mental health services.

Stephanie Ulm, Completion Counselor

Stephanie Ulm is the Completion Counselor for NJ-STEP where she partners with all 18 community colleges in New Jersey to assist students in completing their A.A. degrees. She also works in collaboration with the Mountainview Counselors on all three Rutgers campuses to help students make a seamless transition into the B.A. program. Stephanie is a community college graduate herself and earned her A.A.S. in Exercise Science and Wellness from Montgomery County Community College, before transferring to Penn State University where she earned her B.S. in Rehabilitation and Human Services with a concentration in the carceral system and reentry. Stephanie has worked in both the education and community programming sectors to provide much needed resources for marginalized and special populations, including creating and implementing a free 12-week fitness and wellness program for individuals recovering from alcohol and substance-use disorders within her local community. Stephanie is currently earning her M.A. in Public Policy at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and hopes to use the expertise gained in that program to not only enhance the work she is currently doing, but to enact lasting and meaningful change to populations that have been neglected, marginalized, and overlooked for far too long.