Our Team


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Joel Strom

Program Director

A doctoral student at the University of Washington, Joel first came to UBB as an instructor and sponsor. His desire to take on a more permanent role grew out of his experience with UBB and his scholarly interest in the politics and ethics of pedagogy, and the value of a humanities education in combating social norms. It also grew out of his need to be accountable as an educator in a public education system whose reductive understanding of “public” often fails to account for and serve our most vulnerable and disenfranchised. Simply put, Joel believes education is a right, that it can be emancipatory, and that the quality of our commitment to social and educational justice is only evidenced by the lengths we will go to advocate for their advancement. He is dedicated to promoting just and equitable relationships, advancing the prison to school pipeline and building communities of mutually supportive learner-educators that transgress the prison walls.


Margaret burke

Program Manager

Margaret enthusiastically joins the UBB team to collaborate in creating empowering educational environments and supporting learners in determining and achieving their aims. Margaret earned her Master of Science (M.S.) in Ecological Teaching and Learning from Lesley University and is excited to bring her experiences in both higher education and non-profit education settings to UBB. In her recent work at the University of Vermont, she specialized in educational design, assessment, and community-engaged learning. At the core of her work, Margaret strives to create inclusive environments that inspire transformative learning, bring communities together, and value differences.




michelle sato

Program Coordinator








Board of Directors

Benjamin gauen, Treasurer

Ben is a King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the Special Assault Unit.  Ben was born and raised in Seattle and graduated from Seattle Prep High School.  He obtained his undergraduate degree from Santa Clara University before eventually moving back to Seattle where he obtained his law degree from Seattle University in 2009.  Ben believes our criminal justice system is ready to implement meaningful ways of rehabilitating individuals so that they do not return to prison; UBB's mission to provide educational opportunities and empowerment for positive change -  proven to help reduce recidivism - is a net gain for the community.

gary idleburg

Gary is co-founder of UBB and has served on the board of UBB since its inception. Gary has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Wisconsin and a M.A. in City Planning from Boston University.

carrie matthews

Carrie is faculty in the Interdisciplinary Writing Program at the University of Washington and taught College Prep English for UBB. A long-time consumer of public education, she received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also sits on UBB’s Education Advisory Committee.

ray mcfarland

Ray is a criminal defense lawyer in Seattle. Graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 1981, he served as a deputy prosecuting attorney under Norm Maleng in the Criminal Division of the King County Prosecutor's Office from 1983-1990. Since then, Ray's private practice has emphasized felonies and misdemeanors in the state and municipal courts of Western Washington. He is a former trustee of the King County Bar Association (1988-2001) who has served on many of committees of the KCBA and Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Rachel oppenheim, secretary

Rachel is a Core Faculty Member in the School of Education at Antioch University Seattle. Her scholarly interests revolve around identity, power, and fostering educational equity for those who have experienced structural discrimination and marginalization. She spent several years as a public school teacher in Compton, California and New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teacher educator Rachel is committed to preparing current and emergent teachers to foster rich, engaging, and responsive educational experiences for all students. For the past decade she has been involved in education in jails and prisons, first in New York City on Rikers Island and now in Washington State through University Beyond Bars.

Pamela Schwartz, board chair

Pamela returned to the University of Washington after 35 years, graduating with a B.A. in Law, Societies, and Justice and a double minor in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and Diversity Studies. In January 2015 she participated in LSJ's mixed enrollment class at Monroe Correctional Center with UBB students, prompting her to become an advocate for education in the prison system.  Pamela currently serves on the Regional Advisory Board and National Advisory Committee of the Anti-Defamation League. In her professional career she was a manufacturer's representative for a women's swimwear company.


Advisory Committees

UBB has established two advisory committees that work closely with the board and staff: the Prisoner Advisory Committee and Education Advisory Committee.


Carol Estes

Carol Estes, UBB Co-Founder and Executive Director from 2005-2013, first visited prison in 2003 to research an article she was writing as managing editor of YES! Magazine.  Through the connections she made during her visit she became inspired to increase the educational opportunities available inside prison walls and UBB was born. Today Carol teaches for UBB and works to help bring back parole to Washington State.

“I know so many men in prison who deserve a second shot, who could move next door to me and that would be fine. Yet we have determined that when people go to prison, they’re never looked at again.…That seems wrong to me.”

Gary Idleburg

Gary Idleburg, UBB Co-Founder and former Board Chair, began volunteering inside prisons with the Black Prisoners Caucus in 2000. It was there that he met Carol Estes and the two co-founded University Beyond Bars in 2005.   He hosts a monthly KSER 90.7FM radio program America’s Disappeared which examines the criminal justice system in America. Degreed in geography and city planning, Gary is an urban planner with Snohomish County.