When an organization institutes a new program or initiative, a period of transition is usually expected before all members get on board.
Such was not the case for Millersville University’s (MU) inclusive post-secondary course of study for students with intellectual disability. Since its inception in 2014, the program has evolved, gathered support and respect, and most recently entered into a new partnership which will further its mission of allowing students with disabilities to fully participate at MU.
The University first introduced an inclusive post-secondary course of study for students with intellectual disability as the Career and Life Studies program. The course of study was later simplified to Career and Life Studies (CLS). Faculty advisor Dr. Thomas Neuville explains that the shift carried more significance than the elimination of one word.
“That small vignette exemplified the evolution of Career and Life Studies from an initiative held by a few to a university-wide understood and supported course of study,” he says.
However, the course of study did not stop evolving there. Its name has shifted again, this time from CLS to Integrated Studies, and it entered a new collaboration with the human resource organization AHEDD and the University’s Experiential Learning and Career Management (ELCM).
“Our primary guiding principle is known as the Culturally Valued Analogue, which put simply means we strive to design all facets of the curriculum, and student experience to mirror what goes on for all students at MU,” explains Neuville, who is an educational foundations professor at MU.
Integrated Studies began as a two-year program, but with the name change, the non-degree course of study added a four-year option. Students receive a full schedule of required and faculty-approved courses, which become increasingly individualized over time. They take classes with fully-matriculating peers, live in typical residence halls and work on and off campus. Fifteen students are currently enrolled in Integrated Studies for the spring 2017 semester, and 25 students will be admitted in the fall 2017 semester.
The University’s ELCM, with which Integrated Studies is entering a partnership, strives to help students achieve their personal and professional goals through student-centered career programs, experiences and learning opportunities. “The match between the outcome objectives of Integrated Studies and ELCM was obvious,” Neuville notes.
In this new collaboration, ELCM will work with the third participating member, AHEDD, to offer students and alumni with various disabilities counsel when creating resumes, applying for jobs, securing interviews, developing individual plans and communicating with family. AHEDD is a private, nonprofit human resource organization that has provided employment services to disabled individuals in Pennsylvania since 1977.
“While having conversations with ELCM and accessing the services and supports they currently offer, we understood that we were asking to go beyond what is typically done and fill a gap that may exist in a student’s post-graduation experience,” Neuville explains. “AHEDD is an organization with a solid reputation that provides employment services throughout Pennsylvania to people with disabilities. From that point it was easy to see the match and get the principals from both organizations together.”
The partnership is now up and running after it became official in February 2017. MU students interested in the employment services made possible by this new collaboration should contact Barbara D’Ercole of AHEDD at 866-902-4333, extension 51003 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.