Students, staff, and faculty from three of Tennessee’s five postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities presented at the 2015 State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (SOA) held November 12-13, 2015 in Fairfax, Virginia. Their presentations were delivered to a gathering of professionals and interested parties to highlight the current state of research and practice in the field of postsecondary education.
Strands at the conference this year focused sessions around academic pursuits, social lives, independent living, employment, policy, program development and evaluation, research, and transition to college. Below, presenters from Next Steps at Vanderbilt, IDEAL at Lipscomb University, and TigerLIFE at the University of Memphis share their brief impressions and experiences from the conference. In addition, summaries of their presentations are listed, outlining their contributions.
Caitlin Bernstein, Next Steps at Vanderbilt graduate
“The SOA conference is benefiting people that have a postsecondary program or who are starting a postsecondary program. I think people need to know that people with disabilities want a postsecondary experience like us and want to find a job too. I love learning about new information on postsecondary programs. I think that people need to know that the young people want jobs and that college can heklp us with that.”
Tammy Day, Next Steps at Vanderbilt Program Director
”The SOA Conference is proving to be as valuable as always for the opportunity to network with others from across the U.S. who are working to develop best practices in inclusive higher education. I have gathered many pages of ideas and resources. I always come away feeling very proud of the incredible work we are doing at Vanderbilt and across our state. I’m even more proud this year because of the wonderful contributions our students Caitlyn and Jamie are making. They were both born for public speaking.”
Erik Carter, Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University
“It is exciting to be among so many people who are pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). And I am reminded (and so encouraged) that we are on the forefront of inclusive postsecondary education. Yet we also see that there is much more we need to do in our state to ensure every young person with IDD who wants to pursue college has meaningful opportunities to do so.”
Sharon Shields, Associate Dean of Professional Education and Professor of the Practice of Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University
“What a great presentation by Caitlin Bernstein, Jamie Galvin and Tammy Day, ‘Answering the Higher Call: Activities that Build Self Determination’. I was so proud of our team for such an inspiring presentation. Our students represent us so well and their voices gave great testament to the values of our program. Kudos to everyone.”
Lindsay Krech, Next Steps at Vanderbilt Job Developer
“It was so impactful to hear from students, families, teachers, and administrators who are pioneers in this inclusive education movement. We really are standing on the shoulders of giants. Each story told was evidence of a changed life. Students like Jamie and Cat demonstrate the power to change our communities through the reciprocal education they bring to campus. Collectively, PSE programs are changing the culture of higher education.”
Mallory Whitmore, IDEAL at Lipscomb University Program Director
“The State of the Art Conference is like a family reunion of sorts; it’s exciting to meet your mentors and conference call buddies, those you’ve shared resources with and those you aspire to be like. For a few days each November we’re surrounded by people who share the same language and the same vision, and that’s such a gift as most of us have such incredibly small teams on our individual campuses. It connects you to a movement that’s so much larger than the handful (or two!) of students and staff that make up our daily world.”
Keynote Administrators’ Panel
Presenter: Sharon Shields
Shields relayed her experiences both as a campus leader working to incorporate programs for people with intellectual disabilities into the campus culture and as a professor who has welcomed students into her classrooms. She and her fellow panelists shared successes and challenges, discussed how the culture of inclusion on their campuses are shifting, made predictions on future directions of postsecondary education, and gave advice for colleges and universities considering program on their campuses.
From Classroom to Career: Employment Strategies for Transition-Aged Students with Disabilities
Presenters: Lindsay Krech, Caitlin Bernstein, and Jamie Galvin
This presentation highlighted the career development process used by Next Steps at Vanderbilt. Presenters demonstrated how curriculum and internships develop job and employability skills, as well as successful tools for finding employment. These strategies and tools presented may be implemented in other classrooms and organizations across the country.
Answering the Higher Call – Activities that Build Self-Determination
Presenters: Tammy Day, Caitlin Bernstein, and Jamie Galvin
All who support youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in higher education hope students gain increased self-determination skills. This session walked self-advocates and practitioners through three different types of community service activities that serve as practice arenas for self-determination and self-discovery. These activities are largely student driven, use minimal funds, yet yield high interest and gained insights by all participants, including typically-developing university partners. Employment insights are also gained. Students develop a greater awareness of career domains, their preferences of these domains, and actual employability skills. When one adds the team-building skills that are developed when serving as volunteers, these activities should be mined for their riches.
Panel on Legislative Advocacy for Inclusive Postsecondary Education: Lessons from the Southeast
Presenter: Tammy Day
Day served on a panel that highlighted advocacy for inclusive higher education that has been undertaken in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Participants learned effective strategies for advocating with state legislators for both funding and recognition for inclusive higher education. Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida are all working as part of coalitions with various state agencies and other organizations to advocate to their legislatures for support and funding. The coalitions educate their policymakers and find champions to support the work they are doing throughout the state with IPSE.
Engaging Curricula Strategies for Teaching Real Life Skills
Presenters: Misty Vetter Parsley and Mallory Whitmore, IDEAL Program at Lipscomb University
Students enrolled in PSE programs often need ongoing assistance with employment-related skills such as social interaction, communication, and technology, as well as assistance with math and reading. Because of the various activities on campus, time to work on these skills is limited. This session explored how to present engaging lessons for teaching these skills in an efficient and effective manner. Participants also learned about age-appropriate curricula materials and how to include peer mentors in reinforcing academic and social skill development.
Getting Vocational Rehabilitation Onboard with Inclusive Postsecondary Education
Presenter: Maurice Williams, TigerLIFE at the University of Memphis
This session highlighted the various partnerships between inclusive postsecondary education and vocational rehabilitation agencies in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Participants learned effective strategies for working with vocational rehabilitation for both funding and recognition for inclusive postsecondary education as they learned what approaches worked in several states.
For more on the State of the Art Conference, visit the conference website.