Tammy Day, program director for Next Steps at Vanderbilt, was one of nine speakers chosen to deliver a TEDx Talk at Vanderbilt University. Day spoke of the power of inclusive higher education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and on the impact Next Steps at Vanderbilt has had on the campus culture. More on her talk, Opportunity and High Expectations: Inclusive postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities may be found at this link.

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.”

Presentation Summaries:

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.

Staff and students from the TigerLIFE Program at the University of Memphis hosted the October meeting of the Tennessee Alliance for Postsecondary Edication Opportunities for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Madeleine Will, Director of the National Policy Center of the National Down Syndrome Society, was present to report on the Crosstown Concourse Project and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Will is pictured below at the podium. Mary Woolridge, with the staff of Senator Lamar Alexander, and Maurice Williams with TigerLIFE also are pictured.

The TN PSE Alliance meets quarterly.

FullSizeRender   IMG_3541

April 4 & 5, 2016, Atlanta, Georgia

Deadline: January 30, 2016

The Southeastern Postsecondary Education Alliance (SEPSEA) seeks compelling presentations that inform inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) professionals and students about best practices, research, and other activities of interest to the IPSE programs in the Southeast.

Presentations will be one hour long. There will be 4 strands for presentations:

· IPSE Students

· College & University Professionals

· K-12 Specialists/Educators

· Family Members

Proposals can be submitted at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SEPSEA16

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) has featured the UT Future Program in a new video. UT FUTURE is one of five postsecondary education options on college campuses across the state. In this video, you’ll meet 4 of the students and get some insight into the program’s role on the Knoxville campus from the dean.

You can watch the video HERE

The fall semester is replete with fresh beginnings for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities enrolled in Tennessee’s five postsecondary education programs. For some, it is a return to familiar routines, while for others it is a brand new adventure. A sampling of updates from three programs in Tennessee follows, highlighting the familiar and the new and reminding us of the excitement and the nervousness that comes with the college experience.

IDEAL Program at David Lipscomb University

We are pleased to welcome 19 students to IDEAL for the 2015-16 academic year. Eleven are returning and eight are new to the program. It’s exciting to think we will be graduating our first class of students in December. Here are some of our updates:

  • We have a new graduate assistant and a new social work intern.
  • We received a TPSID grant! Exciting changes ahead (new staff, increased outreach in the community, more opportunities for job training and job development).
  • Two of our students, Matt Branch and Shayla Osborne, participated in a luncheon for Disability Rights Tennessee and helped prep the meal!
  • 11 of our students are placed at off-campus internship sites this semester, including Warner Parks, Fleet Feet, the Green Hills YMCA, Saddle Up, and Divine Art Café.
  • All 19 students attended the TennesseeWorks Think Employment Summit in September.

Next Steps at Vanderbilt University


The fall semester is underway and students are working hard in classes and internships and are engaged in busy social activities with new and old friends. We asked two of our students, one new and one returning student, to write updates. Here is what they shared:

My name is Andy Fehlman. I am excited to get to learn theatrical design with the other students because it has been a good experience. On one Saturday, I was taught how to set and hang lights for the new play. Then after class on Wednesday’s I help paint sets. After all the work was done the lighting and the set blended perfectly. The play takes you back one thousand years, having a feel of Rome. I am also working as an intern for student media for a couple of months now. What I have done is looking for errors in the newspaper and giving out surveys to the students on campus. I am looking forward to host my own show on Vanderbilt’s Radio.

I am Jamie Galvin. I am a second year at the Next Steps program. I’m going to give you a update on how well it is going. We all have internships. Mine is at University School of Nashville. I work in aftercare and give them snack and do the dishes then I play with the kids. Bryshawn is another student and he is at the Vanderbilt police department. He likes riding in the police car and helping them do their work. Conor is at the Athletics department. He organized old files and set up equipment. Nick is at the office of conferences. He works on planning events on campus. He works on the computer. John is at Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and he does data entry assembling packets office work. Next Steps gives us many opportunities like we get to make friends and hang out with people. We even get to go on a trip to a national conference in Washington, DC to talk about Next Steps. We take cool class like Transition to Adulthood. My Next Steps classmates took class about the ocean and some took classes about the solar system. We get to learn how to cook on Fridays and that is a lot of fun. We have lunch and learns where people come and tell us all about their jobs. We are learning a lot.

EDGE Program at Union University


The Union EDGE Program has had a great beginning as the newest inclusive postsecondary education program in the state of Tennessee. We are blessed to have eight students, with six living on campus. Students have had a busy beginning learning the basics of “doing college.” We are blessed to have incredible roommates and mentors that have worked hard to help in the transition. Students are actively involved in their internships, campus activities, and developing friendships. Some of the campus activities that our students have joined include the Student Activities Council, a national fraternity, selection as a spirit team member, and Bible study groups that are located on campus. Students are participating in cooking lab each Friday and are learning to cook several different items such as eggs, tacos, baked chicken, and stir fry!

Tennessee’s College Programs for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2016

Tennessee’s five postsecondary education programs, EDGE at Union University, FUTURE at University of TN Knoxville, IDEAL at Lipscomb University, TigerLIFE at University of Memphis, and Next Steps at Vanderbilt University are in the process of accepting, reviewing, and interviewing candidates for Fall 2016 classes. Please visit their pages on the program section of this website to learn more about each program.

Registration is now open for the 2015 State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Held November 12-13 in Fairfax, Virginia, the conference is sponsored by George Mason University’s Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human Disabilities and The Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education at Syracuse University.

For more information, visit the conference website.

The Think College National Coordinating Center completes annual reports offering descriptive data and trend analysis using data collected from 27 federally funded Transition Postsecondary Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) projects, providing a comprehensive knowledge base on postsecondary education access and outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities.

To view the report click here.

WSMV (channel 4) will follow two Next Steps at Vanderbilt students through their first year. Click the link below to watch the initial story and to get to know the students and the objectives of this postsecondary education experience on Vanderbilt’s campus.

Students With Intellectual Disabilities Attend Vanderbilt Through Next Steps

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