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Think College and representatives from TPSID programs from across the U.S. met at the 39th Conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability in Indianapolis July 11-16. Directors from Tennessee’s postsecondary education programs were on hand to talk about the effective partnership of the TN Inclusive Higher Education Alliance. The conference provided opportunities to learn, share, and connect with experts in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and postsecondary education.

The deadline to submit presentation proposals for the 2016 State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities has been extended to July 11, 2016. The conference will be held in Fairfax, Virgina December 1-2, 2016.

For more information, visit the conference website.

Members of the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance were highly effective advocates for expanding access to the TN STEP UP scholarship. Many of Tennessee’s postsecondary education programs are expanding to 4 years and this financial assistance is crucial for many for eligible students and families. Senator Doug Overbey and Representative Bob Ramsey were the sponsors. For more on the Step Up Scholarship, visit the Financial Information section of the Resources tab.

6/9/16 Governor Bill Haslam signs Step Up! Legislation

6/9/16 Governor Bill Haslam signs Step Up! Legislation

BY Caitlin Bernstein


The 2016 Next Steps at Vanderbilt graduation ceremony took place in the Wyatt Center at Vanderbilt University, and it was standing room only! Five students received certificates of completion. Michael Floam spoke about why he became an Ambassadore and about how it changed him throughout his time at Vanderbilt. Dr. Erik Carter, Professor of Special Education and Faculty Advisor of Next Steps, spoke about how the graduates are going to do amazing things after they graduate. Jamie Galvin, graduating class speaker, said, “I can’t believe how many people are in the room!” She also talked about how a disability cannot hold you back in life and said it was “fun and personal” to make the graduation speech.

The graduates recently shared reflections on their time at Vanderbilt. Nick Villarreal said being on stage made him realize how much the students all accomplished. Bryshawn Jemison said, “It was so awesome and cool to be a part of the Next Steps program!” John Moore is excited he can still call his friends from Next Steps. So is Conor Dolan, who remembers all the fun he had with his Ambassadores fondly.

The graduates are each looking forward to busy summers and lives beyond Next Steps. Jemison plans to volunteer at a church summer camp and connect with The Arc TN for driving lessons. Jemison is also finishing up training with the Walgreens REDI program and hopes to be employed there soon. Dolan will continue his search for employment in a job he likes. Villarreal is reaching out to friends to plan events, going to Job club with The Arc TN, helping out with Next Steps Alumni events, and looking forward to starting a job at the Fairfield Inn in the Gulch later this year. Galvin is checking out public transportation and Best Buddies Citizens, and will be employed at the Sumner Co. YMCA. Moore will be employed at Books-A-Million.

Congratulations to Bryshawn Jemison, Conor Dolan, Jamie Galvin, John Moore, and Nicholas Villarreal, Class of 2016! We are so proud of them!

IDEAL 2016

The IDEAL program at Lipscomb celebrated their Spring 2016 Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 6th and honored eight students (Josh Ahlberg, Matt Branch, Alanna Johnson, Taegan Martin, Conner Mirt, Shayla Osborne, Jenna Staehling, and Zach Sutton). They had 215 guests in attendance, including faculty partners, internship supervisors, peer mentors, families, and friends.

Two graduating students are working at the university over the summer (Alanna Johnson with Lipscomb IT and Matt Branch with Lipscomb Service Operations). One student, Shayla Osborne, has been accepted to Austin Peay State University and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work starting this fall! A few students (Shayla Osborne, Matt Branch, Taegan Martin and Trey Tucker) will be speaking on behalf of IDEAL at upcoming conferences and school visits. Several students will be back on campus to complete the new Transition to Work 3rd Year option as part of our grant activities. The rest will be working with our Program Manager for Off-Campus Job Development this summer to be placed in meaningful employment.

IDEAL graduate Shayla Osborne noted, “I have learned how to apply myself in a working environment by asking for help when I need it even if I feel afraid to ask sometimes. I have also learned how get in contact with my teachers through email. I have become more confident in abilities to reach for the stars. I have become more independent in a way to where I can make my own decisions.”

IDEAL graduate Matt Branch said, “I have improved myself by asking my friends to help me with anything that I needed help with. I have changed as a person as a result of being able to attend college through the IDEAL program. It gave me the chance to make new friends and learn many great things about college.”

View IDEAL Commencement photos at this link.

For more information on IDEAL at Lipscomb, visit the program website.

Presentation proposals are now being accepted for the 2016 State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. The Conference will be held December 1-2, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Visit the Conference Website for more information.

2016 Southeast Postsecondary Education Alliance Capacity Building Institute

April 4 & 5, 2016

Learn, plan, and share thoughts and strategies about inclusive postsecondary education opportunities in Southeastern colleges and universities.

Who should attend? Faculty and staff from colleges and universities offering or considering inclusive postsecondary programs, students and peer mentors, transition coordinators, representatives from state departments of education and vocational rehabilitation, interested others.


Georgia State University, Veteran’s Memorial Hall
30 Courtland Street, Atlanta, GA 30303

For more information, visit the event website.

The Union EDGE Program at Union University is designed for students with learning disabilities.Learn more about Tennessee’s latest program in this informational video.

The video is linked here.

Visit the Union Edge website to learn more about the program.


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.

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