Opening Doors to College: Multi-Million Dollar Grant Will Change Lives at Temple University and Partnering Pennsylvania Universities

October 2020

photo of Leadership and Career Studies students gathered in a university game room
L&CS Students and coaches in the Howard Gittis Center's game room at Temple University

Students with intellectual disability are already experiencing an inclusive education at Temple University. And now, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) awarded to Millersville University with Temple as one of four partnering universities, more colleges and universities across the Commonwealth will be able to replicate and enhance similar initiatives. The $2.38 million grant will help to change lives, create learning opportunities, and promote the value of full inclusion for all community members.

"We are incredibly proud of the opportunities for a college experience we have provided to date for students with intellectual disability through Leadership & Career Studies (L&CS) at Temple," said Dr. Kathryn Burke, Assistant Professor of Research in Special Education and Senior Research Associate at the Institute on Disabilities in the College of Education and Human Development. "This grant will enable us to enhance the inclusivity and financial sustainability of our initiative, as well as contribute to capacity building for inclusive postsecondary education locally, regionally, and nationally through research and evaluation, dissemination, and training and technical assistance."

Dean Gregory Anderson of the College of Education and Human Development said, "Our mission is centered on the integral role of education as a means of social mobility and social justice for all students. This grant enables us to enhance and expand opportunities for students with intellectual disability to meaningfully engage in and contribute to our vibrant and diverse campus community and to benefit from all that Temple has to offer with their academic, social, and career development.

In addition to Millersville University, the grant is in collaboration with Duquesne University, Gwynedd Mercy University, and Lock Haven University. Temple University's Institute on Disabilities will coordinate research efforts for the partnership. This significant collaboration was organized by the Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (PIHEC), a division of Millersville University which resulted from a previous DOE grant.

photo of Leadership and Career Studies students studying together at a tableThe grant will pay for sustaining the five model initiatives and the development of new initiatives throughout the Commonwealth. PIHEC is dedicated to the mission of inclusive postsecondary education for young adults with intellectual disability, a movement which began in the United States in the 1970s and has evolved toward robust authentic college experiences only in recent decades. As educational policy and practice have begun to reflect the essential right to equal opportunities for students with disabilities, so too have expectations increased for participation of students with intellectual disability in higher education.

"Universities are working to stop systemic ableism," said Dr. Thomas Neuville, Principal Investigator on the grant and Professor of Educational Foundations at Millersville. "Welcoming people who have not traditionally been welcome is the key to changing lives and changing systems. Each individual student's life is forever positively altered. And each university experiences a level of change as Opening Doors to College requires a fundamental change in teaching and learning. The power of bringing people in, almost always results in ushering out the age of segregation and exclusion."

Current undergraduate students serve as coaches for the students in L&CS. Faculty are involved by tailoring their teaching approach based on the students in their classroom. Students participate in employment experiences based on their career interests and graduate with a certificate reflecting their coursework in leadership and diversity along with their individualized course of study.

The overarching vision of the initiative is to design and support inclusive postsecondary learning within a higher education environment and allow students with intellectual disability to experience the myriad benefits of an authentic college experience.

About Leadership & Career Studies

Temple's Leadership & Career Studies (L&CS) is a four-year certificate program that evolved from the Academy for Adult Learning, a two-year program established in 2008. L&CS provides young adults with intellectual disability an authentic college experience while developing academic abilities, career aspirations, job skills, and self-determination at Temple University. In Spring 2021, L&CS will graduate its first class from the four-year program. Applications for Fall 2021 will be available soon on the L&CS webpage.

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