CEHD News Tom Donaghy

CEHD News Tom Donaghy

ICI partners with Armenian university on new UNICEF-funded project

To promote inclusive education in Armenia, the Institute on Community Integration is building a sustainable partnership with Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU), the only university in that central Asian country that trains both general and special education personnel. Armenia is making education more inclusive, triggering a critical need in the country for training, knowledge dissemination, and technical assistance to assist with this endeavor. This has paved the way for a new ICI project called Enhancing the Inclusion of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Armenia: University of Minnesota – Armenian State Pedagogical University Partnership. The 20-month, $150,000 project is funded by UNICEF Armenia and began May 16, 2016. Renáta Tichá is principal investigator and Brian Abery  is co-principal investigator.

In this project, the partnering universities will collaborate to ensure that inclusive education practices proven in the U.S. can be adapted to Armenia and their usability and feasibility further understood. The collaboration will conduct gap analysis of current needs and inclusive practices in ASPU’s education and special education coursework, introduce ASPU faculty to inclusive practices in Minnesota, and build an online learning community (Inclusion Portal). Staff from the two universities will visit each other’s countries, and ICI filmmaker Jerry Smith  will produce a film for the project that documents Armenia’s progress towards inclusive education. “This project is a wonderful opportunity to share expertise and experiences of inclusive education between our two countries, and to build a strong partnership between ICI and a pedagogical university in Yerevan, Armenia,” Tichá says. The project is part of ICI’s Global Resource Center on Inclusive Education.

MN LEND funding renewed through 2021

Federal funding for the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (MN LEND) at the Institute on Community Integration has been renewed and increased through a new five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that began July 1. “This renewal will allow continued opportunities for collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Human Services, Minnesota Disability Law Center and a number of non-profit agencies in areas that support policy innovation, service delivery, translational research, and other dissemination activities,” says Joe Reichle, MN LEND director.

ICI co-hosts summit in India on inclusion and Response to Intervention

Brian Abery (first on left) and Renata Ticha (second from right) from ICI helped organize the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention, June 8-10, in Coimbatore, India.
Brian Abery (first on left) and Renata Ticha (second from right) from ICI helped organize the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention, June 8-10, in Coimbatore, India.

Over 250 education leaders from seven nations attended the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention on June 8-10, a milestone gathering organized by the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) and Avinashilingam University for Women in Coimbatore, India. Funded by the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative and held at Avinashilingam, the summit brought together international presenters to discuss engaging all children, including those with disabilities, within schools and communities. The organizers (pictured here with key presenters from India) — ICI’s Dr. Brian Abery and Dr. Renata Ticha, and Avinashilingam University’s Dr. Premavathy Vijayan and Dr. G. Victoria Naomi — have collaborated for the past three years on a project  between India and the U.S. fostering use of the Response to Intervention (RtI) education framework. A culmination of that project, the summit presented multiple perspectives on inclusion and RtI. “Participants will take back to their organizations a wealth of information about these approaches to education,” says Abery. “We hope these discussions will stimulate lasting systemic change in how children with disabilities are educated.” Presentations will be available for viewing on the summit Website next week.

Hall-Lande appointed MN Act Early Ambassador

Hall-Lande_JenniferDr. Jennifer Hall-Lande (Institute on Community Integration) has been selected as Minnesota’s 2016-18 Act Early Ambassador by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. This marks the start of her second two-year term as the Minnesota point-of-contact for the CDC’s nationwide “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) program to improve early identification of developmental delays and disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. “Over the past five years, Minnesota’s Act Early team has partnered with state agencies, early childhood and parent organizations, and cultural organizations from diverse communities to share the message of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” with thousands of parents of young children,” says Dr. Hall-Lande. “We greatly appreciate this additional support to further grow our efforts in our communities across the state.” On April 18 she took the message of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” to the “Mom Enough” Podcast, where she was interviewed by mother-daughter co-hosts Marti & Erin Erickson on the topic of “Early Identification and Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Resources That Change a Child’s Life” (listen here).

ICI releases film on Wolf Wolfensberger and normalization

DVD cover of the film "Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization."
DVD cover of the film “Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization.”

“Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization” is a newly released film from the Research and Training Center on Community Living in CEHD’s Institute on Community Integration. The film explores the principle of normalization, an idea that challenged fundamental assumptions about people with intellectual disabilities, and the iconoclastic professor whose intense, multi-day workshops trained thousands of human services professionals in the theory and practice of this idea. His book Normalization, published in 1972, became wildly popular and provided a theoretical blueprint for community inclusion as the deinstitutionalization movement was gaining strength. His formulation of normalization swept through the field of disabilities and had a significant effect on the design of services and supports in North America and internationally, representing a sea change in thinking at a time when it was considered normal to warehouse nearly 200,000 Americans with intellectual disabilities in large institutions. “Today, there are still institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, and it is time for a new generation of leaders to rediscover the principle of normalization,” says the film’s director, Jerry Smith. To learn more, visit the “Valuing Lives” Web site.

2016 MN LEND Forum addresses the neurobiology of poverty

Dr. Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development
Dr. Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development
Researchers increasingly are aware that conditions in the first few years of a child’s life can influence their physical, emotional, and mental health throughout their lifespan. The 2016 MN LEND Forum, “The Neurobiology of Poverty – Children Living in Poverty: Neurodevelopmental and Biological Correlates,” explores what is known about the life-long effects of growing up in poverty via the perspectives of two leading researchers in the field.


Dr. Seth Pollak of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss “Child Poverty and the Income-Achievement Gap: Insights from Cognitive Neuroscience” and Dr. Megan Gunnar from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development will present “Poverty, Allostatic Load and the Stress Neuraxis: A Mechanism or a Bridge Too Far?”

The live Webcast from this sold-out forum at the University of Minnesota will take place on Thursday, April 28, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. Central Time. For more information and to register for the Webcast see http://lend.umn.edu/misc/povertyforum.asp.

The MN LEND Forum is an annual event sponsored by the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (lend.umn.edu) of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota. The interdisciplinary MN LEND training program prepares future leaders who will serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in healthcare, education, human services, and policy settings.

Dr. Seth Pollak, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Seth Pollak, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NCEO: Working nationwide for students with disabilities and educators

Martha Thurlow, Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
Martha Thurlow, Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).

As President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act on December 10, Martha Thurlow was meeting with several states to ensure that students with disabilities who are English learners are appropriately identified and served. It’s this kind of careful, ground-level work that the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has been doing for over 25 years with one goal in mind: improve the nation’s ability to educate students with disabilities and help them succeed.

While national education policy and school-level practice have evolved in recent decades, NCEO partners with states, educational associations, federal government, and others to support educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). As Director Martha Thurlow notes, “NCEO’s work has contributed to dramatic shifts in attention to the educational success of students with disabilities.”

This past year alone, NCEO staff have traveled the country, conducting research, training, consultations, and information-sharing on needs ranging from accommodating test-takers with disabilities to including ELLs with disabilities in assessments. Some of the center’s activities include:

  • Research. NCEO is conducting a half-dozen projects and research studies that collect data on the participation and performance of students with disabilities, ELLs, and ELLs with disabilities in K-12 state and district accountability assessments around the U.S. An example of this is the Alternate English Language Learning Assessment (ALTELLA) project. ALTELLA is a collaboration of five states that will apply lessons learned from the past decade of research on assessing ELLs and students with significant cognitive disabilities to develop an alternate English Language Proficiency assessment for ELLs with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Training and Presentation. NCEO regularly presents its findings — and trains others how to use the results. Last April, for example, Laurene Christensen and Vitaliy Shyyan presented “Choosing Accommodations for Assessments Based on Common Core State Standards” at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in San Diego. This April, Sheryl Lazarus will co-lead a workshop on formative assessment at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in St. Louis.
  • Consultation. NCEO has a national network of people who assist states and other agencies as they consider assessment issues. This is important because federal legislation requires that students with disabilities be included on state assessments, but many states struggle to implement this requirement so they seek NCEO’s expertise. For instance, in partnership with the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) consortium, NCEO is collaborating with 10 states and other organizations to ensure that English language proficiency assessments and instructional supports are accessible for all ELLs, including those with disabilities.
  • Dissemination. Through its newly-redesigned Web site, NCEO offers over 300 reports and briefs on topics ranging from an online accommodations decision-making curriculum to a new interactive report series titled, Data Analytics.

For more information about NCEO, contact Michael Moore.

New national center at ICI examines quality-of-life measurement

Are you living where you want, with whom you want? Are you doing the type of work you want to do? Do the services and supports you receive help you achieve your goals in life? These are some of the questions that, when asked of people with disabilities, provide information about their quality of life as seen from their perspectives. Ensuring that information of this type can be gathered in a reliable and valid manner is a key part of the work of the new Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Home and Community Based Services Outcome Measurement (RRTC/OM) at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI).

Federal and state policymakers increasingly speak of the importance of demonstrating the effectiveness (“outcomes”) of public investments in services for persons with disabilities. No longer satisfied with descriptions of money spent, staffing ratios, and movement of people from institutions to the community, they desire more specific information on the quality of life experienced as a result of receiving services and supports. And they desire outcomes information measured in a consistent and accurate manner nationwide.

In response to these needs, ICI has received a five-year, $4.4 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to launch the RRTC/OM. The new center, directed by ICI’s Brian Abery and Amy Hewitt, is a partnership of five organizations: ICI’s Research and Training Center on Community Living, the Research and Training Center on Community Living for People with Psychiatric Disabilities at Temple University, the Research and Training Center on Community Living Policy at the University of California San Francisco, The National Council on Aging, and the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University.

“The National Quality Forum recently unveiled a draft framework for HCBS outcome measurement for people with disabilities,” says Abery. “We will initially look at that framework to see whether it captures the perspectives of a wide variety of stakeholders, including people with different types of disabilities who are of different ages and from different cultural groups, as well as their family members, service providers, and policymakers. We’ll then recommend modifications to ensure the framework reflects what’s truly important to people with disabilities in terms of service outcomes.”

Five subsequent RRTC/OM studies will identify gaps in measurement areas and best practices in HCBS outcome measurement, refine and develop measures, determine the reliability and validity of measures, and study factors (e.g., age, gender, residential setting) that need to be considered in interpreting results.

Ultimately, the work of the RRTC/OM will result in a set of recommended measures and procedures that can be used for collecting data on whether the HCBS-funded programs do what they’re intended to do in supporting quality-of-life outcomes for individuals with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities; individuals with traumatic brain injury; and adults with age-related disabilities.

“The U.S. spends nearly $40 billion a year on HCBS-funded services that are used by nearly 1.5 million individuals, yet, we have very little information on the outcomes of these services and supports for most HCBS recipients,” says Hewitt. “We hope this new center will lead to improvement in this area.”

For more information about the RRTC/OM, contact Brian Abery at abery001@umn.edu or 612-625-5592.

Institute on Community Integration 30th anniversary celebration November 10 at McNamara Alumni Center

30_anniversary_logo_2-inch-wide“We believed that the world was changing and that it should be our mission to push the boundaries of innovation in advancing the ideal of full inclusion for people with disabilities in all walks of life,” says former University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks, recalling the founding of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in 1985. “That focus put us in the forefront of the whole inclusion and community integration movement that really had its origins in the early Civil Rights movement, and the Rehabilitation Amendments of the 1970s.”

On November 10th, President Emeritus Bruininks, who is the Institute’s founding director, and over 150 other past and present ICI staff, community partners, and friends will gather to reflect on the Institute’s legacy, and look ahead to its future, at the 30th anniversary event: “Celebrating a Community’s Vision: 30 Years of Innovation, Collaboration, and Influence.” It will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. at the McNamara Alumni Center. David R. Johnson, ICI’s current director, will emcee the event.

The Institute is a federally-designated University Center for Excellence in Disabilities, part of a national network of similar programs in major universities and teaching hospitals across the country. In partnership with over 200 community advocacy organizations, state and federal agencies, K-12 schools, disability service providers, and professional associations nationwide, the Institute engages in research and knowledge translation that improves community services, supports, policies, and opportunities for people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities and their families.

“The Institute has had the privilege to influence a wave of social change that has made great strides in supporting equality and inclusion for people with disabilities in the U.S. and around the world,” observes David R. Johnson. “On November 10th, we pause to acknowledge the progress of the past 30 years, and look to the opportunities ahead as we continue to innovate, collaborate, and influence a shared vision of inclusion.”

Speakers at the event include Bob Bruininks; CEHD Dean Jean Quam; Sue Swenson, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education; and David R. Johnson.

For more information about the ICI’s 30th anniversary, contact Tony Baisley, Communications Manager, at baisley@umn.edu or 612-625-4789.

ICI partners with Russian university to improve education of students with disabilities

ICI's Brian Abery (center) and Renáta Tichá (to his right) working with educators in Siberia to improve inclusion of children with cognitive disabilities in schools.
ICI’s Brian Abery (center) and Renáta Tichá (to his right) working with educators in Siberia to improve inclusion of children with cognitive disabilities in schools.

The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is partnering with Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University (KSPU) in Siberia to improve the inclusion of Russian students with significant cognitive disabilities in elementary and secondary schools. Through the Global Signature Grants Program of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), and the Eurasia Foundation’s U.S.–Russia University Partnership Program, the Institute’s Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá have recently received additional funds to help grow an existing collaboration between ICI and KSPU that resulted in establishment of the International Institute on Progress Monitoring (IIPM) in Fall 2014. The new funding will go toward supporting ongoing academic and cultural exchange of ideas, research, priorities, and policies between the two countries, and help sustain IIPM long-term. Read more at http://ici.umn.edu/news/fyi/sep15.html

Institute on Community Integration showcases artist Jimmy Reagan

Viewing Jimmy Reagan's paintings.On April 24th, the College’s Institute on Community Integration hosted Celebrating Artist Jimmy Reagan, an art exhibit and reception in its Changing Landscapes series that showcases the work of artists with disabilities. Jimmy Reagan is a Twin Cities artist with a passion for color, texture, and the simplicity of an image. Diagnosed with complex autism at age 2 1/2, today he is a young adult whose artwork offers him a means to illustrate his perspective of the world. As his mother, Peg Reagan, observed about the exhibit, “Jimmy’s art helps to tell a story. His story impacts people in very different ways, causing us to think about many aspects of life: art, disability, access, communication, different visual perspectives, healthcare… the list goes on.” The event drew nearlPeg Reagan discusses her son Jimmy's artwork.y 150 participants, and in addition to showcasing Jimmy’s artwork, a portion of proceeds from sale of items will go to support the Stephanie Evelo Arts & Disability Memorial Fund at the Institute. The exhibit continues through June 11th in Pattee Hall on the University of Minnesota East Bank campus and is available for viewing Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, and the Institute’s arts initiatives, visit http://ici.umn.edu/art or call 612/626-8649. To learn more about artist Jimmy Reagan visit http://www.throughjimmyseyes.com.

ICI’s Check & Connect marks 25th year improving K-12 student engagement

c&cCheck & Connect, the K-12 student engagement intervention developed at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in CEHD, turns 25 this year, and ICI is marking the occasion by holding the first-ever Check & Connect National Conference on October 7-8 at the University of Minnesota. Check & Connect is a comprehensive intervention designed to enhance student engagement at school and with learning for marginalized, disengaged students in grades K-12. The conference will bring together leading experts and practitioners from around the country to address the topic of student engagement among at-risk youth, share lessons learned, and gain tools for implementing and sustaining Check & Connect to support youth in reaching their goals and graduating from high school.

Check & Connect began in 1990 when the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs awarded a five-year grant to enable a group of ICI researchers to develop a dropout prevention program in collaboration with the Minneapolis Public Schools. The project targeted about 200 middle school students with emotional/behavioral disorders and/or learning disabilities for intervention, with mentors checking their students’ performance of alterable variables weekly (e.g., attendance, behavior, academics) and providing timely intervention focused on problem solving, skill building, and support from school personnel, families, and community service providers to enhance engagement. The program succeeded. Compared to control groups, many more students who received the Check & Connect intervention stayed in school and were, by grade 9, on track to graduate within five years.

Since 1990, Check & Connect has been implemented in K-12 schools in over 27 states, including statewide use in three states, and in other countries. Of the dropout prevention interventions reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse in 2006, Check & Connect was the only program found to have strong evidence of positive effects on staying in school. It has also been adapted for use in other settings, including postsecondary education and the juvenile justice system. One of the model’s developers, Sandy Christenson, Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Educational Psychology, notes the importance of Check & Connect’s approach to the whole student: “Engaging students is more than promoting academic engaged time or attendance. We must pay attention to students’ emotional and intellectual responses to school in order to improve their schooling experiences and school completion. Enhancing students’ sense of belonging and motivation to learn is a core feature of Check & Connect.”

The Check & Connect National Conference will be held at the McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, on October 7-8. It is for professionals interested in learning more about student engagement in general and Check & Connect specifically, as well as current sites implementing Check & Connect’s model. In addition, on October 6, there will be a pre-conference training offering a condensed version of Check & Connect’s typical two-day implementation training for those considering or beginning use of Check & Connect. For information on the implementation manual, training, and consultation services, visit http://checkandconnect.umn.edu.

FFI and registration visit http://checkandconnect.umn.edu/conf/. Or contact checkandconnect@umn.edu or 612/624-2097.

Thurlow receives special education lifetime achievement award

1Martha L Thurlow web quality photoMartha Thurlow, director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) in the college’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI), has been selected to receive the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) J. E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015. The award will be presented to her during an awards ceremony
on April 8 at the CEC 2015 Convention & Expo in San Diego.

“This award recognizes an individual who has made continued and sustained contributions to the education of children and youth with exceptionalities,” according to CEC.

In 1990, Dr. Thurlow was part of the team that founded NCEO, a research center that provides national leadership in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs). From 1990 to 1999, she worked as an assistant and associate director for NCEO and in 1999 became its director, a role she has maintained for the past 15 years.

In a nomination letter for the award, ICI director David R. Johnson observed, “For the past 40-plus years, Dr. Thurlow has established herself as one of the pillars of special education services in the United States. She has amassed a body of research and professional publications that has served to influence and guide public policy and professional practice. Her work has influenced the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, state legislatures, state education agencies, institutions of higher education, and schools throughout the nation. Dr. Thurlow is one of those rare academics who is able to comfortably integrate research, policy, and practice, to achieve broad levels of impact on the life circumstances of children with disabilities and their families.”

Bruininks receives Lifetime Achievement Award for disability work

Bob Bruininks (center) with current ICI director David R. Johnson and AUCD President Leslie Cohen.
Bob Bruininks (center) with current ICI director David R. Johnson and AUCD president Leslie Cohen.

Former University president and CEHD dean emeritus Robert Bruininks received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of University Centers on Developmental Disabilities (AUCD) on November 11 during its annual conference in Washington, D.C. The award is given “… to individuals making a lifetime commitment to serving people with developmental disabilities and their families,” and includes recognition of his work as founding director of the college’s Institute on Community Integration.

The institute, which marks its 30th anniversary next year, is a national leader in improving services, policies, and practices that impact people with disabilities across the lifespan.

In a nomination letter for the award, current ICI director David R. Johnson noted, “Over the past four decades, Dr. Bruininks has established himself as one of the pillars of disability research and policy in the United States. He has amassed a body of research and professional publications that has served to influence and guide professional practice, as well as disability policy, with a specific focus on intellectual and developmental disabilities…. He is one of those rare academics who is able to comfortably integrate research, practice, and policy to achieve broad levels of impact on the life circumstances of individuals with disabilities and their families.”

ICI’s Amy Hewitt part of training team in Malawi

Dr. Amy Hewitt, from the Institute on Community Integration and Minnesota LEND, recently completed a visit to Africa where she participated in a collaborative training project with long-time colleague Mikala Mukongolwa of the Baulini Project and Dr. Jason Paltzer, director of the Kingdom Workers Lutheran Health Alliance. The team made stops in Zambia and Malawi, where they taught volunteers from Kingdom Workers how to assess the needs of, and implement strategies to improve the lives of, children and adults with disabilities in a number of southern villages in Malawi, where the need for education and training is great. For more see the Association of University Centers on Disabilities Member Spotlight.

ICI collaborates with educators in India to improve elementary education

Faculty and students from Avinashilingam University for Women in Coimbatore, India, have arrived at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) to work with ICI staff on strategies for helping students of all abilities and backgrounds in India to reach a level of education that will make them competitive in the job market and in everyday life. Since 2013, ICI’s Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá have been working with Avinashilingam University, the Coimbatore school district in Tamil Nadu, India, and school districts in Minnesota on a project titled, “A Sustainable ‘Response to Intervention’ Model for Successful Inclusion of Students with Disabilities: An India-U.S. Partnership.” It is focusing on adapting the Response to Intervention educational model developed in the U.S. to the needs of elementary students with and without disabilities from underprivileged backgrounds and low-achieving schools in India.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a school-wide process that can help teachers ensure that all their students are making adequate academic progress. This project is focused on identifying and solving the unique challenges of adapting and implementing RTI in another country, culture, and education system. The project recently completed reading and math assessments on 2,500 students in grades 1-4 from nine Indian schools serving children from low socio-economic backgrounds. The purpose of the assessments was to have baseline data available as the project moves forward with assigning students to instructional intervention groups, and for later comparisons of student reading and math performance after the implementation of the RTI framework. Ultimately, the collaborating Coimbatore schools will serve as model demonstration sites for other schools in Tamil Nadu, building local capacity and allowing for potential scale-up in using RTI.

“This project is forging a sustainable partnership between the University of Minnesota and Avinashilingam University that is benefitting the participating schools here in Minnesota as well as in India,” observes Renáta Tichá, project coordinator. “It’s providing faculty, staff, and students with mutual learning, research and training opportunities regarding students at risk for, and with, disabilities, as well as improving the education system in several low-performing elementary schools in Tamil Nadu.”

From October 14 to November 14, two  faculty and two graduate students from Avinashilingam University are visiting Minnesota to learn about RTI. They will spend half their time at ICI learning to use assessment data to assign students to appropriate instructional groups, to monitor their academic progress, and to understand school-wide implementation of RTI. The rest of the time the visitors will be embedded in two Minnesota school districts to observe the different components of RTI (assessment, instruction, and data meetings) in action and to practice some of the procedures and strategies.

This three-year, $250,000 project is funded by the United States-India Foundation through the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. FFI, contact Renáta at tich0018@umn.edu or 612-624-5776, or Brian at abery001@umn.edu or 612-625-5592.

Institute staff work with high schoolers from Minnesota and Costa Rica on climate change

Costa_Rica_student_groupFor the past three weeks staff from the college’s Institute on Community Integration have been in Costa Rica working with high school students from Minnesota and Costa Rica on student-led Inclusive Service Learning projects addressing climate change. The work was part of the institute project, American Youth Leadership Program: Learning to Serve, Serving to Learn, which pairs high school students with and without disabilities from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, with Costa Rican students from Liceo de Poás High School, for a year of inclusive service learning.


The Minnesota students spent the past three weeks in Costa Rica partnering with the Costa Rican students on a number of projects. These included presenting a series of lessons on climate change, the local watershed, and recycling to over 250 elementary school students and 50 members of a community center for senior citizens; working with the city of San Rafael to increase awareness of a new recycling program through community education; and creating community art designed to attract attention to the issues associated with climate change.


The program gives students an opportunity to meet community needs while also developing leadership skills, expanding their cross-cultural knowledge, and overcoming social barriers that often separate students with and without disabilities. To learn more see http://aylp-costarica.org or contact Brian Abery (abery001@umn.edu) or Renata Ticha (tich0018@umn.edu).

Hewitt begins as president of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Hewitt_Amy_print_quality_photoAmy Hewitt, director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living in the college’s Institute on Community Integration, began her term as president of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) on July 1, 2014. With over 5,000 members, AAIDD promotes progressive policies, sound research, effective practices, and universal human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

ICI and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa offer youth entrepreneurship program

American Indians have a long tradition of entrepreneurship, and for the past five years the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has partnered with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) and the Fond du Lac reservation in Cloquet, Minnesota, to build on this tradition with today’s youth. Through a summer program titled The Young American Indian Entrepreneur (YAIE) Academy, American Indian high school students from northeastern Minnesota have had the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial interests, and grow as individuals.

1groupThe YAIE Academy provides an intensive, six-day residential academic- and activity-based program for 15 American Indian students entering grades 11 and 12 to learn the “ins and outs” of becoming an entrepreneur. (See some of this year’s students in the photo.) Students are usually from northeastern Minnesota, and the academy takes place at FDLTCC. Activities are based on the Young American Indian Entrepreneur, a curriculum that ICI co-published with FDLTCC in 2010. Students give presentations as they develop creative ideas for small businesses, work in teams to create potential products, and visit local Native entrepreneurs at their businesses. Business-like behavior is expected from students: timeliness, appropriate dress, preparation before class, asking thought-provoking questions of guest business men and women, attentiveness when auditing college classes, and learning the importance of teamwork and giving encouragement to peers. The week culminates with each student presenting a three-minute “elevator pitch” on his or her small business idea to faculty, parents, staff, and judges. FDLTCC faculty, administrators, and staff are mentors, teachers, and judges, and FDLTCC students, many of whom are business majors, act as dorm monitors and support-staff for the academy participants. Over the years, community members have also become mentors and presenters.

“We have created a strong program,” says the project’s director at ICI, Jean Ness. “The daily schedule runs from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with later evening time for journal writing and class preparation. By the end of the week, students are exhausted, but proud of their accomplishments.” She also adds, “It’s inspiring to watch the students as they begin crafting their ideas of businesses that stem from their passions and interests. But, the Academy is about much more than entrepreneurship. Youth learn self-confidence, cultural awareness, self-advocacy, teamwork, career awareness, and how to use their strengths to support themselves. I often see timid students arrive on Sunday night and by Friday afternoon they are prepared to present their elevator pitch to a crowd of 100 or more. Several students apply to return year after year.”

This summer marks the sixth, and possibly final, summer of the academy. It has been funded as part of a Title III Project from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. “Unfortunately, Title III funding for the Academy is ending, and unless a sponsor comes forward this will be our last summer,” says Ness.

American Indian students currently entering their junior or senior year of high school may still apply for the Summer 2014 Academy by contacting Suzan Desmond at suzan@fdltcc.edu or 218-879-0701 by May 24 and requesting an application packet. FFI on the program, contact Jean Ness at nessx008@umn.edu or 612-625-5322.

ICI staff elected to APSE board

Jeffrey A. Nurick
Jeffrey A. Nurick

Kelly Nye-Lengerman LGSWThe board of Minnesota APSE (Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst) recently elected ICI’s Kelly Nye-Lengerman as Board Co-President and Jeffrey Nurick as Board Secretary. Nye-Lengerman’s term is two years (May 2014-May 2016) and Nurick’s is one year (May 2014-2015). The mission of Minnesota APSE is to improve and expand integrated employment opportunities, services, and outcomes for persons experiencing disabilities.