New Credential Program Will Serve Persons with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities

Students in Propel program will attend full time, take classes alongside non-disabled students

Individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) will be able to earn a higher-education credential from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, under a new program funded by a $1.8 million five-year federal grant.

The new program, called Propel, is designed to improve employment and independent living prospects for individuals with IDD. The program will be open to people up to age 25. Propel is administered by the UMKC Institute for Human Development, with academic leadership from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, and the Department of Psychology.

Students in the program will pursue a transcripted program certificate that is endorsed by UMKC and the Missouri Department of Higher Education. They will attend UMKC full time for two years (12 credit hours/semester) and will participate in college courses with students without intellectual disabilities 60 to 70 percent of the time.

The program will also offer academic and social mentoring that supports the inclusion of students with IDD within academic courses and extracurricular activities. Students will be able to participate in activities such as student organizations and service-learning/community engagement. Students will be able to commute, or live in on-campus student housing.

Each Propel student will have individual goals to pursue, incorporating academics, employment, independent living and socialization, developed in cooperation with their families and personal support networks.

“One of the strengths of Propel is its balance of support and autonomy as we work with students to help them to grow personally and professionally.  This is invaluable to students and their families, particularly those who might not have envisioned college as an option” noted Dr. Jennifer Lundgren, Chair of the UMKC Psychology Department.

Propel is a natural extension of higher education’s traditional mission, said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor.

“At UMKC, we see our role as tearing down barriers and replacing them with bridges, and Propel is a superb example of that commitment,” Bichelmeyer said. “Here, all students, including Propel students, will be exposed to the breadth and depth of human knowledge while engaging in a diverse and vibrant community, on a path to becoming life-long learners.”

Mel Tyler, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, said both Propel students and the non-disabled students with whom they will interact will learn and grow from the experience.

“Diversity is both a strategic imperative for UMKC, and an essential element of every student’s education,” Tyler said. “Propel is specifically designed to create opportunities for degree-seeking students and Propel program students to interact, in and out of the classroom.”

Carl Calkins, professor of psychology and director of the UMKC Institute for Human Development, said Propel is another example of the Institute’s commitment to serve the developmental disabilities community, and the greater Kansas City community.

“At the Institute for Human Development, we develop, implement, and evaluate new ideas and promising practices that support healthy, inclusive communities. Propel will have benefits for the people who enroll, and for the community as a whole,” Calkins said.

The program will have two components – the college certificate program, and a high-school-to-college “bridge” program designed to prepare high school students with IDD for successful transition to post-secondary education. The high school bridge program launched in January, with 22 participants. The college program will launch in August for the fall semester of 2016.

“Propel aims to provide a strong foundation for students to build satisfying adult lives in inclusive communities with employment in a competitive work environment, residential living of their choice, and friends with and without disabilities,” said Alexis N. Petri, Ed.D., of UMKC’s Institute for Human Development. “This strong foundation will be built through attending college, developing career interests, gaining experience from work-based learning, taking classes with other UMKC students, residential living, and social-recreational opportunities.”

The program will serve 20 high school students and 15 college students per year. The target population is individuals with IDD, especially under-represented minorities and students from an economically disadvantaged background in the Kansas City urban core.

UMKC’s Propel is one of 25 such programs funded by the federal government in this latest round of grants. It will be the third such program in Missouri, joining programs at the University of Central Missouri and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“The employment rate of young adults with IDD is outrageously low. The Department of Labor says that working-age people with disabilities are employed at a rate that is one-third of that of people without disabilities,” Petri said.  “We will be using high impact learning strategies such as internships and service-learning, combined with promising practices in the IDD fields. Students will leave Propel with early work experience and a resume, as well as their certificate. The success of our program will ultimately be measured by whether students are employed.”

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