Think College Initiative

So What Exactly is a “True” Think College Model?

Think College Initiative
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According to Debra Hart (personal communication, January 7, 2016), the Principal Investigator for TC and the NCC, the “True” Think College Model also reflects the DD Act. Further, she noted that the best indicators of this as defined by the TC team at ICI are summarized in a “Checklist for Building Inclusive Higher Education Communities.” This checklist, as noted before, appears in Appendix A. It provides questions for reflection for IHEs, addressing the following:

  • “Inclusion is dependent on individual and communal perspectives, moving beyond benevolence, clinical/medical interests, or indifference to an attitude about and perception of ability that demonstrates a value placed upon difference throughout the higher education community…
  • “Institutions of higher education celebrate intellectual diversity in the same way that racial, gender, cultural, religious, and other forms of diversity are celebrated. They recognize that diverse learners require and inspire pedagogical innovation, and that innovation benefits all students. They place genuine value on experiences and perspectives of others, respect all forms of learning, and provide opportunities for all students to develop to their fullest potential…
  • “Inclusion is a human right. It involves belonging to a community, having access to equal opportunities, being free to choose one’s own life path, being actively engaged with and alongside others, and being valued for what one brings to the interaction…(and)
  • “Inclusion is realized when there is mutual and ongoing benefit among people of varying abilities, gender identity, culture, socio-economic status, race, and other forms of diversity with shared eagerness to create and sustain those relationships across all aspects of higher education.” Jones, Boyle, May, Prohn, Updike, & Wheeler, 2015)

These principles and the accompanying questions supporting each on also underlie the analysis and recommendations in this document.

Why is Think College Worth Pursuing in Connecticut?

Aside from the values and visions and what may seem like “a good idea,” there is research supporting TC as an evidence-based practice (EBP). Both the UConn UCEDD and CT DOE have been committed to implementation of EBP through schools in CT for many years. Therefore, a TC initiative is worth pursuing in CT making it an evidence-based practice. Here are some examples of the evidence base:

  • We have known for over two decades that one of the factors associated with employment of young adults with disabilities is through the “self-family-friend network” (Hasazi, Gordon, & Roe, 1985). A broad base of literature from human services to business administration points to the value of networks formed in college to future adult success. TC provides that networking opportunity for students with ID with presumably the same advantages – not just for employment but with tomorrow’s real estate agents, landlords, and community leaders.
  • TC specifically results in enhanced competitive employment opportunities at or above minimum wage for participants upon exiting their programs (Grigal & Dwyre, 2010; Grigal, Hart, Smith, Domin, Sulewski, & Weir [2015; in press]; Migliore, Butterworth, & Hart, 2009; Moore & Schelling, 2015; Yaminoto, Stodden, & Folk, 2014).
  • TC has had a positive impact on self-determination by enhancing the skills of college student with ID to make informed personal decisions about their lives (Getzel, 2014). The entire June 2013 issue of the National Gateway to Self-Determination (a consortium of five primary UCEDDs and the AUCD) newsletter, The Impact of College on Self-Determination is devoted to this ( ).
  • TC results in academic improvement for students with ID (Voelker, 2013).
  • Numerous first person accounts by college students with ID and their parents throughout the TC website speak of their improved self-confidence, social lives, improved academics, problem-solving, skills related to individual’s personal strengths and interests, a sense of belonging, maturity, friendships, and independence.
  • Other research supports these varied benefits reported in those case studies (Grigal, Hart, Smith, Domin, Sulewski, & Weir [2015; in press]; Hendrickson, Therrien, Weeden, Pascarella, & Hosp, 2015; Izzo & Shuman, 2013; Jones & Gobel, 2012; Kleinhert, Jones, Sheppard-Jones, Harp, & Harrison, 2012; Ryan, 2014a; Zaft, Hart, & Zimbrich, 2004).

Clearly, TC has numerous positive impacts on the lives of college students with ID. Further, in line with the documented benefits of inclusive education on younger students without disabilities (c.f., Staub & Peck, 1994-95) , research is strongly suggesting that TC benefits non-disabled college students as well (Farley, Gibbons, & Cihak, 2014). Parents, too, report significant satisfaction with their sons and daughters having TC opportunities (Martinez, Conroy, & Cerreto, 2012; ). Furthermore, satisfaction is also reported by IHE faculty who have had the experience of teaching students with ID in their inclusive college courses (O’Connor, Kubiak, Espiuner, & O’Brien, 2012; Wintle, 2012) and adult service providers (Sheppard-Jones, Kleinert, Druckemiller, & Ray, 2015).
As Uditsky & Hughson (2012) put it, “Inclusive Postsecondary Education (is) an evidence‐based moral imperative.”

Next Steps:

Connecticut applied for but did not receive an award in that first round of TPSID funding. In the interim, several parent groups and other entities expressed an interest in applying for the second round but were unable to pull together the partnerships necessary to apply in time. Of the many applicants for the 2015 round of TPSID funding, one that did not receive funding was the UCEDD at the University of Vermont (UVM). The University of Connecticut (UConn) UCEDD, however, had written a letter of support for UVM’s application which included a plan to provide technical assistance in both Connecticut and Rhode Island for future Think College initiatives.

During the Summer of 2015, The UConn UCEDD committed resources to conduct this analysis to better position Connecticut for receipt of UVM technical assistance. When UVM did not become a member of Cohort 2, plans were made nonetheless for the UCEDD this project as the foundation for an eventual Think College initiative in this state. This document is a result of that commitment and initial discussions with the Bureau of Special Education of the CT Department of Education.

Any questions regarding this project, please contact: