URI awarded $349,000 federal grant to bolster training
of faculty, staff on disability issues
KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 13, 1999 -- A new federal grant awarded
to the University of Rhode Island will help eliminate a negative factor
for students with disabilities-the attitudes of individuals who hold fast
The U.S. Department of Education granted URI $349,000 over the next three
years to enhance and expand its innovative process to foster an accepting
environment at URI.
The initial goal of the project is curriculum development for week-long
seminars to train 10 faculty members as resource mentors who will support
other faculty members in disability issues. The next step will be to evaluate
the training and offer the program to other higher education institutions
throughout the state and the northeast.
One of the central tenets of the project is to make the URI community
a campus culture that treasures and nurtures contributions of all its members,
including members with disabilities. Furthermore, the community is enhanced
by those contributions.
According to Pamela A. Rohland, URI assistant director of student life
for disability services, the project grew out of her work begun several
years ago to help faculty members better understand issues relating to students
with disabilities. In 1996, she conducted a survey of faculty that resulted
in a brochure published in 1997--Changing Perceptions, An Information
Guide for Faculty and Staff About Students With Disabilities.
In 1998, Rohland organized her first three-hour volunteer seminar for
faculty called "Changing Perceptions; A Community Dialogue on Disability
and Diversity." Last spring, the seminar was offered again. "The
seminars were designed to convey information on disability issues and help
people look beyond the disability to the entire person. Disability is no
different than any other issue of cultural diversity."
In March, the state Department of Education, aware of the strong work
URI was doing in the area, notified Rohland of the federal grant opportunity.
Rohland said the grant will pay student panelists who are involved in
the training, and to find equipment that will help faculty and staff experience
what it is like to have a disability.
Rohland stated emphatically, however, that this grant is not about treating
students with disabilities differently. "We track grades for students
with disabilities and they very much mirror the entire student population,
which includes Centennial Scholars and Dean's List students. All of the
students with disabilities who are admitted to the University meet the same
standards as the rest of the community," Rohland said.
There are 400 students at the University who have identified themselves
as having disabilities, 75 percent of whom have a learning or attention
disability, said Rohland. She believes there are probably two to three times
that number on campus.
"Pamela Rohland brought together a remarkable team of individuals
to work on this grant, including Karen Markin of the Research Office, Bette
Erickson of the Instructional Development Program and Gail Lepkowski and
Fran Cohen of the Office of Student Life," said Susan E. Roush, associate
professor of physical therapy and the co-principal investigator on the grant.
"I was privileged to be part of that team. We are thrilled that the
U.S. Department of Education shares our vision of higher education for students
with disabilities. As co-PI, I will be working closely with Pamela in delivering
the training seminars and providing ongoing support for the disability resource
Rohland said the project is off to a good start because there are 20
faculty who have expressed interest in the project. "We are going to
set up a web site to facilitate information exchange," she said.
A broad range of students with disabilities will be asked to serve on
the seminar panels.
For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116