CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 4th Annual SEPSEA Conference

The CALL FOR PROPOSALS is now open for the 4th Annual SEPSEA Conference to be held April 19 & 20, 2018 in Memphis, TN. The theme this year is Students with IDD Have a Dream: Success in College and Beyond. The deadline for proposals is January 30, 2018.

The Southeastern Postsecondary Education Alliance (SEPSEA) seeks compelling presentations that inform inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) professionals and students about best practices, research, and other activities of interest to the IPSE programs in the Southeast.

There will be 4 strands for presentations: Innovative Ideas, Program Development, Administration, and Transition to College.

Proposals may be submitted: HERE

New webinar provides strategies for educating policymakers about IHE and employment

Lobbying, Educating, Advocating: What to Do, Where you Are, To Educate People Around You

Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2-3 pm CST

State and local policymakers are looking for partners, solutions, and ways to stretch their dollars. Perhaps most importantly, they are looking for ways simply to make life better for their citizens. You have some of that information! It’s important to share the benefits of inclusive higher education, including employment, with state policymakers. This Webinar will look at what you can and cannot do, how to do it, who to approach and how to say it. Templates and tools will be shared. Whether you are an experienced advocate or a beginner, there is something here for you. Join AUCD’s Denise Rozell, J.D.

To register, click here.

Think College ( provides training that disseminates research and promising practices related to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disability, including webinars, conference presentations, capacity-building institutes and research summits.

New Think College webinar features a Tennessee mom!

#includemeincollege: How One Girl’s Dream of College Changed Others’ Ways of Thinking is a new webinar offered December 12 by the Think College National Coordinating Center. Pull out your Tennessee pride when you learn that the presenter is a mom of a new Next Steps at Vanderbilt student!

Blogger, advocate, and self-designated supermom, Jennifer Farmer, will tell the story of how her daughter Chloe decided she wanted to go college and all the things that happened to help Chloe achieve that goal. Jennifer will share tips and strategies to communicate effectively with high school staff, set measurable goals for your student or child, and how to start the college search itself. Participants will learn how to work with high school educators and staff to do self-determined, self-directed post-secondary planning; set specific goals related to college and work towards achieving them; and conduct a personalized college search.

Join the conversation on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 4-5 pm ET.

Registration is required. CLICK HERE to register.

Union Edge students welcomed by Panhellenic groups on campus

Four women who are students in the Union EDGE Program chose to go through the recruitment process of the Panhellenic groups on campus. All four women have received bids to join. EDGE Program staff and faculty thank the women of Chi Omega, Kappa Delta, and Zeta Tau Alpha for their desire to be progressive in thinking about people with disabilities. Here’s to more friends!

You can read more about this in the Union EDGE September newsletter.

Summer internships at the TN Department of Economic and Community Development

35430440436_795080f2ea_z (2)

Next Steps at Vanderbilt student Peach Chinratanalab (pictured: 1st row) and IDEAL at Lipscomb University student Brittenee Whitelow (pictured: 2nd row, right) are interning this summer in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Both students were present when Governor Haslam signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey and Rep. Martin Daniel that adds “businesses owned by persons with disabilities” to the Tennessee Minority-Owned, Woman-Owned and Small Business Procurement and Contracting Act; requires that the annual report made by the chief procurement officer concerning the awarding of purchases to minority-owned business, woman-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned business, or small business and the total value of awards made also include the total dollar amount of purchases awarded to all businesses in this state.

Start-Up Grant to Spur New IHE Programs in TN for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Next Steps at Vanderbilt University recently received a Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education to grow the program and to support other campuses in Tennessee to launch their own programs. Next Steps is offering a start-up grant to increase the number of inclusive higher education programs serving students with intellectual disability in Tennessee. THey are awarding two grants (up to $20,000 each) to two- or four-year colleges or universities in the state that are committed to launching new programs on their campuses. These grants are intended to support the strategic planning and partnerships that will lead to the inclusion of students with intellectual disability in classrooms and campus life.

The grant submission deadline is July 15, 2017. The full grant application may be found HERE.

Jamal Underwood, Student, Trainee and Gifted Individual


The original story appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.

NASHVILLE, TN — Sporting a soft grey shirt and plaid bow tie, Jamal Underwood proudly, yet shyly, introduced himself to Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.  He’s a second year student in the Next Steps Program at Vanderbilt, and is completing his fourth week on the job as an intern in the Davidson County Clerk’s Office.  “When contacted by Katrina Nunn of Next Steps and learning about this very significant program, I knew it would be a ‘win-win’ opportunity for us,” said Brenda Wynn, Davidson County Clerk.

Jamal is totally focused on his work. The 20-year old Next Steps at Vanderbilt participant received his well-earned Certificate of Completion on April 26, and served as the graduation speaker.  He will begin working as a permanent employee with the Davidson County Clerk’s Office in early May.

The Next Steps Program at Vanderbilt is an inclusive higher education program committed to providing students with intellectual disabilities, transformational postsecondary education in academics, social and career development, and independent living, while honoring equality, compassion, and excellence in all endeavors.

Tammy Day, director of the program explains, “Life is so sweet when the outcomes match the dreams. This is what has occurred with Jamal attending college and growing in every possible way, completing internships that informed and built upon his career interests, and consummated with a final community internship that is now becoming a true job after college.”

This program reveals that everybody benefits.  “We are proud of Jamal and so thankful for our community partners at the Davidson County Clerk’s Office for recognizing what Jamal can bring to the workplace,” she added.

“I am excited about the opportunity to partner with Next Steps at Vanderbilt and even more excited that Jamal will be joining our staff,” said Wynn.

On any given day, Jamal’s assignments include processing an average of 140 pieces of mail, which is exceptional, given that most folks typically don’t process that much work.  He catalogues the mail and inputs the data into the system, ensuring proper identification and specification to each item.  He then prepares the mail for distribution and generates a computer-based report.  “He is conscious and extremely tedious with his work,” said Rachel Austin, Jamal’s DCCO supervisor.

“It is important to me to do good work,” said Jamal.  One of his goals is to be more proficient in computer trouble shooting skills.

Jamal’s supervisor at Vanderbilt, Katrina Nunn, proudly speaks of Jamal’s success.  “His experience at the Davidson County Clerk’s Office, gives him a special opportunity to show he has sound, demonstrated experience.”  Colleagues at the Clerk’s office describe Jamal as a great employee, as well as an advocate for his peers.  Nunn further explained,   “This wonderful opportunity Jamal has at the County Clerk’s office not only benefits Jamal by giving him a chance to tap into all his vocational strengths (including being a support to others and having incredible typing skills), but also has an impact on the community as a whole.  By supporting an inclusive work environment, the County Clerk’s office creates an atmosphere that reflects acceptance and opportunity.”

It is clear that The Next Steps Program at Vanderbilt opens doors and minds.  “One of my goals since becoming Davidson County Clerk has been to embrace diversity within the office.  Having the opportunity to hire a data entry clerk of Jamal’s caliber (90 words per minute with no errors) benefits him, the County Clerk’s office and the city as a whole,” said Wynn.  “It’s a win-win-win.”