Breaking Ground 106 - Tennessee’s Inclusive Higher Education Alliance Leads the ChargeBy Elise McMillan, Co-Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
The Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance has worked since 2007 to develop inclusive education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) at Tennessee’s two- and four-year colleges and universities.
The Alliance began its work before any inclusive higher education programs existed in Tennessee. Now, our state has six inclusive programs on college campuses!
- Next Steps at Vanderbilt University
- TigerLIFE at the University of Memphis
- University of Tennessee FUTURE
- IDEAL at Lipscomb University
- EDGE at Union University
- Access ETSU at East Tennessee State University
The mission of the Alliance is to keep growing inclusive higher education options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state. Our meetings, website, and other activities are led by the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).
Tammy Day is the Next Steps Program Director and Chair of the Alliance. “In the early days of the Alliance, we would share information about programs in other parts of the country,” she says. “Today, it is so wonderful to be able to share about the six programs in Tennessee. Of course, that’s not nearly enough! So, one of our main goals is to continue to grow this movement in Tennessee.”
Alliance meetings are all open to the public. The group is made up of:
- Representatives from each of Tennessee’s inclusive higher education programs.
- More than 20 state and local agencies.
- Self-advocates and family members.
- Representatives from colleges and universities in Tennessee.
- Members of Tennessee’s Developmental Disabilities Network (the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, the VKC UCEDD, the University of Tennessee UCEDD, and Disability Rights Tennessee).
The Alliance offers technical assistance to help inclusive higher ed programs get started or grow. I am a founding member of the Alliance, and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. I have seen that the Alliance is a very giving network. Chances are, through our experiences over the past 14 years, there’s someone who has faced the same issues another program is facing. We also work closely with national groups who are great sources of expertise. (Tennessee has leadership positions with the Southeastern Postsecondary Education Alliance – SEPSEA – and Think College, the national Coordinating Center for inclusive higher education programs.)
In addition to our focus on growth, the Alliance also offers a place to share in several areas, including:
- Spreading awareness of college opportunities, especially to students with disabilities and their families.
- Educating legislators and policymakers about the benefits of inclusive higher education.
- Helping develop funding and scholarships for students and for programs.
- Promoting research across the state to help develop evidence-based best practices.
For more information about the Inclusive Higher Education Alliance:
Visit www.tnihealliance.org The website includes:
- Information and links for each of Tennessee’s six inclusive higher ed programs.
- Information on Alliance meetings, which are open to the public. The next meeting will be July 16. It will be hosted by our newest program, Access ETSU at East Tennessee State University. Every Alliance meeting offers a choice of attending in person or virtually.
To be added to the Alliance listserve, contact Laurie Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org