UI REACH 10 year anniversary poster
Poster Content Winners

To celebrate the UI REACH 10th anniversary, we launched a poster contest and received three amazing entries. Creative entries were submitted by alumni Brittany Reimer, class of 2012, and current students Katie Dwyer and Zack Konrad, both class of 2019. They were all so good that we could not decide on a winner so we pulled the three together into one poster as seen above! The winners received gift baskets, and their work may be featured during the continuation of the 10th anniversary celebration. Click on image for larger version.

Bill Loyd
Moving Forward

In the last edition of our newsletter, our Director, Bill Loyd, announced several program initiatives. An update on these initiatives follows. We have interviewed a consultant to facilitate the strategic plan update/revision. Once the consultant agreement is secured, you will receive surveys seeking your thoughts on what UI REACH should look like moving forward.

Integration/Self Determination

A new UI REACH Student Council has been formed! Congratulations to Jennifer Jex, Christian Hooper , Katie Dwyer, Danny Huyer, Robbie Axline, Michael Vratsinas, Sam Rame, Tanna Quisley, and McKenzie Anthony for their appointment to the council. This group will meet twice each month to assist in giving feedback on quality issues, serving as student ambassadors for the program to other student organizations, and further develop their own leadership and self-advocacy skills.


Amanda Stout
We proudly welcome Ms. Amanda Stout, who has joined us as a Program Specialist with the careers and employment staff in helping our students to define and pursue their career choices. Amanda is a southeast Iowa native coming back to her roots. She holds three degrees from the University of Iowa and is currently working on her Master of Arts in Teaching. Amanda is happy to be back at the university in Hawkeye territory!

In the past quarter, the following staff were also recognized for outstanding service to the UI REACH Program:

  • Kevin MacBride and Jenny McGinn were honored with SPOT awards
  • James Verry has been hired as the new Administrative Services Coordinator after supporting UI REACH in a temporary capacity since September.
  • Morgan Gabridge was recognized for excellent service among our mentors and student staff.
  • Amanda Kunkel will serve as a lead support to our instructors in development of lesson plans and integration of technology in instruction.


See admissions update.

Our next newsletter will provide updates on the two remaining areas of focus: Automation and Best Practices.


UI REACH student council 2019

The first UI REACH Staff Council met for the first time on Thursday, January 25, 2019.
Front row(l-r): Katie Dwyer, Kenzie Anthony, Jenny Jex, Michael Vratsinas, Tanna Quisley.
Back row (l-r): Sam Rame, Robbie Axline, Christian Hooper, Danny Huyer

Kate and Morgan outside the UI REACH program office
Current Student Spotlight

We are anxiously awaiting the response of an application to ThinkCollege that would afford our Rays of Reach presidents, Kate Wood (UI REACH student) and Morgan Gabridge (traditional student) the opportunity to attend the Disabilities Summit this spring in our nation’s capital! If chosen, Kate and Morgan will get the chance to join hundreds of other self-advocates to learn more about laws that affect persons with disabilities and actually participate in Hill visits to talk with legislators about those laws. They will also develop a grassroots plan to educate others about self-advocacy.

Alumni Spotlight

Mercedes Ball at her wedding.
“ “I’m excited to tell you that I got my own desk at work, and I hung up pictures of me and my advisor at UI REACH to remind me of all I learned and how UI REACH got me started,” shares Mercedes (Sawyer) Ball, Class of 2014. Mercedes loves telling her coworkers and students all about how UI REACH helped her achieve her goal of working in education. Since graduating in 2014, Mercedes has married (pictured with her husband), bought a house, taken up marathon running and power lifting, and worked at various jobs in education and hospitality. She currently works as a paraeducator in an elementary school. UI REACH is so happy that Mercedes keeps in touch and passes on the word about our program.

UI REACH Advisory Board

Sally Pederson
Our annual UI REACH Advisory Board meeting was held October 31st and November 1st, 2018. The meeting began with a reception where we honored three board members for 10+ years of service, including Sally Pederson (founder and former board chair – pictured right), Prisca Chen Marvin, and Jim Hayes) as they ended their terms on the board.

Tom Schnack
Tom Schnack, parent of an alumni and longtime supporter of UI REACH, began as board chair. This year’s meeting featured presentations from UI REACH staff, lunch with students, and afternoon breakout sessions on marketing, future directions, and board and family engagement. As a follow up to the meeting, Tom is already making a significant impact through individual meetings with board members to enlist their support beyond the board meetings, and board members are rising to the occasion with a variety of supports.

Other returning board members include John Alexander, Michael Cilek, Joshua Mandelbaum, Susan Salter, Barbara Stennes, Charles Sukup, Andrew Turner and Monica Vernon. The board welcomed new members Roy Buol (mayor of Dubuque, IA), Chris Costa, and our beloved Deb Carr (former interim director). The board currently meets only once per year but will now add a mid-year meeting in May and will work year round in supporting UI REACH in areas of financial stability, advocacy, connections to vital community members and business, and serving as UI REACH ambassadors.

Other UI REACH News

UI REACH received a grant from the College of Education Technology Advisory Committee to fund student licenses for Lexia PowerUp, an individualized online reading intervention program that offers targeted instruction to students in need of supplemental reading education.

Lexia PowerUp, provides targeted, grade-level appropriate, reading instruction through an individualized online module. Students will spend between 50-100 minutes per week using their Chromebook in the online program, with a goal of increasing their independent reading level. UI REACH staff will use data from PowerUp to implement reading interventions and to inform curriculum. UI REACH began the Lexia PowerUp initiative for all students during the 2018-2019 school year, and this grant will provide new annually renewable licenses. Funding such as this assists the program to further the use of both technology and best practices in the curriculum.

Class of 2021 Admissions Update

We are making great progress on admissions for the next UI REACH cohort. As of the date of this publication:

  • We have received a total of 34 completed applications with several more in various stages of completion.
  • The completed applications are still in various stages of the admissions process. (file review, interview, admissions committee review or decision).
  • We anticipate that up to 28 of our current students will return next fall.
  • Our goal is 50+ students for fall 2019 including the class of 2021.

Although our preference is to receive applications prior to December 31st each year, we operate on a rolling admissions calendar so applications can be submitted through March 31, 2019 in consideration for fall 2019 admission.

What can you do to assist? Let the students, families, and counselors at schools from which your students graduated know about UI REACH and encourage them to visit our website for more information. If current or former UI REACH students and families can visit a junior or senior class at their former high schools and do a talk about their experience at UI REACH, please take pictures and tell us how it went.

Katie working at Express
UI REACH Community Partners

Internship Spotlight: Express

UI REACH has partnered with Express stores to offer internships for students since 2009. Katie Dwyer is our shining star at Express this year. Katie takes her career development and internships very seriously, and she is doing a great job learning about working in a retail store. Her responsibilities involve: processing new inventory such as shoes, belts, ties, and other accessories; putting items away on the sales floor; greeting customers; and assisting customers with dressing rooms. UI REACH staff are so proud of the work Katie has done at Express. Coral Ridge Mall Store Manager Cheryl says, “We’ve done the internships for several years now, and it has been a great experience for everyone on our team at both the manager and associates’ level. The UI REACH student becomes like one of the family. We are always excited to get a new UI REACH intern.”

Share a Little, Learn a Lot

Help us expand the supports offered to our students and families through a series of parent education sessions designed to provide helpful information and resources. We hope to offer these sessions in multiple formats including in-person presentations at events like Family Weekend or Convocation. What topics are of most interest to you: Financial planning for your student’s future? Resources and options available to students post-graduation? Strategies for supporting student success? Self-care for parents and students? We’re sure that you have many other great ideas. Please share them with us via email at UIREACH@uiowa.edu.

Student Column

We are thrilled to introduce the Student Column, which will feature an article by a UI REACH student in each edition of our newsletter. This quarter’s column comes from Jack Emptage who graduated with the class of 2018 and is now in his third year at UI REACH. Jack is contemplating a fourth year with the program to pursue his dream of becoming a part of the UI marching band!

Jack working at the Marriott
Student Column by Jack Emptage

My name is Jack Emptage, and I am a 3rd year student in the UI REACH program. Being a part of UI REACH has given me some new experiences in a variety of ways. I am exploring different career opportunities, learning how to live independently and take care of my own living space, take part in fun activities within UI REACH, and even be involved in many clubs and organizations within the university.

For my internship, I work at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville. I started working there last spring and have enjoyed it ever since. Some of the tasks I perform there are setting up for events and, on Fridays, I work in the front desk area by stocking up the marketplace, greeting hotel guests, and occasionally showing them up to their rooms. Being an intern at the Marriott has inspired me to go for a career path in hospitality, and I really hope to work at a Marriott in Minneapolis, my hometown, after I leave UI REACH.

As a 3rd year [student] I’m learning how to manage my own living space and live independently. Some of my room tasks include straightening my desk, cleaning the bathroom, doing my own laundry, and cooking my own meals. I even have to plan my own grocery list and make sure that everything I buy is part of what I plan to cook and is on budget. Living in an apartment has also helped me learn to manage my own schedule and make good use of my time, but most of all it helped me learn to be more responsible for myself and not rely on others.

Jack in the pep band
One thing I really enjoy about being a part of UI REACH is the evening/weekend activities. Some of the activities I really enjoy the most are dodgeball night at the Fieldhouse, shopping trips to the Coral Ridge Mall, movie nights at the IMU, and eating out downtown for dinner on Sunday nights. I also like to attend CAB and OSCAR events in the dorm and the IMU, which are open to all university students. While I do enjoy being a part of the UI REACH family, I’m also involved in many other campus clubs and organizations within the university. I’m very involved in music, so I’m a member of the university band and pep band in which I play the baritone [tuba]. As a member of the pep band we get to perform at basketball games (mainly) and hopefully get to perform at an NCAA Basketball Tournament depending on how well the teams play this season. I’m also a member of the Guitar Club where we get to jam out and perform gigs on certain nights. I also took a traditional university class on Great Musicians this past semester which I really enjoyed because it was about something I found interesting. At the end of the semester I delivered a presentation and wrote a paper on Scott Joplin and why he should be included in the curriculum. This semester I’m taking a traditional class on Art and Visual Culture which I think is going to be really interesting, and also I’m participating in the university steel drum ensemble which I’m really excited about.

During my time in UI REACH I have learned to be more independent, determine what career path I want, take part in many activities both REACH and campus-wide, and be involved in an organization that meets my interests. I’m really glad to be a part of the UI REACH family, and go Hawks!

Spring Semester Reminders

Spring Break begins Friday, March 15

  • Year 1 students may leave beginning at noon.
  • Year 2 and 3 students may leave after their internship shift, unless they notify Career staff in advance.
  • All students must leave the hall by 7 p.m. on Friday, March 15.
  • Students may return to the hall on Sunday, March 24 after 1 p.m.

Housing for 2019-2020

  • Housing information for returning UI REACH students will be available during the spring semester.

UI REACH Final Weekend is Friday, May 3rd – Saturday, May 4

  • UI REACH Convocation and Convocation dinner for UI REACH families and alumni will be Friday, May 3. Details about these events will be available in early spring.
  • UI REACH students must check out of the residence halls by Saturday, May 4, by noon.