Opening Month

On August 19, 2021, UI REACH students began returning to the University of Iowa campus for the Fall 2021 semester. For several of these students, it was their first time on campus as a Hawkeye, for others, it was a return after taking a year off from their studies, and for a final group, it was a return to what they had been experiencing in the previous semester. For all, it was both exciting and a bit uncertain as to what the semester would bring. Our students have done a masterful job of adjusting to college life with all of the challenges, changes, and new expectations that it brings.

Our staff have gone above and beyond to ensure that each student’s transition back to campus has been supported at every turn. UI REACH has achieved record enrollment of 63 students this semester: proof that the pandemic did not dampen the Hawkeye spirit. In many ways, our program has been strengthened over the past 18 months, and the lessons learned have been innumerable. 

UI REACH students at the president's block party.

Holiday Greetings!

This year has been especially rewarding to us as we have grown in so many ways. It is with your help that we are able to continue that growth. Please consider a gift to one of our scholarship funds or general fund in your year-end giving. Your financial support helps us to achieve our vision, and makes the dream of college a reality for students with disabilities. The UI REACH Family wishes a safe and happy holiday season to each of our readers and supporters.

Consider a gift.

Your Future is Within REACH

Our Vision:
Empowered and self-directed individuals who are included in communities that embrace people of all abilities.

Our Mission:
Cultivating individualized supports and opportunities that promote advocacy and success in everyday life

REACH mission and vision graphic

Enrollment Statistics

Our students have come from 14 different states and one Canadian province. 
We are so excited about what this year is bringing. The future is surely within REACH!


applications received for the 2021-2022 academic year

• 19 students were accepted for fall 2021
• 7 students chose to defer until fall 2022
• 5 applicants chose other programs to attend


student currently enrolled for fall 2021

• 19 students in the year 1 cohort
• 25 students in the year 2 cohort
• 14 students in the year 3 cohort
• 5 students in the year 4 cohort

Our Amazing Staff and New Hires

As our program grew, so did our staff. With the enrollment growth, we added several new positions to our team. We are happy to welcome these highly skilled persons to our team.

Mary Patton

Mary Patton

Program Specialist
Careers & Transition Team

Kendal Best

Kendal Best

Program Specialist
Student Life Team

Anne Crooks

Anne Crooks

Program Associate
Student Life Team

Kate Fox

Kate Fox

Student Support Specialist
Student Support Team

Anne Crooks and Kate Fox will provide student supports in the residence halls and on campus in the evening and weekend hours. Their goals are to assist with teaching independent living and social skills along with getting students connected to campus organizations and resources.  These supports are supplemented with supports traditionally provided by our awesome peer mentors. We have 13 mentors this year, and they are vital to our program. 

Also new this year, we hired 13 classroom associates whose primary role is to assist instructors in UI REACH classes, and eventually they will support UI REACH students who are taking traditional classes. 

We’re also thrilled to announce that Brett Koenig has been promoted to Job Developer, and Gianna Marshall joined us full time in August as a program specialist on our academics team.  

And we’re not done growing yet. An offer has been extended for a new program specialist in our career & transitions team with a start date of Jan. 3rd

Summer Interns – Meet two amazing interns that helped with marketing efforts over the summer.

“Working for UI Reach as Marketing/Communications Intern has been such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Doing research on the best ways to marketing this program to students across the country and communicating with faculty at different high schools has given me knowledge that I can take into my career post-grad!” 

Gracie Makris 
Communication Studies | University of Iowa ‘23
Vice President Standards | Kappa Kappa Gamma

Marketing/Communications Intern | UI Reach

Gracie Makris

“Interning with UI REACH has given me an opportunity to further my education while also being surrounded by an amazing group of people. I look forward to see the amazing things UI REACH and their students do in the future!”

William R. Lytem
Marketing/Communications Intern | UI Reach
Political Science/Journalism and Mass Communication Major

Will Lytem

ReConnect event

UI REACH Summer Re-Connect Returns with Record Numbers

On Saturday Aug. 14th, over 100 alumni, current, and incoming UI REACH students and their families gathered for the first ever summer Re-Connect in Iowa City. The event was hosted in City Park by local Iowa City alumni, and featured games, contests, live local music by Kevin Burt, food vendors Island Vybz and TC Bonez served great food from their trucks, and we celebrated birthdays for Andrea Daniels-Watkins (2020) and Maddie Dolliff (current).  Along with being our largest Re-Connect ever, it was also the first time there was representation of at least one student from each of the 11 graduating classes.   Kudos to Brian Campbell, our alumni support specialist, for organizing such a great event. Plans are currently underway for Re-Connect 2022 to be hosted by alumni in Minnesota. Stay tuned for additional details.

If you are interested in learning how to host or how to start an Alumni Group in your area, please contact Brian Campbell @ or 319-335-5227.

Alumni Spotlight

Mike Vratsinas

Recent graduate, Michael Vratsinas, is already going on to do great things. Not only has he landed a job in an elementary school, but he has also been recently appointed to serve on Iowa’s Developmental Disabilities Council and was featured in a video for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We are so proud of Mike and know that this is just a beginning for him and other UI REACH alumni. 

Hello Mr. Bill,

 Here is just some info about the Maple Grove Position I accepted:

 “I always wanted to work in education since my YiaYia (Grandmother in Greek) told me stories about being a teacher. That’s when I discovered my passion for teaching. I spent my time at UI Reach in Internships related to teaching and making an impact on kids’ lives. After graduation, I applied for positions in multiple school districts, but the school that caught my eye was Maple Grove in Waukee. I got called in for an interview, and I got offered the special education associate job on the spot, and happily accepted. If it wasn’t for UI Reach, I wouldn’t be in this position right now. I am happy to be working as a special education associate in the Waukee School District.”

Michael Vratsinas

Brenden and Bailey, Class of 2017, on a road trip to watch baseball in 3 different states.

They stopped in Chicago to go to the game with alumni Trevor and connected with our favorite Wriggly employee, Tanner.

UI REACH alum at a Cubs game
UI REACH grads at Kinnick

2021 UI REACH graduates were the first to participate in a university-wide graduation ceremony at Kinnick Stadium. Our students took a moment for a photo opportunity along with some of our interns and mentors who also graduated on that day. It was a proud moment for UI REACH!

Pictured from left to right: Samuel Rame, Lauren Adams, Luke Johnson, intern Camryn Miller, Emmie Tiemeier, and Mentor Jessica Rappaport. 

Student Life Updates

Students at fire safety training
UI REACH students residing at Mayflower Hall participate in a fire safety training. 

As students settle into their new home, a few highlights from Student Life to kick-off the week:

  • Eighteen students joined staff on a trip to the Kernels baseball game on Tuesday, August 31st.   Tickets were provided to students free of charge through the Campus Engagement office, so approximately 75 other university students attended this game as well.  Thanks to Kelsey Friday for securing the tickets and coordinating the event for our students. 
  • 1:1 pairing has been made for UI REACH students with our outstanding peer mentors.  Thanks to Adam Miller for working quickly to pair mentors and students.  Mentors focus on independent living, student involvement, and social opportunities.
  • UI REACH RAs continue to provide support to our students in the residence halls. Kendal Best provides supports to our RAs and keep them informed on student progress and support needs.  She was recently recognized as a staff SPOT Award winner.
  • Evening Support – Annie Crooks is already making great impact with our students in the evening hours. Annie has conducted several rounds of “room checks” for students and will be supporting them to develop independent living skills for passing these routine checks. 

Career Updates

With the growth in student enrollment for this academic year, our Career & Transition team had a heavy lift with developing sites for more students this year than our total enrollment last year. Needless to say, they rose to the challenge and exceeded all expectations. Here are just a few of our internship stats for this semester. 

  • 44 interns at 47 confirmed sites this semester
  • 42 students placed in 1st choice work environment
  • Hours range from six to 20 hours per week
  • Nine students placed in exploratory experience
  • Some students are working a combination of both morning and afternoon shifts. This new schedule allows for a lot of flexibility and opportunities for new sites.
  • 18 NEW sites
  • 17 PAID positions
Annika sanitizing equipment
Annika at the UI Center for Disabilities and Development
Blake operating an apple press.
Blake at Wilsons Apple Orchard

Student Support Updates

This year, we introduced a new model to replace advising.  Student Support Teams (SST) were developed to provide ongoing support for students to help them achieve their Person-Centered Planning (PCP) goals, problem solving, and general success at UI REACH. Members from each of our focus areas (Career, Student Life, Academics and Social Development) combine to provide supports to each student.  The goals of the SSTs are:

  • Promote student outcomes through specialized guidance and supports
  • Implement a positive-focused model and culture focused on a student's strengths and goals
  • Advance student abilities to access general UI student supports to gradually reduce reliance on UI REACH supports
  • Capitalize on staffs’ specialized skill sets 

Our leadership team worked hard in developing the model over the summer, and began implementation when students returned this fall.  So far, the results have been impressive with greater achievement of PCP goals compared to this time last year, far fewer calls to the emergency on-call line, more frequent updates to parents regarding student progress, and students feeling supported by more staff. We will continue to refine the model as it is implemented.

SST Guiding Principles

  • All UI REACH students can be successful with the appropriate supports
  • SSTs develop strategies with students, not for students
  • SSTs help students see how what’s good FOR them is related to what’s good TO them
  • As preferred lives are achieved, maladaptive behaviors decrease
  • Multi-disciplinary team approaches of support tend to produce better results
  • Each member of a team brings expertise and perspectives that support student success
Guiding principles graphic

Academic Updates

REACH students in class

UI REACH students excel in traditional classes

  • In the last year, 23 UI REACH students were enrolled in 68 credit hours of integrated coursework
  • In total, UI REACH students have enrolled in 202 credit/audit hours of integrated coursework, and earned 153 hours of transferable credit
  • UI REACH students’ average GPA since 2017 is 3.56
  • Through 2021 pass rate for students enrolled in classes for credit is over 95%
  • In 2019, UI REACH had a student earn enough transferable credit hours (24) while at UI REACH that they were able to transfer into the University of Iowa as a full-time traditional student

UI REACH Strategic Priorities

  • Stakeholder Satisfaction

  • Program Awareness

  • Sustainability

  • Program Excellence

Strategic Plan Update

In our last issue, we reported progress on initiatives related to our strategic priorities in the areas of stakeholder satisfaction, program awareness, program excellence, and sustainability.  In this issue, we’ll highlight efforts to further engage stakeholders. Our leadership team has embarked on a series of interviews with community and campus partners. We asked how they might support our efforts, and the response has been overwhelming. In the first month of these conversations, we have already developed new internship possibilities, identified new resource to which our students and families can be referred, identified prospective advisory board members, invited partners to participate in our town hall meetings with families, classroom lectures, and staff development events. As the interviews continue, we are so excited to expand or develop new partnerships that will continue to keep UI REACH a top tier program.

Program Evaluation Update

During the previous academic year, UI REACH announced 26 program improvement goals aimed at strengthening the program based on feedback we had received from stakeholders. The improvement goals were launched in January 2021 and we’d like to provide an overview of our progress to date.

  • After just nine months, we have already achieved 65% of our goals. Of those achieved, we exceeded our target for 88% of the goals. 
  • We are showing definite growth from baseline measures for five goals and will put measures in place to achieve them within the calendar year.
  • We need to further refine data collection methods for four goals to determine their status. We will work to gather needed data in the coming months to gauge progress on these goals.

Additional detail on the goals and our progress will be provided in early January when we close out this cycle of program evaluation initiatives. We are already discussing metrics for the next round and will definitely reach out to stakeholder groups for input.   This is just one more way that UI REACH is committed to continuous quality improvement. 

Rays of REACH Update

Rays of REACH is a student organization created by UI REACH students and mentors that aims to increase awareness of the UI REACH program on campus and bring together UI REACH and traditional students. UI REACH students Jenny Jex, Ava Mondi, Adam Conner, and Sebastien Janelle serve on the 2021-22 Rays of REACH leadership board.  

Rays of REACH strives to help build an inclusive community in Iowa City by facilitating open discussions between UI REACH and traditional students, fostering new friendships, and giving back. To reach our goal, Rays of REACH will focus on creating new partnerships with University of Iowa student organizations and other Iowa City community partners. We are excited to be collaborating with great partners like TRSA, Best Buddies, the Food Pantry, and University of Iowa Greek life. 

This year, Rays of REACH will continue the tradition of participating in the UI GOLDrush campaign to raise money for the Sally Pederson scholarship fund. We had a blast celebrating homecoming with our Rays of REACH members and UI REACH families and alumni by walking in the University of Iowa homecoming parade on October 15th. Together we shine! 

UI Homecoming Parade 2021

John and Alona at homecoming
Alona Stabb and John Glasscock rode in a Corvette in the Parade Student Showcase.
UI REACH group at Iowa homecoming 2021
Adam Connor and Sebastien Janelle lead the line for UI REACH.

Student Council Elections

These three students did an incredible job of announcing their candidacy with campaign speeches held during a lunchtime ice cream social on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. The election was held on Sept. 30th and the winners were announced on Oct 1st.  These students join four returning council members, and the group is already hard at work planning for this year’s agenda. 

UI REACH student council members
2021-2022 UI REACH Student Council Members (Left to Right)
Standing: Sebastien Janelle (Secretary), Adam Connor, Michael Maigaard
Kneeling: Mia Abel (President), Zarina Cornell (Vice President), TJ Suess, Finn Wicklow
Zarina Cornell
Zarina Cornell
Y1 Representative
Mike Maigaard
Mike Maigaard
Y2 Representative
TJ Suess
TJ Suess
Y3/Y4/Y5 Representative

Devlin Family Café

Come check out the new Devlin Family Café on the 2nd floor of Lindquist Center North in the College of Education, which debuted on Dec. 6, 2021 as part of the college's major renovation. The café, which offers an array of delicious and healthy food options and beverages, is named in honor of the Devlin family, who has generously supported the UI REACH program and whose family member is a UI REACH student!

For more information, hours of operation, and location, visit

Devlin Family Cafe
Devlin Family Cafe