Hello, UI REACH Family!


REACH Mission/Vision Statement
A Peek into Our Future

Over the past year, we have gathered feedback on our vision and mission statements, and we are thrilled to announce that we have finalized both. Feedback was received from representative groups of students, families, advisory board members, staff, and campus and community stakeholders to develop statements that reflect where we are and what we are trying to achieve.

VISION: Empowered and self-directed individuals who are included in communities that embrace people of all abilities. Our vision statement describes the change we want to see as a result of our work. UI REACH is committed to helping our students become empowered and self-directed: making informed choices and being “in the driver’s seat” when it comes to making decisions about their lives. As the day of segregated services slowly come to an end, we are thrilled to see our students become fully included in their communities of choice.  Whether those communities are on the UI campus, in employment and internship sites, or in the students’ home town, we believe that each person deserves acceptance and has a rightful place in the mainstream. UI REACH is a model of inclusive communities wherein people with disabilities are recognized for their abilities, gifts, and talents that allow them to contribute to the whole.  And we are working to influence other communities in ways that promote a diversity of skills, abilities, and talents.

MISSION: Cultivating individualized supports and opportunities that promote advocacy and success in everyday life. How do we get there? Our mission statement describes the approach that we will take in realizing our vision.  UI REACH is all about creating spaces wherein our stakeholders can be successful. That means working with each student to identify and implement the supports that each individual needs, and then finding opportunities to experience, learn, and grow. While our students, families, and staff are our primary stakeholders, we also want to impact businesses, future teachers and practitioners, legislators, and the general public to bring a heightened awareness of the beauty found in including persons with disabilities in every aspect of everyday life.

Your Success is within REACH! Our new marketing tag line is our way of helping prospective and current students see the many possibilities offered through UI REACH.  We hope that it inspires students and families to dream big and engage on a journey with us that is sure to produce great outcomes.

We are thrilled with the launch of these statements. Very soon you will see them in our signage, on our website, and in other places where UI REACH is promoted.

Alongside the work to revise our vision and mission statements, UI REACH leadership has been busy crafting a strategic plan over the past year. The planning began with reaching out to our many stakeholders and asking questions like, “What should UI REACH look like in the next 3-5 years, and where are the greatest strengths, opportunities, areas for improvement and threats for UI REACH .  After compiling the results from these queries, staff drafted a plan and presented it to our advisory board and student council last fall for additional input.  The plan is now in the first phase of implementation with four primary goal areas:

  1. Achieving excellence in customer service and experience
  2. Gaining national and regional recognition as the premiere Post-Secondary Education program for students with disabilities
  3. Increasing financial sustainability
  4. Increasing program excellence through further implementing best practices and achieving accreditation

Staff members have outlined activities and metrics that will lead us to achievement of the goals. All of our stakeholders have a role in these massive efforts, and we will be sure to make those roles known and expand participation as new partners are added.  A regular feature of future newsletters will include brief updates on our progress. 


UI REACH Receives a Coronavirus Relief Funds Grant

REACH Zoom class screen
In November 2020, UI REACH was awarded a small grant through Future Ready Iowa aimed at increasing options for persons whose employment was impacted by the pandemic. Through the grant, Brian Campbell, UI REACH's Alumni Support Specialist, is assisting UI REACH alumni and students taking a gap year in working towards earning their ACT NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate), earning nationally-recognized food service certifications through ServSafe, gaining CPR/First Aid certification, and taking continuing education courses at their local community colleges.  UI REACH was also able to hire tutors to work with our alumni in an online certification course, purchase expanded learning platforms like Relias Learning Management System and the WorkKeys curriculum, and purchase a virtual platform through which students can explore career options.  Because the grant period is short-term, students must be enrolled in any of these by Feb. 28, 2021 but have additional time to complete the courses. As students earn these enhanced credentials, they are better qualified for employment in high demand areas such as childcare and a variety of personal aid positions.  Special thanks to Erica Kaldenberg, Liz Constantine, Teresa Garringer, Elizabeth Decker, and Deanna Hebl for their support in securing and implementing the grant.


Alumni and Student Highlights

Danny Huyer
You’ve seen Danny McGregor Huyer featured in UI REACH videos, which he helped to create.  McGregor Huyer was accepted as a traditional student last fall and is now continuing his studies in the cinematic arts at the University of Iowa.  McGregor Huyer remains connected to the program through participation in recent disability awareness presentations to the UI Police Department, regular contact with his friends, and serving as an advisor for the UI REACH Student Council. Most recently, McGregor Huyer has been appointed as the first ever UI REACH alumnus to serve on our advisory board. He will be seated on the board at the May update meeting and is joined by Mr. Eric Wilner (Scholarship America) as a new board member.

Blake sitting on a tractor
Just prior to the onset of the fall 2020 semester, approximately 10 UI REACH student decided to take a gap year for several reasons related to the pandemic. This incredibly difficult decision was made by their families with the full intention of returning in the following year. Needless to say, these students have expressed on many occasions that they look forward to coming back, but they have also been making great use of their time away from the program through employment, virtual classes, volunteerism, and remaining in touch with their UI REACH friends.

Prime examples include students who found employment at a local apple orchard, healthcare supply chain inventory, a local grocery store as a customer care specialist, three who took online classes to begin a business making and selling Hawkeye themed baskets, and those who continued to work on their WorkKey’s scores through virtual classes.  Blake Roettger earned a first stage permit to operate a forklift during his time away.  We look forward to having these students return in Fall 2021 and featuring their stories in future editions of the newsletter.

Two skiers on the slopes
A huge part of being a college student is making new friends that may last a lifetime. During winter break, two of our students vacationed together and went skiing at Jackson Hole in beautiful Big Sky, Montana. Maddie Doliff and Casey Ursich spent several days hitting the slopes with their families. Doiff and Ursich returned to campus safely after their vacation where their ski skills could certainly come into play in Iowa City with all of the recent snowfall!



Thank you for helping us to say Thank You!

Group portrait drawing

REACH students with Herky artwork

UI REACH offers heartfelt thanks to alumnus, Mattingly Poole, who created a thank you note based on images from our website. This design was one of several that Poole submitted for consideration to our University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA) partners. UI REACH’s talented alumni and current students go on to do great things! Poole’s artwork was also featured on our official UI REACH coffee mug, which is still available for sale through our office. Her work is truly amazing. Thanks again to Matti Poole!

  • Website: Momopaints.art

  • Instagram: @momopaints

  • Facebook: Mattingly Poole



UI REACH Welcomes New Interns

The University of Iowa offers countless opportunities for partnership and collaboration that lead to student success. UI REACH is benefiting greatly from two relatively new partnerships that have afforded us the privilege of hosting five interns during the Spring 2021 semester. Kim Hanrahan serves as an adjunct professor at the UI School of Social Work and has promoted internship opportunities in that role. As a result, we are able to welcome, Talia Aloush, Malaika Kigen, and Ziming Wang, each of whom will provide 10 hours per week in student supports through facilitation of social groups and assistance with advising. Wang is now into his second semester with UI REACH. Erin Birkenholtz was hired as a Program Specialist on the Careers and Transition team at UI REACH in 2020. Birkenholtz has a degree in therapeutic recreation and is a UI alumna Through her connection with the therapeutic recreation department, Erin was able to support one student intern last semester and is supporting two student interns this semester. Emerson Knapp and Camryn Miller both provide 40 hours per week in student supports through Person Centered Plan implementation, creating student activities, assisting in classrooms where needed and providing 1:1 student support in a variety of settings. All of the interns working with us will allow more individualized supports and opportunities for our students and their families and we are so very fortunate to have them with us.

Malaika Kigen

Malaika Kigen

Talia Aloush

Talia Aloush

Ziming Wang

Ziming Wang

Camryn Miller

Camryn Miller

Emerson Knapp

Emerson Knapp




Updates from the Career and Transition Team

Spring Internships – UI REACH has 22 students in internships this semester, over half of whom are starting rotations with different businesses than those experienced in the fall. Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, a wide array of internship sites was secured thanks to the hard work and creativity of our Career and Transition team. All sites are developed based on student career preferences, and individualized job descriptions are crafted for each UI REACH intern. New skills are targeted at each site, and from the types of internship experiences, students are able to make informed career choices. Based on initial projections for Fall 2021 enrollment, nearly twice this number of students will be assigned to internships at that time!

WorkKeys Updates:

ACT WorkKeys NCRC Bronze and Silver
Year 1 students completed assessments during spring orientation, and of the 16 students who tested, four scored at the bronze overall level and three at the silver overall level on their initial test! The tests are administered in three areas (workplace documents, graphic literacy, and applied math) with scores in each area and an overall score. Six students scored at the platinum level in at least one of the three areas. All students (Y1,2,3,4) that scored below a bronze are enrolled in WorkKeys Labs where they can continue gaining skills with the goal of scoring at the bronze level or higher on their next test. Students that have earned a bronze level or above are encouraged to complete independent studies using the curriculum in the Academic Support Lab. Extra support is also available through a WorkKeys Lab and through the WorkKeys classes offered to alumni. All Year 2, 3, and 4 students will take assessments for a second time in early spring.

Career and Transition Events:

We hope you enjoyed participating in the Zoom events sponsored by the C&T team, and we encourage you to sign up for future events. If you are interested in viewing recordings of these events, please contact Jennifer Cremers for the video links. Past and future events include:

  • WorkKeys Overview, Feb. 11th 5 p.m.: Families are invited to join a Zoom event to learn more about WorkKeys Assessments, NCRC, and WorkKeys Curriculum.
  • Virtual Transition Fair, Feb. 19th 12-2 p.m.: Families are invited to join C & T Staff and local service providers to learn more about transition supports for students. Sessions will include Goodwill, The Arc, Access 2 Independence, VR, Benefits Planning with Brian Campbell.
  • UI REACH Transition Overview, Feb. 25th 6 p.m.: This is for families with graduating students to learn more about the REACH transition process, meetings, and ePortfolios.


Updates from the Student Life Team

  • Leisure Interests—Our new TR interns and Kelsey Friday facilitated “Meet the Intern” nights the first two Wednesdays of the semester. As part of these sessions, students were asked to complete a Leisure Interest Survey via Qualtrics to identify current interests and potential new interests. The results will be used to continue expanding student involvement and interest-related opportunities, along with connecting peers with similar interests.
  • Resident Assistants—A big shout out to our three Resident Assistants (RAs) who support students in the residence halls. Alexis Folkers, Grace Gudenkauf, and Carson Heckman complete rounds each evening, talk with students about their day, and help them problem solve as needed. Two of our RAs will be graduating this spring. Thanks to the Student Life team for joining the RA interviews to assist with hiring RAs for the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • Housing for 2021-2022 Academic Year—Housing applications will be available to incoming and returning students in late February. To offer student choice, returning students will have the option again to identify some roommate preferences. If your student is returning, please talk to them about who they may want for a roommate - a specific student, a same cohort student, or an incoming student. Roommate pairings for year 3 and 4 students will be announced by early April. Roommate pairings for year 1 and 2 students will be made in June.
    • Housing Application & Addendum—Students will receive an email link to complete the online housing application and addendum. New on the addendum will be a statement that students will be able to stay in housing during breaks, though UI REACH will not provide any supports during the break periods.


QUALITY CORNER: You spoke. We listened. Thank you.

UI REACH: Fall 2020 - overal parent satisfaction. 100% satisfied or very satisfied
Over winter break, UI REACH advisors conducted check-in calls with their advisee's parents/guardians. Prior to the start of the semester, our team was able to connect with 38 families to discuss topics from individual progress reports to anticipated supports their student might need for the upcoming semester. Not only was the feedback very helpful for each advisor, we were able to aggregate stakeholder responses to explore trends and themes. Therefore, we want to thank all our respondents for their feedback and helping us learn and grow.

UI REACH Parents and Guardians told us:

  • Progress Reports were clear, and overall student progress was good or excellent
  • Potential student semester goals should focus on career preparation, independent living, and executive functioning
  • The two most common areas where student support needs were anticipated are remedial academic instruction and support, and future employment preparation and exploration,
  • 100% of parents and guardians are either very satisfied or satisfied with UI REACH!

We will continue to implement programmatic adjustments and additional individualized programming in response to what you told us. (See below.) Additional feedback from students will take place over the next month, and if needed, additional changes will take place.


UI REACH in Print

  • Devlin family
    Even before they officially become enrolled, UI REACH is in the heart and dreams of prospective students! Read Caroline Kurdej’s blog on how current high school sophomore, Jackie Coreless is “REACH”ing for Success.
  • UI REACH is blessed to have several contributors who make our program possible in many ways. One such donor is the Devlin Foundation which has committed a gift of $1 million to support the most pressing needs of UI REACH. This gift came about as a result of the foundation learning firsthand about how the program can have great impact with the students we support. “Why I Give: Devlin Family”, a story on the donation appears in the 2020 College of Education Annual Report. 
  • Lauren Bruno and Jordan Immerfall are among the authors of an article in the December 2020 edition of the Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (ETADD) publication. The article, entitled “Direct Instruction of Text-to-Speech Software for Students with Intellectual Disability” can be found on page 424 of the manuscript.



UI REACH apparel is up and running! If you or any member of your family are interested in purchasing UI REACH apparel, please place an order online

You can either pick up your completed order in the UI REACH office, or have items shipped to your home. The order will close at midnight on Monday, Feb 28, 2021. Proceeds from the apparel sale will help to fund UI REACH scholarships.

Apparel offerings



UI REACH Calendar

Reminder: No official spring break this year. Classes are suspended on two days as outlined below in lieu of spring break.

March 2, 2021 No classes (in lieu of spring break)
March 15, 2021 UI REACH Virtual Tour Day (4 pm)
April 14, 2021 No classes (in lieu of spring break)
April 16, 2021 UI REACH Virtual Tour Day (10 am)
May 6, 2021 UI REACH Classes end for Spring Semester
May 7, 2021 UI REACH Convocation
May 8, 2021 UI REACH students check out of the hall by noon (Enjoy your summer break!)
May 17, 2021 UI REACH Virtual Tour Day (4 pm)
May 24-25, 2021 UI REACH Summer Orientation for incoming first year students
June 14, 2021 UI REACH Virtual Tour Day (4 pm)
July 16, 2021 UI REACH Virtual Tour Day (10 am)