We made it!

UI REACH class of 2019
This academic year seemed to zip by so quickly, and it was full of wonderful achievements and memories for the UI REACH Family, some of which you will read about in this edition of the newsletter. Congratulations to the graduates and their families. You’ve achieved a significant turning point in your lives, and we are grateful to have played a role in preparing you for it. The convocation and dinner were filled with lots of smiles, laughter, and even a few tears that will all make for great memories in the years to come.

Please stay connected to us and keep us posted on your journey. We look forward to welcoming all returning students and the newly-admitted cohort back to campus in August. But until then, have a great summer and enjoy the break.

Thanks again to the UI REACH staff and all of our University of Iowa partners for what you do daily to make UI REACH great. It has been my pleasure to be the director over the past 9 months. Meeting the students and seeing growth in every one of them from August 2018 to the present has been ultimately rewarding, and it has been confirmation that this program leads the way in helping students with disabilities lead their best lives. As we close out one chapter, another begins. So on we go, looking to a future that is sure to be bright and wonderful. Watch us grow!

William (Bill) Loyd, Jr.
UI REACH Director

Student Council

UI REACH students at HCD19
Our new student council has been accomplishing remarkable things! They completed bylaws establishing the framework for council in the next academic year, and they are now working on the process for elections in the fall of 2019. They reviewed results from the residence hall survey conducted last fall, assisted with focus groups on trends identified in the survey results, and issued a letter outlining ways that UI REACH students can work together to make improvements. Two members of the council participated in Hawkeye Caucus day in Des Moines and got the opportunity to personally meet elected officials, Dr. Harrell and Herkey! The entire student council also joined with other self-advocates in the Advocate for Change Day sponsored by Iowans with Disabilities and the Iowa Disability Council. At that event, our council got to meet elected officials and other self-advocates, watch the legislative debate in process, and tour the beautiful capitol building. As a result of these visits to Des Moines, three members of the Iowa Congress have agreed to visit UI REACH this fall. Look out for more great things from our council in the coming academic year.

UI REACH Priority Updates

As previously reported, UI REACH staff have been working on four priority areas over the past two semesters: student self-determination, retention (student and staff), automation, and best practices.

Self Determination: The activities of our student council and Rays of REACH are prime examples of how our students are being empowered to gather information, make decisions and take responsibility as young adults. In the current semester students have been involved in discovering and choosing career paths to pursue and class options for next semester. Thanks to students and families who completed the student surveys sent by Ms. Deb and Mr. Jordan.

Retention: Developing an expanded network of student supports has been a priority towards retention. Leadership has met with the University Counseling Service, Dean of Students Office, UI Mental Illness-Intellectual Disability unit at UI Health Care and the Provost Office to learn more about the supports they can offer to UI REACH students. Renewing partnerships and, in some cases, creating new alliances with these offices is vital to ensuring that students have the resources that they need to be successful at the University of Iowa. In terms of retention efforts for our staff, Amanda Kunkel, UI REACH senior program specialist – instructional strategist, and Lauren Bruno, a postdoctoral research scholar, have been providing professional development and individualized support opportunities around Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology. Two staff have also been recognized with SPOT awards since our last publication. Congratulations to award recipients Jennifer Cremers, UI REACH senior program specialist, and Brian Campbell, senior program specialist and alumni liaison.

Automation: Three pilots are underway using software applications for advising notes (Maxient), student records (Access), and admissions (MAUI). Once fully implemented, these applications will allow us to process and analyze data more efficiently as a means of program planning and evaluation.

Best Practices: Leadership began the process of reviewing best practice standards from three accrediting bodies (CARF, CQL and APSE) and one in development (NCC). Next steps will include a self-assessment using these standards, prioritization of deficit areas, and the launch of improvement strategies in the prioritized areas.

Alex S.
Current Student Profile

Alex Senanou (Class of 2020) was nominated for Recreational Services’ Client Spotlight. Alex works with a personal trainer, Ben, who says “Alex is among the most deserving individuals to be in Rec Services’ Client Spotlight. Alex has one of the best attitudes I have ever seen. He never misses an opportunity to challenge himself in the pursuit of his ambitious goals, all with a big smile. Alex is one of the kindest people I have ever been fortunate to work with. Big things are in Alex’s future! Great job Alex!” UI REACH certainly agrees with Ben’s kind words about Alex. He is always willing to participate and tries his best at whatever he does. Alex is from Plainfield, Illinois, where he lives with his parents and siblings. He graduated from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, in May of 2018.

Alex admits to being a little nervous when coming to UI REACH. The entire Senanou family came with Alex for his first day as a Hawkeye as a sign of family support.

Alumni Profile

Chicago Cubs ambassador at Wrigley Field
We hope that you enjoyed the story in the College of Education alumni magazine “Hitting it Out of the Ballpark” featuring UI REACH alumnus, Tanner Salinas. Since publication of the article, the Chicago Cubs have posted the story on its social media networks, and Tanner has been interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune. Tanner and his family could not be more thrilled. Sr. Program Specialist, Adam Miller, went to opening day for this season for the Cubs and got to see Tanner at work. A video story was also produced and that video was featured at our convocation dinner earlier this month. Tanner and his family were with us at the dinner, where they were received with great admiration by those in attendance. We appreciate the efforts of Mei-Ling Shaw and Sara Nelson and other members of the College of Education’s Strategic Communications Team in getting the story published and promoted. This is just another way that partnerships across the university help our students to shine.

Transitions Class - EDTL:4921

Transitions class
Transition and Other Related Issues is a Master’s level course offered for graduate students working towards Special Education licensure at the University of Iowa. During the spring semester, this course took on a new identity as an integrated course, where pre-service teachers learned alongside REACH students to see the benefits of inclusion. This class also served as a way for REACH students to learn self-determination skills, to advocate for their wants and needs, understand what areas of transition should be considered, and work collaboratively with their peers to develop a comprehensive transition plan for their third year in REACH or while they transition out. The Master’s students learned firsthand what it takes to develop a comprehensive transition plan, how to use person-centered planning, and how to be an advocate for people with disabilities in the school and community settings.

The focus of the course was on all of the main areas of transition including employment and independent living, but expanded beyond that to challenge the class to think about all areas of independence and growth. Students engaged in meaningful discussions and REACH students were able to share personal stories, and experiences regarding transition to provide insight into the actual processes for the traditional students. As this class winds down, traditional students are supporting the REACH students to collaboratively develop a community resource guide, think of goals and ways to reach those goals, and also focus on students advocating for supports as they grow more independently.

Feedback has included that this course “is really helping me getting ready for the real world” or “I really do like the concept of an integrated classroom where students from REACH are in class with Grad students- it is a very positive experience” and “thinking about transition planning and services with students actually going through that process is interesting, and more tangible.” With transition goals primarily facilitated by an educator, being able to provide a hands-on experience and seeing how both groups work together shows that inclusion can be done at all levels, and is necessary to help everyone develop and succeed.

Salute to Deb Larson

Deb Larson
It is with mixed emotions that we bid a fond farewell to our Career and Transitions Coordinator, Deborah Larson, or Ms. Deb as she is affectionately known to our students. Deb has been a part of the UI REACH staff for over 10 years. In that time, she has been a teacher, mentor, and friend to so many. Deb has a passion for employment and sees to it that her team puts forth the very best efforts in preparing students for meaningful employment after graduating UI REACH through classroom instruction, internship experiences, field trips, and soft skills development. She cares about the total student, often going to great lengths to make sure that a student in distress is comforted and that their parents are well informed. Although we are sad to see Deb go, we share her happiness in being able to “transition” to another part of the country with her family and begin a new life. Her son, Zane, was a regular volunteer at UI REACH events, and we’re happy to hear that he will complete undergraduate studies this spring and move on to pursue a master’s degree this fall. Deb has lots of reasons to be really proud of Zane. We will miss Ms. Deb but wish her well in her new endeavors. She will forever be a part of the UI REACH family.

Rays of REACH trophy
Congratulations, Rays of REACH

Congratulations! Rays of REACH was recently honored with the 2018-2019 Hawkeye Award PHIL WAS HERE trophy for Outstanding Philanthropic Contribution to the UI Campus by a Student Organization. As reported in our last newsletter, Rays of REACH raised over $8,000 in our scholarship fundraiser and set a record for student organizations. The handsome trophy pictured here is proudly displayed in the UI REACH office. Way to go Rays of REACH! And thanks to all of you who contributed during the fundraiser.

UI REACH Spotlight at the 2019 ACE Conference

Tony William at ACE convention
Kudos to UI REACH parent, Tony Williams, for facilitating an amazing session at this year’s ACE Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in March. ACE is a gathering of university executives from across the country featuring presentations on an array of subject matter of interest to this group. Tony’s session highlighted the need for programs like UI REACH by telling his family’s personal story (which had the audience captivated) and facilitating a panel that included leadership from the George Mason LIFE program (very similar to UI REACH) and ThinkCollege. Tony made sure that UI REACH was prominently featured in the session and that our director, Bill Loyd, was present and participating at both the session and the larger conference. Please read the blog posted during the conference on Higher Ed Today on Tony’s session.

UI REACH Advisory Board Expands Engagement

Board members at UI REACH convocation
Our advisory board is a great asset to UI REACH. Their assistance over the years has been crucial to our sustainability and forward movement. This year’s advisory board is finding even more ways to support the program through the development of workgroups whose purpose is to identify resources for UI REACH. Workgroups include:
  • A corporate connections workgroup which will attempt to introduce UI REACH to corporations to get their thoughts on desirable skills for entry-level workers and to get internship and employment opportunities for students.
  • An advocacy workgroup which will ensure that legislators are aware of UI REACH and take programs like ours into consideration when passing laws that may affect our students, families, and the program.
  • A scholarship workgroup which will work to ensure that scholarship dollars are available to deserving students and families who need tuition assistance.
  • A future directions workgroup, which will assist in further development of years 3 and 4 for the program and explore options for enhanced credentials for UI REACH graduates.

Members of the workgroups include board members, parents of current students and alumni, and staff. The board held a first-ever midyear update meeting on May 3, 2019, to review the program’s status and to further plan for the work being done by the workgroups. Thanks to all those who serve on our board and committees. Your time and commitment help to make the program stronger.

Research Corner

The University of Iowa is a research institution committed to innovation and discovery across disciplines. When it comes to research to advance understanding and supports for individuals with disabilities, UI REACH partners with various departments, faculty members, and institutions of higher education. Below is a brief list of research opportunities available to adults with disabilities and their families.

  • Neurodevelopmental Research Study: The purpose of this study is to create an on-line database that stores relevant information about disorders such as intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurodevelopmental Research Study.
  • Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative—SPARK: the University of Iowa invites you to learn more about SPARK, a new online research study sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. The mission of SPARK is clear: speed up research and advance understanding of autism by creating the nation’s largest autism study. To learn more, register at the University of Iowa Medical Research Center by contacting us at SPARK-study@uiowa.edu, or visiting www.SPARKforAutism.org/uiowa
  • Texas A&M Employment Study: We are looking for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ages 18- 30) with current or prior employment experience to participate in a research study. More information on this employment study.
  • Additional Autism Research Opportunities: For more information on ongoing clinical trials, check out the Autism Research Studies page on the Autism Society of Iowa website. 

Help Us to Improve UI REACH

Throughout the year, we have specific efforts to gather feedback from parents/guardians, students, and staff as part of our continuous improvement efforts. As a result of this effort, we have focused on enhancing overall communication to parents by sending out UI REACH course descriptions, student progress updates, and notice of internship placements. In addition, parents were added to the University of Iowa and College of Education email list serve to improve the flow of information from the campus community. We also reviewed our advisor communication policy to ensure advisors where touching base with families at least one time a month. Similarly, we have renewed our focus on our social media messaging and re-established the quarterly newsletter sent out by the UI REACH Director. Furthermore, the establishment of the UI REACH Student Council allowed us to dive deeper into the feedback from UI REACH students and traditional students about their experience living in the residence halls, which resulted in increased programming to address complaints around noise and cleanliness. Members of the council reinforced these efforts by helping facilitate focus groups to gather more information from fellow classmates and by sending out email reminders about policies, expectations, and resources for support. These things would not have taken place if we did not hear from you all. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with us.

As we wrap up another school year and begin to plan for next semester, we want to hear from you all again. Please take a moment to let us know how we did and how we can continue to improve. We value your feedback. The UI REACH program is the program it is today because of parents like you. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey today if you have not already done so.

Community Partner Spotlight

UI REACH is fortunate to have many campus and community partners who assist in preparing our students for campus life and job internships. One such partner is Golf USA, who has provided opportunities for students to intern in their store for the past three years. This year, student Christian Hooper completed an internship at Golf USA because he wanted an internship relating to sports. At the store, Christian learned to receive, sort, and label merchandise under the supervision of store owners, Bruce and Patti Brooke. They made sure that Christian had meaningful tasks each day he was at the store and treated him like one of the staff. Patti, a former special educator, sees participation as an internship site as a way of remaining connected to preparing youth with disabilities to be present in and contributing members of their communities. Christian learned to travel to the Coralville store independently using public transportation and really appeared to blossom as he mastered tasks assigned to him by Bruce and Patti. Not only has this generous couple provided internship opportunities, they also sponsor the Buster Cup Tournament annually and they donate proceeds from the tournament to UI REACH. Golf USA’s donation to our UI REACH Scholarship Fund was $3,000 last year! Patti and Bruce are pictured here presenting the check with UI REACH students. The tournament is being held this year on June 22, 2019 at the Pleasant Valley Golf Course with a 7:30 a.m. registration and 9a.m. scramble. For more information, please contact the store by phone at 319-625-2105 or by email at gusacoralville@gmail.com

Christian at GOLF USA

GOLF USA donation


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 received nearly 80 applications over the past year! Thanks to our recruitment and admissions team for their efforts in reaching this benchmark
  • We have received confirmation from 22 students that they will join us on campus in August 2019 to begin their UI REACH journey. We will welcome those students and their families back to campus on June 13-14, 2019 for new student orientation. Three students who were accepted this year have decided to take an additional preparatory year at home and come to us in the fall of 2020 so we already have a head start on next year’s recruitment.
  • We’re excited to have 18 students who completed their first year return in the fall for their second year. 
  • We’re also thrilled that 6 students will return for a third year and one student will return for a fourth year!
  • Our goal is 50 students for fall 2019 including the class of 2021. We’re currently at a total of 47 students and enrollment is still open. 

Graduating students and families, please continue to share your experience at UI REACH at your former high schools and encourage interested students and families to visit our website for more information.

UI REACH Hosts Students from Japan

Students from the Joetsu University of Education visited the University of Iowa Campus on March 13, 2019, to learn more about education in the United States. Before coming to the UI campus, the students also visited local schools in Iowa City. While at UI REACH, they heard a presentation about the program from staff and students. The Joetsu students also enjoyed lemonade and brownie treats while with us, and they described them as “very sweet!” UI REACH students enjoyed the interaction as well and were the perfect ambassadors. Joetsu University of Education is a national university in Joetsu, Niigata, Japan, founded in 1978. The delegation of 12 visiting students was led again this year by faculty member Toko Igarashi, pictured at far right. Many thanks to Brian Campbell, Kevin McBride, and Jim Verry for facilitating the visit.

Upcoming Events

Summer Orientation
June 13 - 14, 2019

Buster Cup Golf Tournament
Saturday, June 22, 2019

Annual Iowa Cubs Picnic and Game (ReConnect event)
Sunday, June 23, 2019. Des Moines, IA
Purchase your tickets online or contact Brian Campbell

Events TBD (ReConnect event)
July 27 - 28, 2019. Chicago, IL

Move-in and Orientation
August 23, 2019. 8:00 a.m.
Move in 8a-10a. Family Orientation afternoon.

Family Weekend
October 4-5, 2019. More details coming


Stay tuned for updates on the tailgate events at all home games sponsored by Mark and Liam Kiersten!