U of A Hires Director for $32 Million Project

 Philip Adams
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Philip Adams

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Philip Adams, who formerly worked as special assistant for agency and legislative affairs in Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s office, started work Jan. 6 as director of the Arkansas PROMISE project at the University of Arkansas.

In September, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $32 million, five-year grant to the U of A College of Education and Health Professions and the Arkansas Department of Education to fund a research project aimed at improving the career and education outcomes of low-income Arkansas teenagers with disabilities.

The award is believed to be the largest research grant ever received by the University of Arkansas. Brent Thomas Williams, associate professor of rehabilitation education and research, is the principal investigator of the grant and oversees the project.

“Philip Adams has been involved in this grant project since nearly the day we began the process of applying for it,” Williams said. “We are fortunate that he was interested in continuing with the project in the important role of leading the day-to-day operations.”

The PROMISE grant will provide first-time, paid work experiences for 1,000 low-income Arkansas teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income. Case managers will also work with youth and their families to coordinate services provided by various state agencies. The teens’ experiences will be compared to those of a second group of 1,000 similar teens who will serve as the control group and will not receive the intervention. Based on the results of the program, four federal agencies may use the PROMISE program as a model for future programs.

A group of people that included faculty and staff in the College of Education and Health Professions began working on the grant proposal last spring with the governor’s office, the Arkansas Department of Education and other state agencies. Adams coordinated the participation of several state agencies through his position with the governor’s office. His responsibilities in Beebe’s office included regular work with the Arkansas departments of health and human services. He worked for Beebe in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

“This position appeals to me because of its holistic approach to service delivery,” Adams said. “We hope that the coordination of services will not only improve the lives of the participants, but also provide opportunities to improve delivery at the state level.”

This will be his first job working primarily in the rehabilitation field, Adams said, and he is looking forward to training sessions to be conducted by the Center for the Utilization of Rehabilitation Resources for Education, Networking, Training and Service, which is a Hot Springs-based service unit of the College of Education and Health Professions. Carri George, an organizational consultant for the center, was lead author of the grant proposal assisted by Williams and Karan Burnette, associate director of Partners for Inclusive Communities. Adams will work from the Partners office in North Little Rock. Partners is also a service unit of the College of Education and Health Professions.

“While this is new subject matter for me, I’m good at coordination, communication and logistics that are vital to implementing a project of this scale.” Adams said. “We have a few more core staff members to get on board, including a training director and an administrative assistant and financial director.”

Then, his next task is to hire four regional managers to direct the project’s operations throughout the state. Adams and these managers will hire recruitment staff for each region to educate people about the grant and to enroll participants and job coaches to work with teens and their families.

Mathematica Policy Research of Princeton, N.J., will conduct a longitudinal evaluation of the project, beginning with creation of a random-assignment system to place participants in either the treatment or control groups. The plan is to begin providing services to the intervention group this spring and begin the paid work experiences for participants this summer.

In addition to the case managers assigned to youth and their families, job coaches will be important to the project, Adams said.

“The job coaches will work with the teens, their families and the employers to help ensure experiences that are successful for both the teenage employees and the employers,” he said. “They will help make sure the teens are prepared for any issues that may come up and that the employers understand any accommodations required of them to employ a teen with a disability.

“We consider the case managers to be connectors between the families and the service providers,” Adams continued. “They will work with health professionals, school personnel and other service providers to make sure students’ needs are being met as well as that they receive the general benefits of the program.”

Adams is a Fayetteville High School graduate, class of 2000. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Hendrix College. He has also worked in public relations and marketing, event management and production, and communications.


Philip Adams, project director, AR PROMISE MDP
College of Education and Health Professions
501-682-9924, promise@uark.edu

Brent Thomas Williams, associate professor of rehabilitation education an
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-8696, btwilli@uark.edu

Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu

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