U of A and University of Oklahoma Teaming up to Establish Razorback-Sooner Scholars Program

Kendra Williams-Diehm and Suzanne Kucharczyk
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Kendra Williams-Diehm and Suzanne Kucharczyk

Across the country, there's a critical need for teachers who know how to use evidence-based practices to improve the adult outcomes of students with disabilities.

The University of Arkansas and University of Oklahoma have partnered to help meet that need with a unique program called Razorback-Sooner Scholars: Leaders for Transition.

Leaders for Transition will provide a unique, funded doctoral experience for 10 students at the two universities who want to be special education assistant professors interested in transition services for youth with disabilities and their families.

Recently, the universities were awarded a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to fund the program.

The program will recruit, train, support, and prepare leaders at higher education institutions to in turn prepare future special educators in evidence-based transition practices. Those special education teachers will then help students with high-need disabilities — for example, those with intellectual disabilities or have autism spectrum disorder — to flourish as they move into adulthood.

Arkansas and Oklahoma universities will leverage their combined expertise in special education transition, current graduate-level transition content, and university, state, and national partnerships to prepare future leaders to address this gap in transition-focused educator preparation and research.

"There is a shortage of university professors knowledgeable in transition education," said Kendra Williams-Diehm, special education program coordinator at the University of Oklahoma. "This grant and partnership will help the next generation of professors, and thus pre-service educators, have this knowledge. It is very exciting."

Williams-Diehm, along with Suzanne Kucharczyk, special education program coordinator at the University of Arkansas, are program leads. U of A faculty members Peggy Schaefer Whitby and Tom Smith will also be involved in supporting the transition program.

The partnership between the two universities takes advantage of expertise, experience, and sustained partnerships within each state. Doctoral scholars will prepare to be experts in transition services shown by research to be effective through focus in teaching, service, and research across their four years of study, Kucharczyk said.

"At the University of Arkansas we are thrilled to have the opportunity to extend our efforts from the funded Teaming for Transition master's program to continue to build leaders in the field of special education transition services," she added. "People who have a passion for special education and that age group, middle school through high school, should apply for this on campus-funded Ph.D. opportunity."

The application process will be competitive and those chosen to be Razorback-Sooner Scholars will need to have at least two years of experience working with individuals with disabilities, a master's degree with a specified grade-point average, a GRE exam with competitive scores, letters of recommendation and a writing sample.

Razorback-Sooner Scholars will receive free tuition and fees, an annual stipend for up to four years, travel support, space to work on campus, a new laptop computer and mentoring from leaders in the field.

At the end of four years, scholars will receive graduate certificates in special education transition services.

Scholars will also be charged with building understanding in this field of study through service to state programs such as departments of education and vocational rehabilitation, state parent resource centers, and high-need schools.

Scholars will participate in an annual summer retreat to build skills in teaching and research, as well as attend, present, and collaborate at national conferences. Students will have the opportunity to engage with nationally recognized faculty and take advantage of resources from both universities. They'll also be encouraged to build individual research agendas and methodological expertise with support from faculty and scholars from both universities.

Scholar applications are due by Feb. 1, 2020, for fall 2020 admission. For U of A application go here and for University Oklahoma, apply here.


Suzanne Kucharczyk, assistant professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
479-575-6210, suzannek@uark.edu


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