U of A and OU Continue Successful Razorback-Sooner Scholars Program With New Grant

Leaders for Transition doctoral students and faculty gather annually for summer retreats.
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Leaders for Transition doctoral students and faculty gather annually for summer retreats.

Young people with disabilities need specialized and focused transition planning to promote their successful preparation for future employment, community engagement and independent living after graduating from high school.

The U of A College of Education and Health Professions partnered with the University of Oklahoma's College of Education in 2019 to help improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The Razorback-Sooner Scholars: Leaders for Transition (L4T) team just received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue this successful program.

There's a shortage of university professors and state leaders who understand transition services and planning. Leaders for Transition aims to increase the number of higher education faculty and state special education leaders ready to prepare special educators and engage in high-quality, applied research to advance practice, policy and research with a focus on improved post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities.

"We want to empower future higher education faculty and state special education leaders to be champions of change for youth with disabilities as they successfully transition to postsecondary education, engage in the workforce and live independently at home or in their communities," said Suzanne Kucharczyk, a special education expert in the U of A College of Education and Health Professions and principal investigator of the L4T grant.

U of A special education faculty members Sheida Raley and Renee Speight are co-principal investigators. Kendra Williams-Diehm is the lead at OU, and the co-principal investigators there are Malarie Deardorff and Emily Kuntz.

The first 10 Ph.D. students who were selected for the 2019 campus-funded opportunity are in their last years of doctoral studies. The five U of A scholars are Nancy Young, Amy Oswalt, Celeste Michaud, Krystle Merry and Karen Lange. They're all currently completing their dissertations and expect to graduate in 2024.

Recruitment for the next L4T scholars will begin shortly. Kucharczyk said less than half of U.S. higher education teacher preparation programs provide coursework specific to the special education transition of students with disabilities after high school.

The U of A and OU will leverage its combined expertise in special education transition, current graduate-level transition content and university, state and national partnerships to address the gap in transition-focused educator preparation and research, she added. The L4T team will continue the work of preparing special educators and engaging in high quality applied research to advance practice, policy and research.

The application process will be competitive, and those chosen as 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 and letters of recommendation and a writing sample. They will receive free tuition and fees, an annual stipend for up to four years, travel support, space to work on campus, a new laptop and mentoring from leaders in the field. Prospective students interested in being considered for additional support (GRE required for these) should apply to the Graduate School by the Dec. 1 deadline.

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.

Scholars will receive graduate certificates in special education transition services at the end of the four-year program.

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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