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College of Education unites programs that serve students with disabilities

The Department for Exceptional, Deaf and Interpreter OCT program students sitting in a socially distanced circle on the UNF Green Education (EDIE), located within UNF’s College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), is uniting the University’s services and programs that support individuals with disabilities, as well as the faculty, staff and students who work in these programs.


Four UNF programs that serve students with disabilities, Student Accessibility Center, On Campus Transition, THRIVE and Project SEARCH, will now be supported by EDIE and the COEHS. Uniting these programs will help provide students with inclusive experiences and equitable access to all that UNF has to offer, increase opportunities for collaboration between UNF academic programming and support services, and align community outreach efforts.


Student Accessibility Center:

Under the leadership of Dr. Rusty Dubberly, director, and Dr. Tara Rowe, associate director, Student Accessibility Center (SAC) supports UNF faculty in efforts to provide access to course content so that degree-seeking students can fully engage with their courses. Students must register with SAC to access accommodations, such as having additional time on tests or assistance from notetakers and interpreters. This semester, SAC is working with nearly 800 students.  


On Campus Transition:

Directed by Leigh Belmont, The Arc Jacksonville On Campus Transition Program (OCT) at UNF provides opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to have an authentic college experience. Although these students are not seeking a degree, they audit UNF courses and participate in a full range of campus activities.



Spearheaded under the direction of Dr. Tara Rowe, THRIVE is an optional support program for degree seeking-students with autism. THRIVE provides additional support for social skill development, independence and responsible living skills, executive functioning and career development skills. Currently, THRIVE provides core services to 60 students, with an additional 80 students utilizing THRIVE services. The THRIVE program is one of the first support programs in the country to specifically support matriculating students with ASD and almost 10 years later, continues to provide effective, research-based programmatic supports at no additional cost to students.


Project SEARCH

Under the leadership of John Pitocchelli and Ayeanna McHugh, Project SEARCH is a nine-month internship program for individuals with disabilities. UNF departments across campus can host a Project Search student intern who works with a support team that includes their family, an instructor, and local and state agencies to generate employment goals and to acquire competitive, transferable and marketable job skills.


Since Project Search and UNF started their partnership in 2017, 28 students have interned in various UNF departments including Dining Services, International Center, English Language Program and Ogier Gardens; after program participation, 20 of these interns are now competitively employed in the community.

EDIE also began offering a new disability services concentration within the special education program last fall to help train students to work in professions that support individuals with disabilities. The Bachelor of Arts in Special Education with a concentration in Disability Services is available for students interested in working with individuals with disabilities in non-teaching careers. This unique concentration will prepare candidates to work within agencies or other entities that provide services to individuals with disabilities.