The University of Oklahoma and the University of Arkansas have partnered to help meet the need for transition-based special education services with a project titled Razorback-Sooner Scholars: Leaders for Transition.
The project is being funded through a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
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. 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.
Project leads are Kendra Williams-Diehm from OU, and Suzanne Kucharczyk from the University of Arkansas. Both are special education program coordinators at their respective universities.
“There is a shortage of university professors knowledgeable in transition education,” said Williams-Diehm, an associate professor of special education at OU. “This grant and partnership will help the next generation of professors, and thus pre-service educators, have this knowledge. It is very exciting.”
The project will recruit, train, support and prepare leaders at higher education institutions to, in turn, prepare future 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.
Oklahoma and Arkansas 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. 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.
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 tuition and fee waivers, 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 agenda and methodological expertise with support from faculty and scholars from both universities.
Scholar applications at the University of Oklahoma are due by Feb. 1 for fall 2020 admission.