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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Off the Beaten Course: ARP 568

A Kessler Foundation grant helped create a course offering internships and work experience for students with disabilities.
By SDSU News Team

Off the Beaten Course is a series that delves into SDSU's course catalog to share unique and non-traditional classes.

The employment rate for individuals with disabilities is far lower than for the general population. Even with a college degree, many individuals with disabilities continue to be unemployed or underemployed.

A grant provided by the Kessler Foundation was used to create a new course that helps disabled individuals earn valuable experience. The course — Adult Education in Contemporary Society — is designed to give students the skills and confidence to help them achieve their dream jobs.

Open to both undergraduates and graduates, the course is available to students in all majors. Current students can get an add code from Caren Sax, chair of San Diego State University's Administration Rehabilitation and Post-Secondary Education department.

Course instructor Bill Lacey talks about the inspiration and results for ARP 568.

1) What inspired you to create this course?

Students with disabilities who earn college degrees continue to be underemployed compared to their peers. There’s untapped talent, so we looked for another way to support the success of students with disabilities. 

We were funded by the Kessler Foundation to offer a course to explore and practice skills to make students more employable — building experience, confidence and connections to pursue their dream jobs.

We added in partnerships with the Business Leadership Network to support apprenticeships, internships and mentoring, and are building on all the valuable resources available at SDSU, with the added component of more customized and personalized supports.

The course is offered here, at the University of California, Berkeley, and at California State University, Fullerton, and is gaining momentum in a few other states.

2) What can students expect to learn from this course?

The course offers students strategies on how to address difficult interview situations pertaining to their disability. For example; whether or not to disclose they have a disability. This decision is best made once they weigh how such a decision can have a direct positive or negative impact on the employment experience.

Additionally, students come to a further realization that they are the best source of education not only to employers, but to society as a whole, and their capabilities are the driving force behind success.

Lastly, students learn how to appropriately promote themselves without under- or over-selling. They can expect to have their personal cover letter and resume reviewed, as well as participate in a formal and consultative interview.

3) What makes this course different from similar courses?

This course is very participatory. Students are expected to share experiences that have led them to the class. They often have experienced many of the lecture topics discussed in the curriculum, and that leads to productive class discussions. Hopefully a student leaves this course with more self-confidence and feels better prepared to pursue their vocation of choice.

4) Is there one day on the syllabus for this course you most look forward to? If yes, why?

I most look forward to the session where the students are asked to complete their "bragology" and write a positive story activity. This session is three quarters into the semester and you begin to see an emerging self-confidence in their capabilities, experience, and education. It's a transformational class for them because they are describing all of the positive traits that can benefit an employer.

5) What’s your favorite thing about teaching this course?

I recently had a former student contact me and state that he is so appreciative of the class because prior to it, he had not been in an interview in 15 years. Since taking the class, he has had five interviews and all of prospective employers wanted to hire him. This shows that he took full advantage of the course and its curriculum and applied it to his life. That's my reward as a teacher.

6) Any other thoughts?

My students are inspiring because they are very eager and motivated to show the workforce they are viable candidates for employment. The course helps achieve the self-confidence to do it.