By Kathryn White
Jen Anderman supposes that when she unpacks her suitcase at the Regis University dorms in mid-August, she could feel “kind of strange, and also I’ll feel kind of nervous and excited.” Anderman talks about her upcoming college experience with excitement in her voice.
She’s ready to spread her wings and explore her interests in creative writing, public speaking, and health care. She wouldn’t mind also connecting with a choir.
Anderman will attend Regis as part of the inaugural group of students in the university’s GLOBAL Inclusive Program, a new academic certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). It’s a one-, two-, or three-year program designed with the Jesuit principle of cura personalis (care for the whole person) in mind. Students will take specially designed and integrated courses and be supported by peer mentoring, academic success coaching, career services, and a dedicated residential life experience for those who choose to live on campus.
Students will join in campus events, activities, clubs, and organizations, with peer mentors helping them get plugged into college life. Some will have work-study jobs on campus. And when a student finishes the program, they’ll be awarded a Credential of Completion at the University’s annual commencement ceremonies. Some may go on to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or into a work setting.
“My work over the years has signaled that students with an intellectual and developmental disability have an incredible opportunity to grow, and to make positive contributions to our society,” said Karen Riley, provost of Regis University. “The GLOBAL Inclusive Program will emphasize personal growth along with work and career exploration. Our job as a university is to facilitate the development of our students to prepare them to live lives of purpose.”
And there’s a great need out there. Riley reports that at public institutions where similar programs exist, only about a third of applicants get in.
“Currently an underserved population in our society consists of late adolescents and young adults with intellectual disabilities,” she said. “We were fortunate to have a great donor in the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, as well as the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation. We conducted a feasibility study with them and found that this would be a viable and sustainable program. And so they funded the first three years of the program and got us up and running.”
The Regis program is unique, Riley said.
“We’re meeting students where they are. We don’t have a prescribed curriculum where every student has to do the same thing,” she said. “Not all students are ready to do the same things. Not every student needs or wants to do the same thing. It’s a developmental approach that facilitates growth. None of the other programs in the country are designed that way.”
The Anderman family learned about other programs, Jen’s mother, Elizabeth, recounts, “but Regis is including an academic piece. Students are involved in the intellectual life of the university. So many programs for people with special needs include participating in campus life or the rec life, but not the intellectual life. Regis is providing a unique opportunity.”
Elizabeth Anderman also appreciates the uniquely Jesuit approach Regis is taking.
“We think it’s cool because they have those values that they’re really living by,” she said. “Caring for the whole person. They’re willing to engage in conversations about a lot of different subjects. It’s a deep approach to including religion in your life, instead of just ‘here are the rules, do it.’ That fits our family. Living your spirituality and faith, not just checking boxes.”
And it’s clear Jen Anderman is ready for the growth opportunities Riley highlights. She’s performed in musicals at her former high school, Thomas Jefferson, and with Phamaly Theater Company. She’s completed prerequisite and day surgery rotations through Project Health at UCHealth.
Whether it’s in the classroom or through extra-curriculars, Anderman has plenty of passions to build on. And like many students starting college this fall, once she’s mastered her schedule and the campus layout, she’ll likely find a few new passions to pursue.
Regis will enroll students into the GLOBAL Inclusive Program each semester. If you know someone who would be interested, you can find more information and apply at www.regis. edu/GLOBAL.