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August 10, 2011

Professor McConnell appointed to governor's Early Learning Council

Scott McConnellScott McConnell, professor of Educational Psychology and director of community engagement in the Center for Early Education and Development, is one of 22 appointees who will serve on Governor Dayton's Early Learning Council. The council "will be responsible for advising the Governor, the Children's Cabinet, and the legislature on how to increase access to high quality state and federal early childhood care and education programs for all Minnesota learners -- including those who are part of underrepresented and special programs," according to an August 10 press release from the governor's office,

"Minnesota's future success depends upon building an education system that gives every child a chance to succeed," said Governor Dayton. "By starting early we can lay a strong foundation to ensure every learner has the tools to excel in the classroom, in our communities, and in life."

Read the full press release.

August 1, 2011

Hewitt new director of Research and Training Center on Community Living

Thumbnail image for Hewitt_Amy_140pixels_w.jpgAmy Hewitt, Ph.D., has been selected as the new director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC) in the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration (ICI). She will assume the new role effective August 15, 2011, succeeding Charlie Lakin, Ph.D., who has been appointed director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the U.S. Department of Education.

Hewitt has worked at the RTC for the past 20 years and has an extensive background of research, publishing, and training in the areas of services, supports, and policies impacting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has served as coordinator of the College of Education and Human Development's Certificate in Disability Policy and Services, jointly offered through ICI and the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, and is also co-director of the Minnesota LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Disabilities), a joint program of the Department of Pediatrics and ICI. She and her many colleagues within the RTC look forward to continuing to build upon the strong foundation for the center's internationally-respected work developed under Lakin's decades of leadership.

July 15, 2011

New Project on Autism Prevalence

A new project studying the incidence of autism within the Somali community in Minneapolis has been awarded to the University's Department of Pediatrics, Institute on Community Integration, and Department of Educational Psychology, as well as the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The one-year, $400,000 study is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and awarded through the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Principal Investigators are Dr. Michael Reiff, Department of Pediatrics; Amy Hewitt, ICI; Joe Reichle, Educational Psychology; Amy Esler, Pediatrics; and Judy Punkyo, MDH. FFI contact Amy Hewitt at or 612-625-1098.

June 27, 2011

Lakin to lead National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

Charlie Lakin web quality photo.jpgCharlie Lakin joins the U.S. Department of Education as director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research on August 29, 2011. Currently the director of the University of Minnesota's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living, in the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), Lakin will bring to his new position more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, researcher, consultant, and advocate in services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Throughout his career, Lakin's expertise has been widely sought after by federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as disability advocacy organizations, in their efforts to provide quality services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in community settings. He has directed dozens of research and training projects and has authored or co-authored 300 publications that have contributed to the shift in the United States from providing services for persons with developmental disabilities in institutions to supporting community living.

"This is an incredible honor that speaks to Dr. Lakin's outstanding professional career and commitment to individuals with disabilities," said David Johnson, professor and director of ICI.

Among recognitions that Lakin has received for his work are appointment by President Clinton to the President's Committee on Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities' Dybwad Humanitarian Award, the University of Minnesota's Outstanding Community Service Award, and, most recently, the 2010 Research Matters! award from The Arc of the United States.

Lakin holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota, M.A. and M.Ed. degrees in special education from the Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Northern Iowa.

June 21, 2011

Institute on Community Integration featured on the Discovery Channel

A profile of the college's Institute on Community Integration aired on the Discovery Channel on Monday, June 27, 2011. It provides a brief overview of the positive societal changes in attitudes toward, and life options for, people with disabilities in recent decades, and how the work of the institute supports those changes. Included are interview excerpts with institute director David R. Johnson; Martha Thurlow, director of the institute's National Center on Educational Outcomes; and the institute's founder and current University President Bob Bruininks.

The profile is part of a television program called "The Profiles Series," which is hosted by Lou Gossett Jr., and focuses on stories about people and organizations that are making a positive impact in the world. See the series website for more information.

March 16, 2011

Altman, Christensen, and Vang present on Universal Design at conference

Jason Altman, Laurene Christensen, and Mai Vang of the Institute on Community Integration presented at the Minnesota Council for Exceptional Children conference on March 3. Their session was titled, "Universal Design and Accommodations in Classroom Assessment."

A focus on autism in Zambia

A delegation from the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) will fly to Zambia on March 30 for two weeks of work with disability rights leaders developing and improving services and supports for people with disabilities and their families. The trip is part of the work of the Twin Cities Zambia Disability Connection -- a partnership of ICI, Arc Greater Twin Cities, Fraser, Opportunity Partners, and Zambian disability rights leaders -- which was formed in 2008.

This will be the fourth time ICI staff have traveled to Zambia (Zambian delegations visited the Twin Cities in 2008 and 2010), and it will be the first time there has been an emphasis on autism. "The last time our Zambian colleagues were here they had a chance to visit the autism spectrum disorders clinic at the University and a number of autism-specific programs in Minnesota," notes Amy Hewitt, project director. "They asked us to help them build autism expertise in Zambia. This trip is hopefully the first of many exchanges that will focus on autism." To learn more, see the ICI staff newsletter.

January 14, 2011

Stout interviewed on Iowa Public Radio about school lunch as socializing experience

Karen Stout, a Research Associate at the Institute on Community Integration, was interviewed by Iowa Public Radio on December 17, 2010, about school lunch as a socializing experience of schooling. In the interview, she discussed school lunch as an opportunity to teach valued goals of schooling such as sharing, making friends, and taking turns.

Moore receives award to present at Gatlinburg conference

Moore_Tim_140pixels_w.jpgTim Moore, a Research and LEND Post-doctoral Fellow at the college's Institute on Community Integration, has received the Theodore Tjossem Post-doctoral Award from the Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The award covers travel and expenses associated with his March 3 presentation, "Adherence to Treatment in a Behavioral Intervention Curriculum: The Effects of Parent Perception," at the conference in San Antonio, Texas.

December 20, 2010

Rutzen Named to National Board of The Arc of the United States

Kurt Rutzen of the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the Institute on Community Integration has been named one of the new national board members of The Arc of the United States.

December 17, 2010

American Evaluation Assoc. selects Nord for commemorative issue

Nord_Derek.jpgDerek Nord, Research Associate at the Institute on Community Integration, was one of 10 young evaluators selected from 150 submissions to contribute to the 25th anniversary edition of the American Evaluation Association's (AEA) New Directions for Evaluation commemorative issue. Nord's submission will address the challenging future of, and strategies for, evaluating online training and education programs.

Augustine Joins "Prevention Researcher" Advisory Board

Kay Augustine, a Project Coordinator at the Institute on Community Integration, has been selected to serve on the advisory board for Prevention Researcher, a multidisciplinary journal focusing on successful adolescent development, at-risk youth successful adolescent development, and at-risk youth.

October 7, 2010

College's National Center on Educational Outcomes receives grant of $45 million

Quenemoen_Rachel_140w_s.jpgThe U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has awarded $45 million to the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the college's Institute on Community Integration to form a partnership that will develop innovative approaches to alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-12. The new National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC), funded by the Office of Special Education Programs in the USDOE, is a network of national centers and 19 states and is directed by NCEO senior research fellow Rachel Quenemoen and NCEO director Martha Thurlow.

Thurlow_2.jpgOver the next four years, NCSC will build a comprehensive assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards that includes project-developed tools and processes to support educators as they plan and provide appropriate instruction for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. These supports will help Individualized Education Program teams accurately identify the learner characteristics and make appropriate decisions about how each student participates in the overall system of assessments.

In today's schools, all students with disabilities must be participating and making progress in a curriculum based on the academic content standards defined for all students, content that is age-appropriate, engaging, and challenging. Some educators have been concerned about instruction and assessments for such a highly varied group of students, since students with the most significant cognitive disabilities may learn and show what they know in different ways from their classmates. Quenemoen responds to these concerns saying, "Very early on in this work, we found startling evidence that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities were able to master and apply in meaningful ways the academic skills and knowledge that we never before had tried to teach them. We also know that development of new academic assessments cannot ensure improved outcomes for students without other high quality educational practices in place. That is why our project will develop not only a system of assessments to accurately reflect what the students have learned, but we will also build an integrated system of curriculum and instructional materials along with intensive professional development and support to build capacity in our schools to teach these students well."

The NCSC partners include NCEO as the host and fiscal agent, along with the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, the University of Kentucky's Human Development Institute, the College of Education at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, and edCount. The 19 state partners are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, and six U.S. entities in the Pacific Rim. Together they have 90,000 students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-12.

For more information contact Rachel Quenemoen at

See the USDOE announcement.

July 23, 2010

Lakin interviewed on 20th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

Lakinstaff_photo_web_quality_ybgjekxj7.jpgCharlie Lakin, director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living and associate director of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), gave an extensive interview on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) marking the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark piece of legislation aimed to give disabled people the freedom to participate in all realms of life: housing, education, employment and public venues. Twenty years later there have been many accomplishments, but many consider the ADA part of an ambitious social revolution that remains unfinished.

Lakin, who has spent four decades working on disability issues, said Minnesota shouldn't be smug as there's still much to be done in the state. Lakin sees the ADA as a milestone, not a transformation.

"You can walk down a sidewalk, come to a curb cut. You can go to a hotel and you can get in. You can go to restaurant and there's a way to get to a table," he said. "That infrastructure is just terribly, terribly important. But being physically present in society is still not necessarily membership."

Lakin said people with disabilities still feel particularly unwelcome in the workplace. He points to a substantially higher unemployment rate among disabled people, by some estimates as high as 70 percent. But he is encouraged by what he's hearing from the Obama Administration about enforcing the ADA.

The MPR story also includes an interview with ICI community liaison Cliff Poetz.

Listen to the MPR story below.

May 18, 2010

ICI's Check & Connect in The Huffington Post

Check & Connect, a school-engagement program of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), was highlighted in "Solving the Mental Health Crisis for Our Children," a May 6 article in The Huffington Post written by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

Read more about Check & Connect in the spring 2009 issue of Connect.

April 16, 2010

Christensen represents students with disabilities in Gates Foundation workgroup

Laurene Christensen of the National Center on Educational Outcomes served as an expert on students with disabilities in a problem-solving standards workgroup for EdSteps, a Gates Foundation project hosted by CCSSO in Washington, DC, March 16-17.

April 6, 2010

Continuation of the Twin Cities Zambia Disability Connection project

Amy Hewitt, Ph.D., senior research associate and interdisciplinary training director, and Matthew Bogenschutz, research fellow, both at the Institute on Community Integration anticipate the May arrival of a group from Zambia as a continuation of the Twin Cities Zambia Disability Connection project. Hewitt and Bogenschutz are two members of a group from the Institute on Community Integration involved in this grassroots project to build capacity to support children with disabilities and their families in Zambia where there is no social service structure in place to support people with disabilities.

Since the project began in 2007, Hewitt has seen funding come together that has enabled University faculty and students to travel to Zambia to promote understanding of disabilities and assist in the networking of care providers across the country. Hewitt notes that the high energy surrounding this project despite the low-level of funding is indicative of the commitment and passion people have for this project.

Last summer Bogenschutz was part of a group that traveled to Zambia. The goal of the trip was to raise awareness of disabilities at a community level and provide further training and encouragement to existing care providers. Bogenschutz believes that the support offered by the team in Zambia was a solid starting point for future development.

Hewitt parallels Zambia with the U.S. half a century ago when disabilities were linked to feelings of pity and shame. This project aims to guide communities to the arena of social justice where people with disabilities are not hidden, but included as partners within their community.

February 16, 2010

Community integration expert testifies before Minnesota House committee

Hewitt_Amy_140pixels_w.jpgAmy Hewitt, Ph.D, of the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the Institute on Community Integration, testified on consumer-directed community supports for people with disabilities before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy and Oversight committee on February 9.

Altman presents at assistive technology conference

Altman_Jason_140pixels_w.jpgJason Altman of the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the Institute on Community Integration presented "Exploring Assistive Technology Issues in the Instruction and Assessment of Students with Visual Impairments" at the Assistive Technology Industry Association's annual conference in Orlando, January 28.

November 24, 2009

Thurlow Appointed to Core Standards Committee

Thurlow_2.jpgDr. Martha Thurlow, Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes in the College's Institute on Community Integration, has been appointed to serve on the Validation Committee for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, an initiative of the National Governors Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This committee is tasked with reviewing and verifying the standards development process and resulting evidence-based college- and career-readiness standards for states in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

October 19, 2009

ICI Staff Present at National Disability Mentoring Day

Three Institute on Community Integration (ICI) staff presented at Minnesota's 2009 Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) event in Duluth on October 13th. Chris Bremer spoke to young adults with disabilities about how to exercise their right to vote; Joe Timmons, presented strategies young people with learning disabilities can use to succeed in the workplace; and Sharon Mulé spoke to parents about focusing and building on students' strengths to enhance employability.

Larson Recognized by Governor's Council

LarsonS-2w.gifSheryl A. Larson, Ph.D., of the Research and Training Center on Community Living in the Institute on Community Integration, was recognized by the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities for her five years of service on the council at an October 7 event for outgoing members. The Council promotes independence, productivity, self-determination, integration and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families throughout Minnesota.

August 19, 2009

ICI Co-Hosts Arts & Disability Symposium at Weisman Art Museum, October 30

arts_symposium_150w.gifAn engaging symposium focusing on strengthening opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities to participate in the arts will be held at the University's Weisman Art Museum on October 30. "Changing Landscapes: Symposium on the Arts & Disability" is being sponsored by a coalition of University and community organizations to bring together artists with disabilities, disability service providers, arts instructors, arts advocates, University faculty/staff/students, and others from around the state to share ideas for supporting and increasing involvement of individuals with disabilities in the arts. Registration is now open at the symposium Web page.

July 20, 2009

Pediatrics, ICI Partner on New Neurodevelopmental Disabilities LEND

On July 1 the University of Minnesota became home to the state's first-ever federally-funded LEND program (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities), coordinated by the Department of Pediatrics and the Institute on Community Integration (ICI). Funded by a two-year, $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, to the Department of Pediatrics, the Minnesota LEND is an interdisciplinary training program preparing future leaders who will serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in health care, education, human services, and policy settings.

July 9, 2009

ICI's Jeffrey Nurick Profiled on Fox9 News

Jeffrey Nurick of the Institute on Community Integration was featured in a July 8 Fox9 News story in which he talked about what he's learned about doing a successful job search as a person with a disability.

May 19, 2009

New Grants to Exhibit Art by People with Disabilities

sunset_painting.gifThe Changing Landscapes Committee at the Institute on Community Integration, co-chaired by Megan Dushin and Pat Salmi, has received a $10,000 grant from the University’s Imagine Fund (supported by a generous donation from the McKnight Foundation), plus a $3,500 grant from the University’s Innovation, Diversity, Equity, and Achievement (IDEA) fund, to produce an arts and disability symposium and exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum in fall 2009. The print shown was painted by Richard Brown, an artist with Partnership Resources, Inc.

April 17, 2009

ICI in “Think College” Consortium Addressing Students With Disabilities in Higher Ed

The College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is part of a national consortium developing “Think College,” a set of resources to support access to, and success in, postsecondary education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The consortium includes ICI, the Institute for Community Inclusion (University of Massachusetts, Boston), Center on Disability Studies (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Center for Disability Studies (University of Delaware), Nisonger Center (The Ohio State University), Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (Vanderbilt University), Center for Disability Resources (University of South Carolina), Tarjan Center (UCLA), and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. To learn more, see the story in the April issue of the ICI staff newsletter.

March 17, 2009

"Check & Connect" Tackles K-12 Dropout Prevention

On March 30-31 the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is presenting training on the Minneapolis campus for representatives of school districts and youth organizations from across the U.S. and Canada desiring assistance in implementing the school engagement intervention, "Check & Connect." Initially developed through a federally-funded research project in 1990 to address the high rate of dropout among secondary students with disabilities, "Check & Connect" has been continuously revised and expanded over the past 19 years to be effective with students with or without disabilities in elementary, middle, and high school. Today it is one of 22 dropout prevention interventions rated by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse and the only program found to have strong evidence of positive effects for staying in school. To learn more "Check & Connect" see

ICI and EdPsy Launch New Postsecondary Project

On March 1, the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) and the Department of Educational Psychology launched "Making the Connection: Engaging and Retaining Young Adults in Postsecondary Education," a two-year research project funded by a $727,237 grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). The project will study adaptation of Check & Connect – a K-12 school engagement intervention developed at ICI – to community college settings for use with students ages 18-30 who are at risk of leaving school. To learn more, see