Inclusive Post-Secondary Education program adds new credential

Four courses added to program for students with developmental disabilities

First-year student Will Dodge-Smith.

First-year student Will Dodge-Smith is the first student eligible to receive an IPSE Extension Certificate from the Faculty of Continuing Education upon completion of his studies in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education (BHPE) program.

Taking an online course during the pandemic motivated Will Dodge-Smith to reapply to the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) program at Mount Royal University.

That bit of synchronicity means that the 28-year-old is the first student eligible to receive an IPSE Extension Certificate from the Faculty of Continuing Education upon completion of his studies through the program, which includes four newly created courses. In the IPSE program, students with developmental disabilities attend credit courses with the support of an education facilitator.

“I originally applied in 2013 after I graduated (from Bishop O’Byrne High School in Calgary). I made it to the end of the interview process, but at that time they were only accepting one or two students,” Dodge-Smith says. “Since then, I upgraded my high school English, took a business skills course and some music appreciation courses. During COVID, I started taking an online course, Health Promotion and Training. It reignited my passion for learning.”

Dodge-Smith, a dedicated bodybuilder and fitness buff, is in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education (BHPE) program. Previously, IPSE students received a certificate of completion in their program of study upon finishing their fourth year.

“We wanted to formally acknowledge the learning and work that occurs over those four years with the new IPSE Extension Certificate. This credential makes graduates more marketable after their studies and is part of a strong foundation for a rewarding post-university life and career,” says program administrator Craig Baskett.

“The goal of inclusive post-secondary education is to make full inclusion the norm, rather than attempting to ‘normalize’ students with developmental disabilities. IPSE students spend four years having a typical university experience — auditing credit courses, doing modified tests and assignments, connecting with their peers, taking part in campus life.”

Since the program started in 2006, approximately 45 IPSE students have studied in a range of disciplines, from computer science to criminology, social work to health and physical education. They audit the courses, which means they do not receive credits on their University transcript. Education facilitators assist students in choosing course loads and classes, and modify course materials to students’ abilities with input from instructors. The facilitators provide tutoring and support in keeping track of assignments, exams and more.

New courses support skill development

During the fall and winter semesters, IPSE students take a variety of programs of study throughout the University based on their interests. With the addition of the extension certificate, students will now study one of four new IPSE-specific courses in the spring and summer semesters. The newly created courses — Community Citizenship, Language Skills, Personal Management Skills and Professional Skills — are designed to fill skill gaps and provide a fully rounded educational experience to students.

“At Mount Royal, students are supported throughout their studies to ensure they get the most out of their classes and graduate with practical skills and knowledge they can use throughout their careers and lives. We are proud to be the first Inclusive Post-Secondary Education program in Alberta to offer this credential,” says Elizabeth Evans, interim provost and vice-president, Academic. “The new certification is in recognition of the hard work and commitment our students bring to their studies through IPSE.”

Currently, education facilitators Sara Hakimi and Amanda Wilson support six IPSE students, each of whom is in their own four-year academic cycle. Students connect with their classmates, get involved in on-campus extra-curricular activities and events and pursue interest-specific practicum and work opportunities while in the program.

“While a large part of the university experience can be found in the classroom, having all our students take part in the ‘extras’ of being a student enriches the fabric of Mount Royal,” says Brad Mahon, dean, Faculty of Continuing Education. “IPSE students are encouraged to take part in post-secondary life, from joining intramurals to building a social circle. I am excited to welcome Will to the Mount Royal community and look forward to hearing how his studies are progressing and how he is experiencing university life.”

Like it is for many first-year students, coming to campus is a mix of excitement and nerves for Dodge-Smith. In addition to his online HPED orientation, he had a campus orientation with Hakimi. His first day of classes went well and he’s confident he has what it takes to make the most of his experience at Mount Royal.

“My strengths are having an open mind and voicing my opinion on things, and being open to new experiences,” Dodge-Smith says. “Hopefully I can find out what I am truly passionate about and also discover some new passions along the way.”

Sept. 17, 2021 — Ruth Myles

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