Opportunity for All: OSU welcomes new group of scholars with intellectual disabilities
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Media Contact: Kirsi McDowell | Senior Communications Specialist | 405-744-9347 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Every August, new students make their way to Stillwater to begin their Oklahoma State University journey. They settle into their residence halls, prepare for classes and find their way around campus.
This fall, five Opportunity Orange Scholars will be joining the new class of Cowboys and Cowgirls.
Opportunity Orange Scholars (OOS) is Oklahoma’s newest inclusive postsecondary education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. OOS provides a college path for in-state students who previously have not had the opportunity to attend due to the level of support they require.
“The planning for a postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disability on the OSU campus has been a long time in the making and is key to continuing our mission as a land-grant university,” said Dr. Jennifer Jones, director of the OSU Institute for Developmental Disabilities.
OOS is housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Education and Human Sciences, but key stakeholders from across university and state have spent the last several years laying the groundwork for OOS to welcome its first cohort this fall.
OOS students are fully immersed in the OSU experience — living, learning, working and playing on campus. Scholars live in residence halls alongside other OSU students and take classes toward earning a two-year non-degree certificate in Career and Community Studies. An additional, two-year, non-degree advanced certificate in Community Living and Engagement is also available. The education and experience OOS students are gaining prepares them for independent living and competitive employment post-college.
Dr. Emily Tucker, a two-time OSU alumna in human development and family science, serves as program director for Opportunity Orange Scholars. Tucker has received positive feedback from partners across campus who are enthusiastic and ready to engage with OOS.
“It has been so encouraging to see such widespread support for OOS across the university. We have a phenomenal advisory board and have consistently had people across campus who are just excited about the program and want to support our students in any way they can,” Tucker said.
OOS employs several student staff members who support scholars as they navigate living on campus and participating in campus life activities, manage academic coursework and pursue career goals.
Human development and family science undergraduate junior Meaghan Sitar is an OOS Engagement Partner, helping OOS students identify campus clubs and organizations that match their personal interests.
After taking a class on developmental disabilities, Sitar discovered a new passion and applied to be an engagement partner.
“This position was the perfect for me to continue exploring this passion as well as give me the opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge to others,” Sitar said. “I am most excited for the learning experience, supporting these students and also learning from them and alongside them.”
While OOS directly benefits students who are part of the program, OOS is also enriching and expanding the Oklahoma State community. Tucker is excited about the relationships that will develop between students, faculty and staff across campus with the Opportunity Orange Scholars cohort.
“I think it’s really important for everyone to understand that people with intellectual disability can be part of universities in a way that is meaningful and beneficial for all,” Tucker said.
Story By: Katie Lacey | ASPIRE Magazine
Photos By: Kelly Kerr