Tina Vires, Director for Accessibility and the Program for Alternative Learning Styles (PALS) at Limestone College, recently became the first person to earn a Graduate Certificate in Post-Secondary Disability Services from St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa.
Left to right: Limestone President Dr. Walt Griffin, Tina Vires (Director of PALS), and Dr. William Hitchings of St. Ambrose University.
Vires is a 2008 graduate of Limestone. She completed St. Ambrose's Master of Education program, specializing in post-secondary disability services, in July, 2012.
"As a result of the most recent amendments to the American with Disabilities Act (ADAAA), the definition of an individual with a disability has broadly expanded," said Vires. "The number of students with disabilities entering college is increasing and we want to competently meet their needs, particularly in the spirit of Limestone's mission to '...offer opportunities for personal and professional growth to individuals who may find access to higher education difficult.'"
Dr. William E. Hitchings, Director of the Graduate Postsecondary Disability Program at St. Ambrose, served as professor and advisor to Vires. He creatively tailored program curriculum to the specific needs of Limestone. "The end result," explained Vires, "is a disability services program that is current with legal requirements, has the ability to effectively disseminate necessary information to faculty and staff, has developed an appropriate strategic plan for continued growth and development, and most importantly, is able to more efficiently and effectively serve bright college students who happen to have disabilities."
Hitchings was pleased to accommodate Vires' request for a degree in postsecondary disability services. "We at St. Ambrose are very proud of Tina. The level of commitment and knowledge displayed by her was absolutely amazing. In fact, Tina's knowledge and the suggestions she made for changes to the curriculum led to a presentation at the 2011 Postsecondary Training Institute sponsored by the University of Connecticut," said Dr. Hitchings. Vires and Hitchings returned for a follow-up presentation in June, 2012.
Hitchings also noted that "Over the past ten years, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of students with disabilities seeking to continue their education. And, this trend is expected to continue for some time. Programs like the ones we have at St. Ambrose are crucial because these institutions, both community and four-year, are searching for qualified personnel to work with students who have disabilities and who, with additional assistance, can be successful."
Limestone has long offered disability services for any student meeting disability criteria. PALS was designed to offer accountability and enhancement of academic support services for students with specific learning disabilities so that they may become independent self-advocates who have the tools necessary for a college-level academic environment. PALS features accountability meetings, academic coaches, organizational coaches, a learning specialist, subject-specific and monitored study halls, and one-on-one tutoring opportunities.