External review reaffirms importance of SRU’s Rock Life program
Slippery Rock University will continue to offer its Rock Life program, which provides students with intellectual or developmental disabilities a path to competitive employment and lifelong wellness.
July 6, 2022
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Following an external review by independent consultants, Slippery Rock University will continue to offer its Rock Life program, which provides students with intellectual or developmental disabilities a path to competitive employment and lifelong wellness. Beginning in fall 2023, Rock Life will institute a redesigned curriculum as part of a four-year program. The external review included interviews with SRU administration and faculty; Rock Life program staff; Rock Life students, coaches and parents; representatives of the Student Affairs and Student Life offices; and community stakeholders.
"As one of the first post-secondary programs for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the state, Rock Life has become part of the fabric of Slippery Rock University," said David Wilmes, SRU's chief student affairs officer. "I'm enormously proud to be part of the team entrusted with ensuring its long-term future and can't wait to launch the redesigned program in fall 2023."
Beginning immediately, Rock Life will transition from the College of Education to the Office of Disability Services, within the division of Student Affairs. Natalie Burick will serve as the new director of the Rock Life program, in addition to her current role as director of the ODS.
"Dr. Burick has long been one of SRU's foremost champions for the mission of Rock Life and for the inclusion of students with intellectual or developmental disabilities in all aspects of campus life at SRU," Wilmes said. "She has led the ODS for the last four years and is well qualified and experienced in assessing student strengths and support needs, providing services and accommodations for students with disabilities, collaborating with all departments within Student Life, and communicating and working with community partners."
Working with Burick will be Zachary Baynham, the current coordinator of the Rock Life program, who also will move to the ODS and continue his role as the coordinator of the program. Jessica Hall-Wirth, assistant professor of special education, will assist with the transition of the program from the College of Education to Student Affairs.
Beginning this summer and continuing through fall 2022, the Rock Life staff will be creating a new. curriculum based on a combination of specialized coursework, inclusive and meaningful academic experiences, career exploration/vocational preparation, and functional living skills. This will be a four-year program leading to a Rock Life certificate. The new curriculum is scheduled to take effect for students enrolling in fall 2023. All currently enrolled students will be able to continue in the existing program, with access to all support services they have now.
"There are far more students with disabilities attending colleges and universities than ever before," Burick said. "Seeing these students be successful on this campus is extraordinarily fulfilling for me. I am thrilled to lead the Rock Life program and help even more students realize their dream of going to college."
Now in its fifth year, Rock Life is one of only 250 such programs in the United States where students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, take classes without earning credit, experience college, and earn a non-degree credential after completing two or four years.
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