Creating Inclusive Campus Communities: The Vital Role of Peer Mentorship in Inclusive Higher Education
Keywords:Disability, inclusion, higher education, mentoring, accessibility
Across the country, colleges are opening their doors to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At University of Rochester (UR), we coordinate one such initiative called “Transition Opportunities at University of Rochester (TOUR).” Inclusive higher education at UR is based on the philosophy that ACCESS + SUPPORT = SUCCESS. In order to help our campus grow in intellectual diversity, we cannot simply open our doors to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).We must also provide support to help students thrive academically and socially during their college education.
At the heart of TOUR are symbiotic mentoring relationships. When traditional undergraduates mentor fellow students with IDD, they gain academic and teaching skills, greater disability/diversity awareness, and an understanding of how and why inclusive communities are valuable. In turn, students with IDD find greater inclusion on their campus and invaluable academic and social skills that will launch them into self-determined lives as contributing citizens of their community.
This paper will focus especially on the growth of academic inclusion on our campus, strategies for training and supporting undergraduate academic coaches, and stories about the impact of these peer mentoring relationships on traditional UR students, their colleagues with disabilities, and our campus as a whole.
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