Students at UW-Whitewater have a new opportunity to gain expertise in disabilities studies with a certificate program that reflects growing academic interest in the area.
The new interdisciplinary program also supports the university's proud mission and excellent reputation for serving students with disabilities, said Ron Berger, professor of sociology and coordinator of disability studies.
"It's one of the leading campuses in the nation, to say nothing of the state, in this regard,'' Berger said. "We expect a lot of interest, especially from a campus like this.''
Employers want to hire graduates who can work with diverse groups of people, he said, and the new certificate will highlight a student's experience with people with disabilities.
Students with any major or minor may earn the 17-credit disability studies certificate, which will become available this fall. It requires classes in special education, sociology and political science, and offers elective choices in communication, special education, informational technology and English.
A new English course offered this fall, for example, will be literature of disability, taught by Professor Elena Levy-Navarro. It will offer historical perspective on such characters as Shakespeare's hunchback king, Richard III, and Tiny Tim from "A Christmas Carol." Students will also read contemporary texts such as memoirs.
Students in the certificate program must complete an individual project, such as undergraduate research or an internship, and must gain at least 25 hours of experience working in a setting that serves people with disabilities.
"This is going to involve making new contacts with community agencies'' to expand internship opportunities for UW-Whitewater students, Berger said.
The disability studies certificate is expected to appeal especially to students in education and social work, but it also offers opportunities to students in science, psychology, political science, sociology and almost any other discipline.
"It's a way they can demonstrate they have not only thought about this, but have had real-life experience,'' Levy-Navarro said. "I think it would give them a leg up in a lot of jobs."
The certificate program may appeal to students who want to expand their studies in ethical, moral and social justice issues and to students who are friends, family members and allies of people with disabilities.
Some students who have disabilities may be interested in the certificate and could contribute their unique perspectives to class discussions, Levy-Navarro said.
"I'm very excited about this," she said. "They already have a voice, but I think this will give them another way to share their experiences and draw on them.''
For more information on the disability studies certificate, see www.uww.edu/cls/sociology/disability-studies