By Kathryn White
Last year, The Denver North Star introduced readers to Jen Anderman and Regis University’s new GLOBAL Inclusive program, an academic experience for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). It’s a one-, two-, or three-year program designed with the Jesuit principle of cura personalis (care for the whole person) in mind. Students take specially designed and integrated courses and are supported by peer mentoring, academic success coaching, career services and a dedicated dorm setting for those who live on campus.
Anderman, who was excited and a little nervous about heading off to college last year, is back at Regis for her second year of the program. We visited her on campus recently and met up with all 18 GLOBAL Inclusive first- and second-year students, as well as the staff who support them, Dr. Jeanine Coleman, Lauren Gray and Morgan McNeill.
Students were energized by college life and eager to share about their experiences on campus, in the dorms and in their classes. And since many across North Denver have the possibility of college on their minds this time of year, we invited the students we met to write and draw about how college life is going for them and to offer advice for those thinking about college for themselves.
We found their responses insightful and inspiring, and have selected a sampling of what they contributed to share with our readers.
Mason Rice, first-year student
Student government is a unique club that listens to the whole student body and helps the student body by organizing and hosting events and discussing issues occurring on campus. People on the student council will brainstorm ideas for how to help students in general. I got elected to be in the student government at Regis University on my first run because of my background.
What is it like to live in the dorms? Only one word comes to mind when it comes to living in the dorms with people you don’t even know all too well: MAYHEM!!! There are many people in the dorms. So many people that arguments on certain subjects during conversations can quickly put you on other people’s bad side. So, it’s important to get to know other people so that in the future you and that person can find common ground on things you both like and start building your friendship and seeing where the friendship takes you.
Hilary Olivares, integrated undergraduate classmate
I have admired that our campus is welcoming of everyone and anyone of all backgrounds. Because I myself don’t have a disability, I don’t face challenges in my day-to-day life. Getting to be in a class that partners with the GLOBAL Inclusive Program has been an honor because I get to learn more about the lives of those who have a disability. I love how everyone in my first-year writing class isn’t afraid to be themselves and how we acknowledge that we have different needs and ways of learning. My biggest takeaways from this class have been watching documentaries such as “Crip Camp” and reading essays on visible and invisible disabilities in the book “Disability Visibility.”
Regis has made the space around us inclusive for everyone, allowing the proper accommodations for those in the GLOBAL Inclusive Program. Interacting with students that are a part of the GLOBAL Inclusive Program has been really fun and wholesome.
Jen Anderman, second-year student
My favorite professor this year, besides Dr. Jeanine Coleman, would have to be Dr. Raul Dominguez. He’s my choir teacher and he gave me a shot to sing when no one else at Regis could. He makes music fun both for me and my fellow choir ladies. My other favorite professor is Dr. Jeanine because not only is she the founder of our wonderful program but she also is teaching a special education class this fall.
The dorms can be fun. There are a lot of fun neighbors around me so that way I am never alone here at Regis. They have community assistants and community developments assistants, and even our student president lives in our same building on the same floor as all of us. They do have fire drills late at night so we’ll know just what to do in case there is an emergency.
One of the most important things about being a second-year student is that we all have internships. My internship is very understanding of me and about how I’m in college, so I only work two hours a week.
Stella Cahalan, peer mentor
During my first few months as a peer mentor, I have been surrounded by love and compassion and thoroughly look forward to my time with the GLOBAL Inclusive students. They have taught me just as much as I have taught them. Higher education is very beneficial to those with intellectual disabilities, just as it is for me. For students in the GLOBAL Inclusive Program, the social aspect of college is a meaningful and crucial part of their days. Interacting with typical college students in and out of the classroom puts huge smiles on their faces. They are proud of themselves and all they achieved to get to Regis. Being a peer mentor has allowed me to meet many Regis students I would not have met otherwise.
A student with disabilities deserves the same resources, support and guidance throughout their college experience as any other student. Exposure to individuals different than ourselves can change our outlook on life. Each college student struggles with different aspects of independent living. It can be easy to support those who have the same challenges as ourselves. Universities would look different if more students embraced helping those who look and act different than themselves. Working as a peer mentor was a very natural decision for me as someone who is passionate about supporting those with disabilities in education and disability ministry. To all who are worried about interactions with students that do not look “normal,” I want to tell them that these students are some of the kindest, funniest and most caring people I have ever come across. Their contagious energy for life and each other keeps me engaged and ready to work with them every day.
Caring people are at the core of the solutions that are needed on college campuses for students with disabilities to thrive. Yes, we need more ramps. Yes, we need more modifications inside of the classroom. But ultimately, we need more empathetic and courageous students on campuses, willing to be the helping hand in someone else’s day.
Andrew Regan, first-year student
My favorite professor here at Regis University is Dr. Bryan Hall because we talk about different philosophers. My favorite class is philosophy because we talk about different cultures and people of the world from Plato to John Locke.
The advice I want to give to future students is to be yourself and have fun at college. I know it can be very changeling and very hard. You got this. I believe in you that you can do amazing things.
Schuyler K., first-year student
The advice I would give to first-year students is to keep your head up and keep an open mind. It is really important to learn that your choices reflect on your actions. You do not want to look back at your life with regrets, like I have. Being in college is a fixed point in your life. This is your pathway to adulthood. Talking about adulthood and adaptation is a big part of this. Because this is really preparing yourself for jobs and knowing what sort of responsibilities and resources there are in the working field.
It is a really good idea to get to know different people so you can expand your friendships. I have made many friends at Regis University. It is nice to live on campus because of opportunities to walk around and get to know the campus. Living in the dorms is nice. You get a room with either yourself or with a roommate. There are flaws in both. The flaw with being on your own is that you have to be responsible for your own possessions. But you get the freedom of when you go to bed because sometimes if you have a roommate that can be rocky. Because both of you have to agree on the time when you go to sleep.