THRIVING THROUGH INTERNSHIPS: GEOSCIENCE FACULTY PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL AND INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
The University of Central Missouri (UCM) runs a program called THRIVE, a 2-year residential college experience, which helps young adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities through the transition from home to independent living. Participants have a strong desire to become an independent adult, possessing sufficient emotional stability and maturity to successfully participate in the program. In the second year, students do an internship based on his or her individual strengths allowing opportunities that match the student’s skills and interests.
During the 2012-13 academic year, we hosted two students as interns working on projects in the micropaleontology lab and the herbarium at UCM. Both venues provided these students the opportunity to be involved in scientific research while working on self-reliance, independence, new skills, job skills, and aptitude, which are among the main goals of THRIVE.
Both the THRIVE students and faculty mentors learned a great deal from these internships, making them a win-win experience for everyone. We learned that what seems extremely tedious to us (“picking fossils”) was fascinating to the interns, who each developed their own strategies for working with the material. Each student gained confidence in their ability to complete the tasks, and were proud to be “doing science.” We learned the importance of encouragement, goal setting, and tailoring tasks to student’s needs and abilities. This insight can also apply to traditional student interns as well.
Although the internships were designed specifically for these students, it is clear that their diligence and commitment to success has demonstrated that including disabled students on research projects is beneficial to both student and faculty mentor. We hope that other researchers consider creating similar laboratory opportunities for disabled adults who have a strong interest and/or passion in geosciences.