Lakeland Striving for Diversity

Students and faculty of Lakeland are coming together to provide better inclusion opportunities for students on the autism spectrum.  

A handful of students met with faculty members in hopes of creating more inclusive preparations for Lakelands student base. This group of faculty members, which includes Jessica Lambrecht, Barbra Dodge, and Cynthia Lindstrom, have been working on creating a program to help students with disabilities like Asperger’s. 

The program is in its earliest stages and does not have a solid name yet. The process will begin once a student applies to Lakeland. They will then be able to attend an orientation that describes the program and what it hopes to achieve. Individuals who are interested will be asked to go through an interviewing and selection process. For this program to work, the members must be equally dedicated to the program as it is to them. The program will consist mainly of a daily schedule that participants must follow and provide check-ins to staff. This schedule will be tailored to the students and can be altered upon their request.  

There are plenty of students working with the school on this program. Connor Siemerssophomore, is student representing the program. He stated: “I’m hoping to achieve the goal of showing that all voices matter … I understand that society has different viewpoints on aspects of life, but I want to have my thoughts shared as well as give others the chance to accept others for who they are … everyone is different but definitely not less.”  

According to Barbara dodge, Director of University Advancement, the programs goal is to provide support for students on the spectrum. The staff hopes to create something that can increase the graduation rate and help students on the autism spectrum better enjoy their time on campus. The program will also help the community appreciate the talent of these diverse students and better provide employers with the population of students. This is a multi-step program. It will start before student enrollment, continue during their time at Lakeland, and extend to their lives after college. So, participants in this program can expect to be supported even after graduation. 

 “This is all vision at this pointWe hope to have the program started sometime around Fall 2020.” Barbara Dodge stated. Although the program is still in progress, Barbara ensured that the committee behind the program is working hard to get it up and running soon. The program has support from outside partnerships such as Friends of Autism. Training for the staff, students, and community will be provided.  

When asked if she thought a program like this would be beneficial, Tegan Schneider, a junior who has worked with autistic children, commented: “I think that most students at Lakeland don’t know a whole lot about the spectrum. So, I believe a program like this would be great to help everyone understand this population. I think it will be a great way to make Lakeland a better, more inclusive campus.”  

Barbara finished: “This kind of program is already being implemented all over the country. This is not an afterthought; it is part of a bigger process … we want our students to begin talking about the program. We would love feedback and comments about the program!” 

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