The School of Education and the Morrison Family College of Health School of Social Work recently received a $1.2 million grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education. The grant supports the Trauma-Informed Interdisciplinary Practices (TIIP) project, a collaboration between the two schools.
From this grant, eight education and eight social work students will each receive one-year, $10,000 scholarships. The grant provides scholarships for the next five years.
“We know that we need to support early childhood special education teachers and social workers as they work with some of our youngest members of society,” said Dr. Kathlene Campbell, dean of the School of Education. “By embedding trauma-informed and culturally affirming practices, we are helping equip our graduates to de-escalate situations that may occur in early learning programs, classrooms, and schools and form positive relationships with children.”
The aim of the grant is to increase the number of culturally responsible social workers and special educators prepared to support early intervention needs of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children with disabilities. Scholarship recipients will participate in interdisciplinary coursework, field placements and learning communities. Students will gain skills to serve children with high-intensity needs and those from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.
“This grant will remove financial barriers and help us advance the common good by preparing individuals from diverse cultural communities to fill critical shortages in early childhood special education and social work, and serve children with disabilities,” said Dr. Renee Hepperlen, associate professor of social work and one of the lead grant writers. “I am excited to work with faculty from the School of Education on this initiative that will impact our students as well as the families and children they will serve.”
This is the second time that the School of Education has earned the highly competitive OSEP grant. In 2016, St. Thomas was awarded $1.1 million to help increase the number of educators specializing in autism spectrum disorder. Over the past five years, this scholarship has helped 70 students earn their teaching license in this critically important area.
“I’m proud that our university will play a role in filling national, state and district shortages in serving children with disabilities – especially those from culturally diverse communities,” said Dr. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan, professor of special education and another lead grant writer. Stansberry Brusnahan was also the project director of the 2016 OSEP grant. Co-project director, Dr. Bonnie Ingelin in the School of Education, and project adviser Dr. Katharine Hill in the School of Social Work, also contributed to the grant writing.
The School of Education and the Morrison Family College of Health have a history of collaboration. In February 2021, the two programs announced the launch of the Minnesota Institute for Trauma-Informed Education (MITIE).
“Children with disabilities and their families, particularly those who have immigrated to the United States, often experience trauma due to instability and violence they experienced in their country of origin,” said Dr. MayKao Y. Hang, vice president, strategic initiatives and founding dean of the Morrison Family College of Health. “This partnership, in addition to leveraging experts from MITIE, will help reduce disparities in education and social work and advance professional practice in both areas to benefit children who would not otherwise receive the skilled support they need to thrive.”