Grant covers tuition costs for grad students to work with high-intensity needs population

Published 9:58 am Monday, January 6, 2020

JOHNSON CITY — A new $1.24 million grant awarded to East Tennessee State University will fund educational costs for a group of graduate students whose career goals are to work with young people who have high-intensity support needs, such as persons with multiple disabilities, significant Autism or significant cognitive, physical or sensory disabilities.

“There is a dire need for these specialists across the nation,” said Dr. Pamela Mims, associate dean for Research and Grants in ETSU’s Clemmer College. “Schools, in particular, are witnessing high turnover rates among special education teachers who serve students with severe and multiple disabilities.”

This new grant, written by Mims and colleagues and funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, will provide financial assistance for graduate students in special education and speech-language pathology who are selected to participate in the project.

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“Our goal is to fill this service gap of professionals and to offer a program that is structured around an interdisciplinary, collaborative model,” Mims explained. “In addition to their own program of study, students in special education and speech-language pathology will have shared clinical experiences and seminars and learn evidence-based practices from faculty in fields such as nutrition, pediatrics, early childhood, and physical and occupational therapy who are leading experts in working with students with high-intensity support needs.”

Mims said that interested students will need to apply for the interdisciplinary program, and those selected will receive tuition reimbursement as well as funds to cover books and travel. In return, the student will commit to working in the field after graduation serving this population.

Admission into the program will be competitive. Prospective students who are interested in starting a graduate program in special education or speech-language pathology in fall 2020 are eligible to apply.

Mims will serve as director of the project along with Dr. Cindy Chambers, associate dean for Educator Preparation, Clemmer College. Project faculty are Dr. Dawn Rowe, associate professor of Educational Foundations and Special Education, Clemmer College; and Dr. Brenda Louw, chair of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences.

For more information, call 423-439-7145 or email