Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Syracuse University receives $1.1 million for Center for Inclusive Higher Education

From The Daily Orange at Syracuse University:

Syracuse University received a $1.1 million gift from the Taishoff Family Foundation Friday in Washington, D.C.

The money will go toward the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, in the School of Education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The center will focus on research and training for teachers in inclusive education, said Wendy Harbour, an inclusive learning and teaching professor.

The money was promised to the university in 2008 by U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Taishoff and his wife, Laurie Taishoff. The two SU alumni presented the gift at a ceremony Friday. The center was inspired by their daughter Jacqueline, who has Down syndrome, and named after Robert's father, Lawrence, according to an SU news release.

Harbour received the Lawrence B. Taishoff Endowed Professorship and will run the Center when it develops. She said the gift will help increase SU's involvement in inclusive education.

"Our primary objective is increasing access to get higher education for those with disabilities," she said. "We need to work on making education inclusive with all disabilities."

The university already has two primary programs that assist disabled students. OnCampus works with Syracuse city adults with developmental disabilities. The students are able to attend classes and participate in campus life. The ACCESS program, associated with University College, allows high school graduates to audit classes at SU.

Harbour said the Taishoff center will work with these two programs and create a relationship between all three. She said members of both OnCampus and ACCESS will serve on the advisory board for the center to exchange ideas and information.

The Taishoff Center started at just the right time, Harbour said, especially with the help of the Higher Education Opportunity Act passed in 2008.

"There's been very little interest by the federal government in inclusive education before this. For the first time, it let students with disabilities have access to financial aid," she said. "It's not only a national issue, but it's a federal issue now. It's great timing for the Taishoff Center. We're stepping in at the right time, when people are interested in doing something for the cause."

Harbour said the center is working to host a conference for students with learning disabilities for next year. She was not able to comment on the details, but said that they will go into the planning stages of the conference in April.

SU was the only university that allowed Harbour to teach classes and run the Taishoff Center, something she said she loves to do.

"I really feel passionate about this," she said.