UNC Awarded $3.5 Million in U.S. Department of Education Grants

UNC Awarded $3.5 Million in National Grants

The University of Northern Colorado recently was awarded four grants totaling more than $3.5 million through the U.S. Department of Education.

Three grants will be managed by UNC's Distance Opportunities for Interpreter Training Center (DO IT Center), located on the Lowry Campus in Denver:

- Two multiyear awards totaling $2.7 million are intended to boost the number of qualified K-12 and community-based American Sign Language-English interpreters serving individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. The center will also expand its academic offerings in legal interpreting to become the national center of excellence on ASL-English interpreting services in the U.S. judicial system.

- The third, a one-year subcontract for $122,000, is focused on advancing educational opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing individuals as they transition from high school into college, career training opportunities and the workforce.

A separate five-year, $680,000 award to Jill Bezyak, UNC assistant professor of Human Rehabilitation Services, is designed to help increase the number of rehabilitation counselors available to serve people with disabilities. Students selected for the program, five from Colorado and one non-resident annually, will receive graduate training in rehabilitation counseling.

Additional information on the awards:

DO IT Center
- A four-year, $1.2 million grant will provide resources to help increase the number of highly qualified educational interpreters, and as a result improve educational access for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The Professional Educational Interpreter Project, funded entirely by federal grant funds, will provide two-year scholarships to 28 distance-learning students who commit to serve in K-12 schools across the nation following completion of UNC's bachelor's degree program in ASL-English Interpretation. An investigation into effective patterns of practice will also be undertaken. Leilani Johnson, DO IT Center Director, will manage the project.

- A five-year, $1.5 million grant, also funded entirely by federal grant funds, has been awarded for the goal of increasing the number of ASL-English interpreters and improving the quality of interpreting services provided through the Vocational Rehabilitation system. This regional award will partner UNC with five other universities across the nation to form the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers.

Several initiatives will be undertaken through the Mid-America Regional Interpreter Education (MARIE) Center, an 11-state region stretching between the Canada and Mexico borders. As a part of this work, UNC's DO IT Center will expand its current offerings of the undergraduate emphasis in legal interpreting, and a professional development certificate, to become the national center of excellence on ASL-English interpreting services in the U.S. judicial system. Johnson is the project director and Anna Witter-Merithew will direct the regional activities.

- A one-year award of $122,000 is a subcontract from the Postsecondary Educational Programs Network-West, housed at California State University at Northridge. PEPNet-West is one of four regional centers, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, serving 13 states and Pacific Island territories.

The national PEPNet organization provides resources and expertise that enhance educational opportunities for people who are deaf or hard of hearing—including those with co-occurring disabilities. PEPNet's national outreach is collaboratively coordinated to provide consultation, training, professional development, cutting edge technical assistance and other resources to educational institutions. The UNC-DO IT Center will be an outreach site serving four of the western states. The current award continues work begun in 2007 with PEPNet-West and is fully funded externally. Johnson is the project director and Timothy Chevalier is the outreach specialist.

Rehabilitation Counseling
- The five-year, $680,000 award managed by Jill Bezyak will provide funding for graduate training in rehabilitation counseling. Five Colorado residents and one non-resident will be selected each year. Over the five-year project, 89 percent will be funded by the U.S. Department of Education and 11 percent of costs will be shared by UNC ($86,512).

UNC has been preparing rehabilitation counselors since 1964 and also houses one of the nation's 10 regional centers for technical assistance and continuing education for vocational rehabilitation professionals. The center, also funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, provides resources to state vocational rehabilitation agencies that assist people with disabilities with employment.