Think By the Bay students posing by the East bay Letters

Cal State East Bay launches inclusive post-secondary education program

  • BY Sarah Harris
  • December 11, 2023

Reaching Goals

Cal State East Bay is creating inclusive educational opportunities with the newly launched two-year post-secondary program Think by the Bay (TBTB). As a project affiliated with Cal State East Bay’s Center for Disability Justice Research (CDJR), TBTB furthers CDJR’s mission to promote equity through radically inclusive teaching, scholarship and advocacy. TBTB is also a University Extension project.

Cal State East Bay and five other California State Universities received a pilot grant from the California Department of Developmental Services to launch the fall 2023 program. Cal State East Bay welcomed five students to this historic program in August. 

“Starting a program like TBTB has been a goal for all of us for many years,” said Talya Kemper, associate professor of teacher education. CSUEB’s pilot grant is led by Kemper with Sara McDaniel, assistant professor of special education, and Sarah Taylor, professor of social work. Other collaborators are listed below. 

According to the TBTB team, students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who complete an inclusive post-secondary education program have higher rates of competitive integrated employment. McDaniel said, “We want to provide access and inclusion to college for anyone who wants to attend. Every student, no matter their abilities, deserves to experience college and continue their education.” 

Filling the Gaps

Think by the Bay is something no one on campus has ever been part of before. “This is an entirely new venture at CSUEB, but our program is part of a larger state and nationwide expansion of Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) programs,” said Taylor. “We are working with partners across the CSU and UC systems to increase opportunities for students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) to attend college.” In October, Governor Newsom signed AB 447 in support of inclusive programs on California college campuses. 

While CSUEB’s existing College Link Program helps students with autism succeed in the higher education environment, unmet needs remain — that’s where Think by the Bay comes in. “Think by the Bay is different in that we welcome students with IDD who may not otherwise have the opportunity to join our campus community,” said Kemper. 

Think by the Bay students select existing courses that they are interested in taking and enroll in those courses alongside other CSUEB students. “Our team works with our faculty partners to ensure that TBTB students are fully included in their selected courses and that the faculty are supported in the process,” said McDaniel. Additionally, each semester, TBTB students take a course designed to support them in interdependent living, learning and employment skills. 

Identifying Challenges and Future Expansion

The CSUEB workgroup began putting their heads together in spring 2022 to gather input from stakeholders to inform program development and explore options for program design and additional funding. The biggest challenge was logistics: figuring out how to support the students, how to pay for it and what the day-to-day would look like. “Kate White in University Extension has been instrumental in helping us register students for their classes, ensure that students have access to all campus services and facilities and answer the many questions we have,” said Kemper of the many colleagues who helped get the program off the ground.

In the future, TBTB collaborators hope to build a program supported by a full-time coordinator so they can welcome even more students on campus. Taylor said, “We’d love to eventually offer a 4-year program option, as well as residential opportunities for TBTB students to live on-campus!” 

The College Campus Experience 

TBTB’s kickoff has sparked great excitement for the team. “We are excited about having students on campus who wanted to attend college but were not given access or opportunity to do so before. Getting to know them and finding creative ways to support their goals has been incredibly fulfilling,” McDaniel shared. “They’ve also been instrumental in helping us shape the program to best meet their needs and expectations for a college experience.” 

From classes to co-curricular activities, campus life and work and volunteer experiences, Think by the Bay students are gaining experiences they might not have had access to before. And as part of the CSUEB community, TBTB students contribute to the campus experience as well. “We also hope the entire campus community benefits from having an opportunity to learn, work, and spend time with Think by the Bay students,” said Taylor.

Any student interested in service learning and making friends in the process is welcome to become a peer mentor for the program. The current peer mentors are from nursing, construction management, business and kinesiology programs and bring their own unique perspectives to the group. Kemper said, “We have a small but mighty team right now, and it has been incredible to watch friendships form between our peer mentors and TBTB students.” 

Special thanks to other collaborators:

  • Alex Sandoval, assistant professor of hospitality, recreation, and tourism
  • Christopher Palmore, assistant professor in criminal justice
  • Rajan Selvarajan, associate professor of management
  • Susi Ferrarello, assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies
  • Lisa Lacy, community partner researcher
  • Brien Araki, community partner researcher
  • Anahita Mehrabi, MSW student research assistant
  • Diona Tran, community-based research assistant
  • Manan Patel, project assistant and peer mentor
  • Mummareddy Hemasree, peer mentor
  • Bryan Lopez, peer mentor
  • Anna Jackson, MSW intern