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PSU partners on $1.24M grant from U.S. Department of Education

Grant funds 5-year project to offer training in Orientation and Mobility

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ֱState University is partnering with Western Michigan University (WMU) and University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to train 36 scholars in Orientation and Mobility, including proprioceptive teaching techniques created by Sandra Rosen, addressing how children with visual impairments learn motor skills.

This month begins the five-year collaboration on the project, formally titled: “Orientation & Mobility Facilitating Learning Activities Through Proprioception” (O&M FLIP). Robert Emerson, Dept. of Blindness and Low Vision at Western Michigan University, will lead the project. The Principal Investigator at PSU is Amy Parker, associate professor in Special Education, and coordinator of the Orientation and Mobility program.

“Dr. Rosen is one of the only leaders in the O&M field with a background as a Physical Therapist. Sandy has brought knowledge from both fields to create an enriched way of teaching students — a method that relies on strengthening one’s use of proprioception for mobility,” Parker said. “I’ve had the good fortune of learning these skills directly from Sandy both at conferences and in her home, and have seen the difference they make for travelers.”

This grant-funded collaboration for research and personnel training allows scholars at each institution to engage with each other through the shared coursework and enrichment activities, drawing on strengths of each program. Faculty at the three institutions will review and offer feedback, allowing scholars to benefit from the expertise at all three universities.

“Through this project, we will have the chance to learn from each other as university partners in a rare field,” Parker said, who is a 2023 Researcher of the Year for PSU in the College of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education ֱ in 2022 that all states reported a shortage of special education personnel. The three universities working together on Project O&M FLIP have developed different programs to address the crisis-level shortage. All three universities have O&M programs accredited by the Higher Education Accreditation Council (HEAC).

  • The WMU O&M program is a 39-credit hour master’s program graduating professionals to work in a related service under IDEA.
  • Pitt offers a 26 credit hour O&M certificate program.
  • PSU offers O&M training as a graduate certificate or as part of a 45-credit master’s degree. This grant does not require scholars to earn a master’s degree; they have the freedom to pursue an O&M graduate certificate. PSU offers a graduate certificate in O&M for 34 credits, 25 credits for those with related, recent coursework.

In the past five years, PSU has awarded 58 O&M graduate certificates (22 as a part of O&M master’s degrees); Pitt has awarded 60 certifications in O&M (33 as part of master’s degrees); and WMU has awarded 40 O&M master’s degrees.

The total amount funded for the O&M FLIP project is $1,247,668, with $299,288 of that going to ֱand $327,505 going to Pitt. The project will span five years from Oct. 2023 through Sept. 2028.