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KU SOE Financial Aid Q&A

Video Transcript

Ian Ferguson:
So, all right, everyone, thank you for attending the Financial Aid Q&A for the University of Kansas. So just a brief introduction. My name is Ian Ferguson, I am an admissions advisor for the University of Kansas School of Education, and my program partner is Susan Hartz, who's also an admissions advisor.

Susan Hartz:
Hello. Hi.

Ian Ferguson:
And the person who is going to be leading the Financial Aid webinar is gonna be Olivia and get ready to learn everything you need to know about Financial Aid. Right Olivia?

Olivia Vaca:
Yes, absolutely. I'm gonna give the rundown and it's a lot to take in, so I will provide contact info for me at the end and the general Financial Aid line if you guys have any additional questions or anything like that.

Ian Ferguson:
Perfect. Okay, here we go.

Olivia Vaca:
Awesome. So one of the first questions we get as Financial Aid counselors and it is, what are the costs of my graduate education? Here at the University of Kansas tuition is generally charged per credit hour. So what that effectively means is if you are taking more credit hours in one semester your cost may be a little bit higher. Some departments also have additional course fees that are assessed typically per credit hour as well. You can always find more information about that with your program on the department website. The registrar also has a total list of all tuition and fees as well.
When we talk about the costs, generally, they can vary from program to program. To kind of get a most accurate estimate of the per credit hour cost or per program cost, you'll definitely wanna check out your department's website. As I said, the registrar also has a list of tuition and fee amounts. They are broken up by programs. So just the general cost of program total per credit hour, and then some of those program, like I said, to additional fees will be found under an additional fee calculator.

With the Financial Aid website, we do try to provide kind of an estimate calculator that you can use. That could be found at financialaid.ku.edu/calculatecosts/tuitionfees, and basically what you'll do there, you will find it is a kind of chart that just says, okay, what degree program are you in? How many credit hours are you anticipating on taking, and then it'll go further to even ask you if you're taking specific courses in your department that might have additional fees. Well, it asks you how many of those credit hours you're taking as well.

Okay. Next slide. Maybe. Okay. What is the estimated cost of attendance? Another question we get. The cost of attendance, basically, is just a good estimate of how much it's going to cost you to come to the university for a year. We also break that down into semester amounts depending on what you're using it for. The items that are included in this estimate of cost of attendance, we do include tuition and fees. Typically for most people we'll start out with just full-time estimates, assuming that you're gonna be coming full-time. Depending on your actual enrollment that budget may change if you are a consistently halftime enrolled student, three quarters time, anything like that.
Housing, we provide estimates for both on-campus and off-campus housing, so depending on if you are living in one of the dorm or apartment options available at KU, or if you're deciding to live off-campus, we will kind of give an estimate of what we think that would cost. And we'll talk about in a second here what that means, if your actual costs are higher than what we estimate.

Books and supplies, so obviously you're gonna have to buy some books. We do provide a pretty healthy estimate for that. I would say most people probably don't exceed their books budget, but if for some reason they do, you can always talk to us in the Financial Aid office as well. And then transportation and personal expenses, so those are things that you will find are not charged by the university and you really won't have any charges that come in on your KU account specifically for those, but we of course understand that as graduate students, as students in general, you're probably going to need to go places and you're going to need to pay for personal things. So we allow a little bit of a budget in there for you so that if essentially you need to take out Financial Aid to cover any of those costs, you have the availability to.

Why is the cost of attendance important? That is essentially the maximum number that you can receive in Financial Aid. So the total that you're receiving in loans, scholarships, grants, any kind of sponsorships or tuition waivers that you receive, all of that combined cannot exceed your cost of attendance at the school per year, so you kind of wanna keep that in mind. If you get a ton in scholarship offers, if you get $1,000,000, you probably won't actually be able to get $1,000,000 out of pocket handed to you.
As mentioned previously, as a student, unless you're living on campus or you are charging your bookstore purchases to your KU account, you will only be charged for those tuition and fees directly through KU. So housing, books, transportation, personal expenses, most of the time, those are gonna be things that you have to budget and figure out for yourself if you're kind of living within your means. Tuition and fees, those will be directly charged to you. If you have Financial Aid coming in, it will go to pay those charges automatically. There's not usually anything that you guys need to do to initiate that other than setting it up in the first place.

Also, as mentioned previously, if you've received Financial Aid up to your cost of attendance and you cannot receive any more, but you feel that your personal expenses have exceeded what we budgeted, you can make an appointment in the Financial Aid office. We will look at what is called a budget adjustment and a cost of attendance appeal, and if there's any adjustments like to tuition and fees that we can make on the backend, we'll go ahead and do that. Anything else that you're requesting out of your own pocket, you need more housing expenses paid for or anything like that, you'll have to provide proof so that we can go ahead and see if we can increase that budget for you.

Okay. How do I apply for Financial Aid? So if you are a US citizen or an eligible noncitizen, and you can figure this out by going to studentaid.gov, they do have instructions on checking your eligibility, if you are one of those, you will want to file a FAFSA. Now, it is not required that you file a FAFSA, but if you are wanting to receive any kind of federal aid, any type of federal loans, you will need to file a FAFSA. The FAFSA is just a form that takes your personal and financial information to determine your eligibility essentially for federal aid, and they use a calculation called the Expected Family Contribution. Essentially what that number is, is what they believe your family, meaning you and your spouse can afford to pay for your education. They are not necessarily expecting you to actually pay that out of pocket, but it is an indicator of your financial need, so that's essentially what that is for.

The FAFSA does use your tax information or your income information if you didn't file taxes from two years prior. So for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, it will use 2021 tax information. If you did file United States taxes, you can transfer your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA by using the data retrieval tool. This is a process that is pretty much done automatically. So when you are in the FAFSA form it will ask you to go to the IRS site and then from there it will have you put in your name, birthday, and the address information of where you filed your 2021 taxes. You do have to be very careful because it will air out and it will not pull up your tax information if you put in the wrong address or if you put in the wrong format of the address. So sometimes if you have your taxes readily available, doesn't help or doesn't hurt to just take a look and see, did you put street or did you put S-T, because that can be very important. But it does make it very easy, once you get matched up it will automatically transfer all of that income information in for you so you don't really have to fill any of it out. Just kind of make sure that it's all correct.

If you are not a US citizen, so if you're an international student or just a student who's not a US citizen, that doesn't necessarily mean that you cannot receive Financial Aid, but we do have a separate form that you can fill out. That is called the Institutional Student Need Analysis Worksheet, also referred to as an ISNAW. International students, we highly, highly, highly recommend that you file this by March 1st each year that you're at KU. It does not necessarily guarantee that you will receive funding, but March 1st is our priority deadline. So if you may have financial need, we can check your eligibility for a grant through that application.

Similar to the FAFSA, this will collect your personal and financial information to determine your Financial Aid eligibility. Unfortunately, we don't have any way to just automatically transfer the information in, so you will have to convert your information to US dollars if it is not already, and input that information yourself. And for both the FAFSA and the ISNAW, as graduate students, it will ask you for your personal information, and it will also ask you for your spouse's information if you are married. So just keep that in mind. Even if you file separately, it will usually ask you to take into account their income.

Step number three is being in communication with your academic department about funding opportunities. So a lot of research positions, scholarships, assistantships, a lot of those are available through the department and typically, your colleagues and your professors and members of the department are gonna know when those availability... Or when those opportunities are available for you.

Okay. What types of aid are available to graduate students? Let's talk a little bit more about the different types of aid. So grants and scholarships, those are obviously what people like. They're free money essentially. These are things that are often awarded to graduate students through their departments. Some departments will determine the eligibility of that through your admissions application, and some departments may require a separate application. So it never hurts to check with your department just to see are you automatically considered or not.

Some departments may also require that you file either a FAFSA or an ISNAW. Typically that is gonna be in the case of any type of needbased awards. So if you're kind of in the running for something like that, they will usually want your financial information to determine if you meet that level of financial need. Departments will work with Financial Aid and scholarships if you are eligible to kind of get everything applied to your account. So usually when you get an award letter from your department that says, "You've got a scholarship for $2000," there's nothing really that you need to do to initiate that other than accepting the scholarship. Your department will actually work to send those funds to us so that we can apply it to the student account for you.
Specifically, for international students, we do have availability of the KU International Student Tuition Grant. This is a needbased program for international students who have completed their first full academic year at KU. This is a very limited fund grant, so we award it to only a few students every year. And in order to be awarded this, you must be an F1 or a J1 international student admitted to your degree program and enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours. So you wanna make sure that you are at least filing with that. For the needbased portion you do have to have a calculated EFC of $5000 or less to be eligible for this, and you must file an ISNAW by March 1st for priority consideration. You can file your ISNAW after that March 1st deadline, but typically we award students by that March 1st deadline. So you'll want to make sure if you really, really think that you're eligible and are in need of it, file before March 1st to really be in the running for that.

Other scholarships, we do have a KU scholarship portal that we are trying to get all of our scholarships across campus centralized into. That can be found at ku.academicworks.com. Graduate funding, as we mentioned previously, a lot of it is going to come from your department, but you can also visit that website which we posted in the chat, and find some opportunities for external funding based on your department or the major that you're in.

A couple of national sites that are good to find scholarship resources on is fastweb.com and collegeboard.org. The only kind of bad things about those sites is that they are national scholarship sites, so a lot of the scholarships that are posted on those are going to have a ton of applicants. Something that I don't think a lot of people realize with graduate school, specifically, is if you're part of any kind of professional organization, association, anything like that, double check on their website. They might have scholarship postings for graduate student scholarships or fellowships or something like that. Kind of do a search in your hometown or in the town that you're living in right now to see if there's any local scholarships that might be available to students participating in a graduate program. I think it's a lot better and a lot easier if you try to look for your local stuff first and then expand to the national, if necessary.
A big part of graduate school for a lot of people are doing assistantships, so we have graduate teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships and just regular graduate assistantships. These are administered by individual graduate programs, so you will need to ask about the opportunities available there if you are interested in them. I have also seen some graduate research and graduate teaching assistantships posted on our employment site. GRAs and GTAs are eligible to have some or all of their tuition paid. That kind of eligibility, that determination of how much is dependent on the department, it's dependent on what they have available, and what they already have established with the university.

With these positions a discount or a waiver is applied to tuition based on your position, and this is applied directly to your KU bill. So again, other than accepting the position and making sure that everything's all set up with your HR, there's nothing additional that you need to do to get that paid into your student account. It will happen automatically for you. Do keep in mind also that the amount that you receive from this can affect your eligibility for other Financial Aid. As I mentioned a couple of slides ago, your total Financial Aid cannot exceed your cost of attendance, so if you're getting, let's say, 50% of your tuition covered, you might think about if you have a $50,000 fellowship coming in that might lower the amount. Typically that doesn't make you ineligible for certain types of aid, it just lowers the amount, but ultimately it all depends on the actual numbers that are coming in for you.

Federal Work Study, so similar to the GTA, GRAs, these are just work study positions that are available across campus. You can find them all over. They may be specific to your department. You may also be able to work in outside departments as well. How Federal Work Study works is kind of different to any other form of aid. So typically what that entails is you set up your job, you kind of agree on the terms, like you're working 20 hours a week or something like that, and your employer will still pay you with a paycheck. So you will receive your Federal Work Study money to your direct deposit account or you'll receive it in a paper check if you don't have one, and it will kind of be up to you to use that funding to then pay for your tuition if you want it to go to your tuition. A lot of people just use it to pay for their housing and their personal expenses, so you can definitely do that as well.

And for graduate students, the Federal Work Study begins at 5000, that is gonna be your initial maximum, depending on your financial need you could increase that up to 12,000 per year. So again, that's just kind of working with whoever your employer is and seeing what funding is available, how many hours they'll let you work, how much they will let you earn. Some positions will also let you earn additional funds once you've ran out of work study, but again, depends entirely on the department and the position.

Now, let's talk about this sometimes less fun options of financial aid which are our loan options. So the most popular loan that most graduate students take is the unsubsidized direct loan that comes from filing the FAFSA, so pretty much all graduate students are going to be eligible for up to 20,500 a year. That is the annual maximum, so you cannot borrow unsubsidized loans higher than that. The other thing that can affect that amount is that you do have an aggregate loan limit, so for graduate students, the absolute maximum and federal unsubsidized loans that you can borrow is gonna be 138,500, and that does include any undergraduate federal loans that you received. So any undergraduate subsidized or unsubsidized loans also go into that aggregate amount. In order to be awarded that you just have to file the FAFSA. There is no income requirement or anything like that. Like I said, the only thing that could decrease that amount is either your cost of attendance or if you're reaching your aggregate loan limits.

In order to be eligible for those direct loans each semester you must be enrolled at least half time, so for graduate students that's five hours or more. Something to kind of keep in mind too, particularly with Federal Loans is if you start out the semester enrolled in five credit hours, and then three weeks in you drop down to three credit hours, we will probably ask for you to return some of that funding. So just keep in mind, if you're kind of skirting the line on like being halftime or being full-time and you're thinking about dropping classes at any point, you will wanna reach out to Financial Aid, just see like, "Okay, if I drop at this point in the semester, am I going to have to return anything or am I okay?" So once you've reached 60% completion in that class, we don't require you to return anything back. So just reach out to us if you have any questions on that.

The second option is Graduate PLUS Loans. So these work very similarly to the Parent PLUS Loan that is offered to dependents of undergraduate students. The great thing about the Grad PLUS Loans, there is no aggregate limit. There is no maximum, as long as you can keep getting approved for the loans, you can keep taking them. You can only borrow again up to your cost of attendance minus your or their financial aids, you can't just be making bank off of it, but you can take up to your maximum each semester with those PLUS loans, if you would like to. Again, to be eligible for that PLUS loan, you do have to file your FAFSA, there's no income requirement, no EFC requirement. And you will have to fill out a separate loan application at studentaid.gov, and it will do a credit check. Now as far as I know, they do not check for any kind of particular number or anything like that, they are mostly looking for big credit inhibitors, so things like foreclosures, bankruptcies, default on any loans. Any of that could affect your eligibility for that PLUS loan. And again, for that, you need to be enrolled at least half time each semester to receive that funding.

With both of those types of loans, so with unsubsidized direct loan and PLUS loans, you do kind of have the option, once you graduate and get into the repayment terms, if you want to consolidate those loans, you can, which is one of the benefits of staying within the federal loan spectrum. With the unsubsidized direct loans, right now, you're looking at a 4.99% interest rate that is reevaluated each July, so just kinda keep that in mind, we usually don't see like mega increase or decrease year to year, but it could happen. And the Graduate PLUS Loans, they do have a separate interest rate right now, they are at a 7.54% interest rate.

Your third loan option is gonna be a KU Endowment Loan. KU Endowment is a program that obviously runs through KU, they only offer these loans to KU students, so that allows them to have a little bit lower interest rate and a little bit better repayment structure than some private loans might. They do have both an annual and an aggregate limit, so for graduate students, they will let you borrow up to 6000 per year, and you can borrow a total of $12,000 from them. They also do have their own application process, so the link for that will be provided in the chat. And typically they will require a cosigner for students that do not make at least $25,000 a year. Sometimes they can work with you depending on your situation, but just keep in mind, you might also need a cosigner for that.

And then your last option are private and alternative student loans, so these are gonna be very variable in your interest rates, in your repayment structure. I personally cannot give any advice as to which one to go with and which one not to go with, that's gonna kinda be up to you and your own personal situation. With the private and alternative loans, they typically do require a credit check, and they may look at the number, or they may be like the PLUS and just look for big credit decisions. Typically for private loans, you do not need to file the FAFSA, a lot of them will have you fill out a loan authorization form, so you may have to do that if you don't have a FAFSA on file. And again, with these private loans, a lot of them are not gonna have annual or aggregate limits, so typically you can borrow up to your cost of attendance minus your other aid, and again, you can probably keep borrowing from them so long as you get that approval every year.

Financial Aid has made a list of private loan lenders that have been used at KU within the last three years, and that is available on our website. It is by no means an exhaustive list of every private loan lender out there so I would suggest, if you don't see your personal bank on there, you might wanna check with them and see if they offer student loans. But in general, that list that we have includes some of the more popular ones.

Okay. When will financial aid disperse? So this is very important, I'm sure for a lot of you, financial aid cannot disperse early for any reason, but it does disperse 10 days before the semester start. And when we disperse that aid, we will go ahead and apply it to your KU bill first, so it'll pay for any tuition fees, anything like that, if you have on-campus housing costs, it'll go ahead and pay that. Your financial aid will pay down your charges, and then if there's anything left over, so any excess funding, that will be refunded to you, and that's usually available starting a few days before classes, assuming that you have everything set up as far as your loan documents and everything.

Those refunds do come in the form of a paper check, unless you have direct deposit set up with the university, and if you do have direct deposit, it'll just automatically go into your bank account every semester. So there's nothing more that you really need to do if you do have any outside funding, so outside scholarships, you will want to double check with those donors, and first of all see if there's anything that they need from us. Some of them will require me in the Financial Aid office to fill out a form essentially stating what other financial aid you're receiving so I can send that back to them. Most donors will just have you send where to send the money, where they can send the check, which is gonna be the Financial Aid office. If there's any kind of conference that needs to be done between us and a donor, any specific instructions they can always work with us or I can get them set up with the scholarships team in our office to make sure that that's a pretty smooth transition.

And then I think we've got some deadlines here. I will say for financial aid, if you guys are coming in the summer or in the fall 2023 semesters and you have not filed your FAFSA or ISNAW, you will want to hop on that as soon as you can. There is not a real deadline for the FAFSA, you can follow the FAFSA as long as it is still the age year that you're requesting aid. But of course, it is harder to retroactively put on aid, so you'll just wanna kinda make sure that your FAFSA and everything is done and set up probably by that first month that you start classes.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome, thanks so much. And then it's just another big reminder for the summer 2023 deadlines. The final deadline is coming up this Monday, April 24th, and then those classes are starting on May 8th, and then also that we are taking applications for the fall term as well. And then I do see that we were asked some questions while you were talking, Olivia. Are you able to see those questions that were in the Q&A?

Olivia Vaca:
Yes. I think... Okay, so I had... So the estimated housing costs on the website for nonresidents are not fees to pay to KU, they're just listed as estimates to help people budget, right? That is correct. So if you are not planning on living on campus, your housing costs, we don't know what they're going to be 'cause it's gonna depend on where you choose, so we just kind of give an estimate, that is the estimate that we provide to all graduate students. So you'll wanna keep in mind, like I said, if you end up living somewhere and your actual charges for what you're paying are higher than our estimated number for your housing, get in touch with me, get in touch with your counselor and we can do a cost of attendance appeal for you so that if you need extra funding to cover that cost, you are able to get it.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. Yeah, so that second question, "Can I still apply for a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and be considered for admission for fall?" So on the admission side of things Ian and I only work with the online master's programs, so but you can always go to KU's website and see who... And you can contact the Department of Curriculum and Instruction to find out about that. So on the financial aid side of things, anything you wanna add for that, Olivia?

Olivia Vaca:
As far as financial aid, you can absolutely still apply. FAFSA, it's gonna be available until June next year, so just go fill it out as soon as you can. If you are not a FAFSA eligible person fill out that is not as soon as you can. It is after the march priority deadline, so there may not be funding available, but fill it out anyway. We will double check and see if there is anything and on the off chance there is, you can get it.

Susan Hartz:
Right, and then we've got one more. Can I get full funding for PhD, my Bachelor's in Science and Ed qualification? So again, you can reach out to the departments directly about the PhD programs, and then, I don't know if there's anything else to add for that, Olivia.

Olivia Vaca:
Not in particular. Definitely reach out to the department for that type of funding. If there's any additional funding needed in the form of loans or anything like that, I can obviously help you with that and just do the FAFSA or the ISNAW. We can always talk numbers once those are submitted.

Ian Ferguson:
Alright, alright. Well, this is concluding our presentation for financial aid. Thank you, Olivia, for taking the time out of your day to really illuminate this complex topic for all of us. I really appreciate. I'm sure all of the attendees also appreciate it. And thank you everyone who attended the webinar. Thanks for your time and Rock Chalk, everyone, right?

Unlocking opportunities: Financial aid in KU SOE's online graduate programs

Meet KU Financial Aid & Scholarships counselor, Olivia Vaca. In this video, Vaca provides essential information on various topics related to financial aid for prospective students.

The key topics covered include:

  • Costs of graduate education
  • Estimated cost of attendance
  • Financial aid application process
  • Types of financial aid


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Video Transcript

Susan Hartz:
All right let's go ahead and get the ball rolling. So tonight, again, welcome and good evening to this special webinar. We are going to have a round table discussion with some KU students and alumni and faculty within the online graduate special education programs. We just want to offer this webinar so that way we can all share experiences from student and faculty perspectives. And then, so now we'll go ahead and do all of our introductions. So first, I'm Susan Hartz. I have been in college admissions for about four years. I have been an admissions advisor on behalf of the University of Kansas for about 10 months. I work with all of the online graduate school of education programs. Before I got into college admissions, I was actually in education in the classroom in various roles for over 10 years. I have a bachelor's degree in elementary education. I have a master's degree in school counseling. So it feels very full circle to be in admissions for education programs. And then now I'd like to introduce my colleague, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Nast:
Hi everybody, I'm Jeremiah. I've been working in college admissions since the dawn of time, but I just started working with KU about three years ago. And apologies for the late start. I can take responsibility for that. But we are... I went to school initially to be an English teacher and it was a lot harder than I ever thought it was gonna be. So more than a lot of a respect for everybody in this, as they're working with different people in different situations, especially in special education. So with that, we will go on to our next page. Susan, if you'd like to introduce to everybody.

Susan Hartz:
Sure, all right. So our support of our panel tonight is we have an awesome collection of KU students and alumni. So now I figure I'd let everybody kind of do their own little introductions. We can start off with Sydney, if you want to introduce yourself to everybody.

Sydney Castonguay:
Hi everyone, my name is Sydney Castonguay. I graduated from KU's online programs in 2020. I obtained both my master's in special education high incidence and my graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorders from KU, both in 2020. I'm currently a first-grade general education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. And I am also a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education at Slippery Rock University.

Susan Hartz:
Nice, thanks Sydney. And then Catherine.

Catherine Hansen:
Hi, my name is Catherine Hansen. I'm a KU high incidence special education grad as of December of 2021. I am an elementary special education teacher at Clare Alternative Learning Center in Olathe.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome, thank you. And then Debbie.

Deborah:
See, I was a proud graduate by my picture. [laughter] I graduated with, especially with the autism master's in 2018. I also got my graduate certificate from there. I am now finishing up, hopefully will be done this next May and with my doctorate in special ed with Liberty University. And I'm what they call a teacher on special assignment in Greensboro, North Carolina. And what that means is I go and work with students that basically were not getting their needs met and someone needed to go make sure that was changed and they hired me to do that.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome, thanks. And then Kevin.

Kevin Fulmer:
Good evening, everyone. I'm Kevin Fulmer. So I'm recently an autism certificate graduate at KU. And right now I'm in the program track for the master's in science education, specifically for a transition track. So I'm just trying to stay on top of that to graduate next year. So I am not an educator, but I am a parent with a student on the spectrum and I'm looking forward to completing this master's as it looks to a follow-on career after my full-time career of being an active army officer and looking to get into education. Thank you.

Susan Hartz:
All right, thanks. And then Aleya. Oh, we can't hear you.

Aleya:
Sorry, yeah, I'm muted. I realized I mute myself sorry. My name is Aleya, I graduated in the transition program back in May, so still fresh. My current role is I'm a caregiver family assistant for a young adult with disabilities. So I've been with this family for almost three years now. So not in the education world, but it brought me a unique perspective of the family side this past couple of years.

Susan Hartz:
All right, thanks so much. And then lastly, Kaylee.

Kaylee Wright:
Hi, I'm Kaylee Wright. I graduated in December of 2021 in the High Incidence Special Education's master's program. I was a fifth grade teacher for four years in the North Kansas City School District in Kansas City, Missouri. And I'm gonna be transitioning into being a third grade teacher, a general education teacher. And I welcome students into my classroom who are moving and transitioning between fully enclosed special education classrooms. And I'm excited to have them in my class. And this fall I will be starting my specialist in math education.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. All right, thanks everybody. And then now we'd like to introduce our faculty panelists. So, Glennda, if you wanna go ahead and start off.

Glennda McKeithan:
Hi, my name is Glennda McKeithan. I'm autism program coordinator. I work remotely for KU from North Carolina. I joined the faculty in 2016. Prior to that, I taught at four different institutions of higher learning. I'm also a retired public school teacher. I retired early, so I'm much younger than I look. And then I've also been a teacher mentor. I was an English teacher for a little while and an administrator. I'm the course author for the autism classes. I love, I regularly teach the first five classes. I work with an amazing colleague, Dr. Griswold, who teaches the other classes with me. And we both have a lot of experience and I, we tell our students all the time, if we don't know the answer, we probably know someone who knows the answer. So, we love working for KU and we're so excited to be here tonight.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. Thanks. And Irma.

Irma:
Good evening, everyone, and let me first thank all the students for taking time to join us. It's so great to see all your faces. And Kevin, thanks for your service. We appreciate that. I am in the high incidence program as a teaching professor, and I've been here at KU. I got my PhD here and just never left. Thought I was going to go profess somewhere but ended up staying here and have been here since, in this role since 2008. I first was involved with the special ed department teaching face-to-face classes with the master's program. And then as we began to move over into the online, I just naturally moved over there and have participated there. I come with a wealth of background in special education in the middle school. I do have some high school, so I'm a secondary special educator and found my love in middle school.

And I was there for 15 years and then moved on to get my PhD here at KU. And that led then to me being in the, in this position where right now I oversee our admissions and I work in conjunction with my colleagues, Dr. Suzanne Robinson and Dr. Sean Smith and our other faculty members who are authors to our program, who are well recognized throughout the country. Dr. Jamie Basham, Dr. Kathleen Lane, Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman are a few of the folks that are part of our online program, which is a huge program, and we're really excited to be able to share some of that information with you.

Susan Hartz:
All right. Thanks guys. Okay. So we are gonna go ahead and get started with our discussion. So first we're gonna have our first round of questions for our students and alumni. What was the biggest takeaway from your program and how has the program created any new opportunities for you? So whoever wants to start off can.

Kaylee Wright:
I guess I'll start now.

Deborah:
Okay, go ahead. Sorry.

Kaylee Wright:
You're fine. I guess the biggest takeaway for me from the special education department and especially my master's program, is just how diverse and that we can bring all of that learning into the general education classroom and make sure that all of those students are receiving the help they need and the accommodations they need and the general education classroom as well as in their resource classrooms as well.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. Thanks. And then I think Deborah, you wanted to add something?

Deborah:
Yes. And if it's okay, I'm gonna start with the second question first, which was how the program created opportunities. I'd like to say that the program at KU changed my life. Because I was general ed for many years, was asked as a kindergarten teacher if I was interested in teaching a pre-K class in children with autism, in North Carolina you have to have no special ed to do that. I said, absolutely. They came when they were three. They were precious, three-, four-, and five-year-olds. I loved them immediately, but I realized that it was, I was in my 50s. I realized that I had no idea how to teach them. So, what I learned, which goes to the first question, my biggest takeaway was the support that I got and the help that I got. 'Cause I came in totally brand new in special ed looking for a master's and got my graduate certificate first.

Dr. Glennda McKeithan, and I'll never be able to thank you enough for all she's done for me and supported me. And just, it did change my life. I am, I started out in pre-K, which is where my heart, I think still is, but I moved due to shattering my knee to middle school and also now work with high school students. But the opportunities that it's provided me, I started out as a teacher moving through all of this and getting my doctorate. My goal is to teach future teachers, but also advocate for students. So I just had to let you know how much I appreciate what I've done and what it did to me for me.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. And then Aleya, what was your biggest takeaway?

Aleya:
Yeah, so my biggest takeaway is kind of odd. I would like to; I'll piggyback off of what Deborah was saying about the support. So I came in as my master's program having no teaching experience. So I got my undergrad in recreation. So I, like my end goal is to be some type of teacher. And so I was, I'll be honest, I was terrified kind of coming in because I'm like, I have no idea what I'm gonna be doing. Am I gonna be able to be like, catch up? Am I gonna be able to keep up with everyone? Am I gonna know what they're talking about? But the support from each teacher that you get in each of your classes is like something I never had as an undergrad. And that was definitely like something that blew my mind, and I was very appreciative of, and what I took away from my program was what, what I can do one-on-one, serving a family since I am a caregiver. And that was a unique experience for me on how can I help families on a respite level, but how can I still put, transition into that since she is a young adult. And I just really appreciated having those teachers that were there for you when like, you're kind of lost. But I think that was very, very good for the program.

Susan Hartz:
Great. And then Kevin, what was your takeaway?

Kevin Fulmer:
So keeping with the trend for creating new career opportunities, I wanted to pursue a graduate degree and really put a lot more emphasis than I did in the master's program than I did for my bachelor's. And I had a life-changing event, which was, my son's diagnosis several years ago. And I wanted to dive holistically into this new chapter of our life and what my, the entirety of our future is with my son. And I never thought that it could end up leading to what's gonna be another career opportunity. I'm over the half way point of a career I'm in right now and seeing, that the end is near for what I'm doing with my service, I'm looking now ahead at taking this opportunity with education and what is all of my life with my son and turning it into a new career, and career, really unpacking that to just capitalize on the education and, being an advocate for other parents and taking all of that experience and knowledge and making sure that it actually is put into a lot of things.

So, I started the program and then I couldn't believe everything I was learning. I was that dumbfounded parent who had a shocking, significant moment with a doctor, learning about, what the future looks like and oh man, just introduction to ASD it was like, why isn't every parent having to take this class? And it's really changed my life where I've come from starting at KU and, and where I'm going. So going back to the first question the biggest takeaway is, a lot of my peers, everyone, the webinar, a lot of educators, but now I'm starting to meet the other parents who then dove into education. And I feel that bond and I appreciate it. And KU is absolutely the catalyst to sharing knowledge and experience. So I don't feel so much alone as a parent trying to worry about the unknown. So I owe a lot to KU and the faculty and the students I've worked with.

Susan Hartz:
Oh, thank you so much for sharing that. And then Catherine.

Catherine Hansen:
Yeah. So my biggest takeaway, again, piggybacking off of everybody, you need, I'm sorry, my dog is like right here [laughter] and wants to be a part of the webinar. Was the support that I experienced from the KU faculty and staff. I teach in an extremely unique setting that, I teach in a psychiatric residential facility. So I actually had not started teaching there until I started at KU. I have been teaching on a waiver as a special education teacher for the last, two years. And so this program definitely created new career opportunities for me in that it got me my job.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. And all dogs are welcome [laughter], so. And then Sydney.

Catherine Hansen:
Go lay Down.

Sydney Castonguay:
So I think for me, I have the unique experience I did both my master's and my master's in special ed program. So I had Dr. Brassar, and I had Dr. McKeithan 'cause I did the ASD grad certificate. And that fell into my lap kind of unexpectedly as I was in my master's program. And as everybody says, the relationships you build, Dr. McKeithan now serves on my dissertation committee. So being a fully online student doesn't prevent you from building those relationships and helping you move to the next step. Former professor, Dr. Elford, was the first person who made me think about pursuing a doctorate and Dr. McKeithan just took it off from there. So in terms of my biggest takeaway, my biggest takeaway is I've felt that my online experience has been the same, if not better than my in person undergraduate experience in terms of building relationships, every assignment you complete is immediately applicable.

I, like Kaylee, I'm a Gen Ed teacher, so I have those students in my classroom, students with disabilities, but you can meet the needs of all students with things that you're being taught. And in terms of new career opportunities, I applied for a doctorate program when I was 24. And I remember one of the first things somebody said to me was, well, what experience can you bring? You've only been teaching for two or three years. And I just started rambling off everything I learned from KU, and they were very impressed. So it just, not only has it given me a solid foundation for future career aspects, but it's helping me in my day-to-day life as a first grade teacher.

Susan Hartz:
Great. Oh, thank you, everybody, for sharing your takeaways and especially all the opportunities that have come about from being a part of these programs. And then now for our next round of questions, it's gonna be for our faculty. First, can you tell us about the program you help support? And then what are the ways that you are responsive to your students? And we can start off with Dr. McKeithan.

Glennda McKeithan:
I have to say that I'm so proud to be a part of the KU faculty because, as Irma was saying, the KU SPED program is the best in the nation. And many of the faculty that were mentioned earlier were my research heroes when I was getting my masters and my PhD. So I'm thrilled to work with this wonderful group. I love being able to focus on autism. The programs, we have a graduate certificate in autism and a masters in science, a masters in... Master of Science in Education, with an emphasis on autism. And what's unique about our program is students can also choose a pathway specialty; transition, behavior, or LSIE, the leadership, and special inclusive education. And so students get expertise in more than one area, and often students decide to go on and maybe get a masters in autism and then they also get a graduate certificate in leadership or in transition. So I love that our students are willing to work harder. It's a rigorous program, but the program is relevant and current, and students don't really complain about the work. So in fact, one of our classes...

I know that our graduates are gonna be a little sad about this. We actually took the test out of the class because we just feel confident that students are gonna read the material and respond anyway. So it's very relevant. Our students, they're just... They've desperately like Deb was... Deb Parker was saying earlier, and Kevin was talking about. They just really are... They need information on how to help their students or help their own children. Our students are parents, teachers, speech language pathologists, school psychologists, administrators, occupational therapists, music therapists, audiologists, just a wide variety of people from all over the world. And they just want to share what they know about autism and learn what they can to help the people that they are working within their own setting.

Susan Hartz:
Great. Thanks so much. And now Irma.

Irma:
Thank you. I'm gonna piggyback, Glennda. I am so honored to be part of this faculty. And we wear our Ku proud here as we are also the national championship basketball team. And I'm in Lawrence, so I get to bring a little bit of extra spirit at times when I have meetings with students because I actually get to go downtown and see some of these folks and I get to rub shoulders with our faculty who are well represented across the nation and internationally, as a matter of fact. So let me tell you a little bit about the high-incidence program. We have two different tracks. You can go teach your track, which includes a practicum which can lead to an endorsement. We are an accredited program that allows us to then meet the standards that are expected through Cape, but we also align with the Council for Exceptional Children. They have standards, and so when we build our programs and design them, we are making certain that we are aligning them with all the standards that would help to lead to an endorsement. We also have a non-teacher track for folks who just wanna get a masters in high incidence disabilities.

In that track, a practicum is not offered. The practicum, in my mind, has been one of the pluses within our program where we really get to build relationships and really get after the idea and the whole purpose about teaching. And you almost get your own little coach, mentor throughout that whole semester and it actually lasts over a year. And it has been pretty powerful in watching what you're learning in courses being applied in the different practicums. So you'll take a set of courses, take the first practicum, take some more courses, take the second practicum. So the way that the course... The way the program has been designed is truly to allow you to do that fact of getting awareness, do a little practice, but then application. And I think that's what's unique about our program is having that one-on-one time, that you're receiving that feedback from the professors and instructors that are leading that. The other thing built within our courses, we designed and built these courses with a look to what's called Universal Design for Learning. So if you're a student and you're in our courses, you'll find often that you have options and different ways that you can meet the requirements within the courses.

And it could be that you are the person who wants to write the paper, maybe you wanna make a video, maybe you wanna interview someone, maybe you are more artistic. So you're gonna use some online tools to represent your learning. So I just wanna make people aware that within that, the engagement in the assignments and activities that are involved, we've really taken an eye to look at the research of what is impactful in an online, excuse me, environment. The other thing is being in special education and doing this work, it's critical that we understand, especially design instruction. So the focus within our program is to that end. That we are designing instruction and helping empower the students that go through our program to understand specially designed instruction that meets the needs of our students who have learning disabilities, who have been identified with dyslexia, who have emotional behavioral issues, that those assignments, activities, readings are all evidence-based practices or research-based.

We also, I believe, strongly empower our students to leave here capable of professional writing with an eye to APA. If I bring that up, some people might cringe there because we get a lot of feedback on that. But also having you explore just different online tools. And I feel it's really important for me just to bring up the fact that we've been through a pandemic and we immediately, because we were all still online, still able to keep the learning going but be responsive and flexible to our students. And I think many of us at KU took on that other hat of we need to be a little bit of a life coach for our students in the program, and we were available and made ourselves available. We were responsive and flexible to make adjustments in assignments and things so that we could help our students continue down that path of being successful and becoming masterful and learning what's necessary to work with our students with special needs. And it's such an important job. And I am proud to say that many of my students have completed and are going to complete, even though they've been through this and are gonna continue to serve in this field. And that, in my mind, says a lot about the program and what it's offered during this time.

Susan Hartz:
Great. Thank you so much. And then, Sydney, I don't know if everybody saw on the chat. Thanks for sharing that... For that high incidence disabilities endorsement that you got in Kansas, transferred to Massachusetts. That is a question I get a lot when I speak with prospective students about endorsements going to other states. So thanks for sharing that experience. And then for our next set of questions, that's gonna go back to our students and alumni. What are some reasons that you chose KU? More specifically, why did you choose online? And then also, have you been able to apply what you learned in class to your work? And then, Sydney, why don't you go ahead and share with us?

Sydney Castonguay:
Sure. So I knew when I finished my undergrad degree that I wanted to do my masters online because I liked that flexibility. And I also just wanted to learn more about online technologies. I ended up at the University of Kansas by chance, really. I went online and Googled online master’s programs in special education. And as many people know, KU is ranked number one in their special education programs. And I have to say, living in Massachusetts, people were saying, "How do you go to the University of Kansas?" And I explained it is fully online. And the fact that they had such a strong program, in person, that they were willing to take it and adapt it and make it available for more people. I'm one of those people that was able to take advantage of it, so I'm very grateful. I know it couldn't have been easy, but it is very helpful to people like myself. How have you been able to apply what you learned in your classwork? I've said it before and I'll say it again, every assignment is immediately applicable to some aspect of my job, both coursework in my high-incidence program and in my ASD program. Any reading, any assignment I had to do.

There's a lot of flexibility in the assignments, too, to target your own students. I remember in particular in a course I took with Dr. McKeithan. If you had a student that fit the requirements, instead of using the case study students they present to you online, you could use one of your own students, obviously with safeguards in place. And it was phenomenal to be able to apply what I was learning in my classroom, get immediate feedback from an expert in the field and benefit myself and my student at the same time. So everything that I've been able to learn, I've been able to apply. And I will say I tell more people every day, even if you live in Massachusetts, look at the University of Kansas because it's worth the experience.

Susan Hartz:
Great. I'm so glad you brought up the fact that being on the East Coast, there's no way you're gonna make that commute for a night class at KU. So that's one of the fun things about this position I'm in now, is speaking to people all over the country and world and that they are able to take that opportunity to apply and get accepted into the number one online special education program. And they can be hours away. And then now, Kevin, I'm curious to know how you've been able to apply what you've learned in the class as an advocate.

Kevin Fulmer:
Sure thing. So lead with that question so I can take holistically all the classes in education and direct apply much like my peers who are educators to their students. But Dr. McKeithan, Dr. Griswold, they have not shied away with, you know, you have your son available to use as a case study example. And I have done that, taking the lessons and the coursework and being able to understand and react better as a parent and then also the side of me that is this graduate student. So it's been applicable to work with my son. And then as far as other work, the education being taken here in Education Department is definitely still applicable to just business practices with... That happened for me in my career with the Army, just understanding behavior and working with others. It has definitely come into play. So it's been really good. I cannot speak more to how much the rewards are, but am I able to answer the question about why I chose KU and online?

Susan Hartz:
Oh yeah, definitely. [chuckle]

Kevin Fulmer:
So yes. It's been mentioned about East Coast, West Coast. So I'm residing now in Kansas, but I'm kind of a student who's been with it for a long time, and it's kind of been a slow road. But back in '19 is when I started, and it was right before deployment. So I took my first class at KU, getting ready to go to the Middle East, and started the second one while I was in the Middle East, and that was originally from my location in Alaska. So online really removes some of the restrictions and can't do much about the time zones, but it really helped with a very active, fully functioning adult life and career. So there's tremendous benefits to that. And then not trying to go back to the original questions, but the support from the staff and faculty at the University of Kansas is tremendous. So I felt like it's been said before a lot more touchpoints in communication than even some of what I've seen in my undergraduate years, so... And then it's hard not to talk about how distinguished the program is. And that isn't just an empty statement. You read it in the syllabus, and you experience how strong the coursework is and it's very rewarding. So no regrets at all applying to KU at this tremendous program with special education.

Susan Hartz:
Thanks, Kevin. And then, Kaylee, why did you decide to go with KU online?

Kaylee Wright:
So in my life, I specifically chose a special education department 'cause I grew up with a younger brother with multiple disabilities and always have been drawn to individuals with disabilities. I helped out with a special needs cheerleading team when I was in high school, and then when I was in college, I had the opportunity to travel to England to teach for an entire month. And there, my professor in my undergraduate was like, "Kaylie, you have to go to KU. They are the best special education program around." And that was my... Going to be my senior... That was my senior year, summer. So I kind of knew then that it's like, okay, the University of Kansas was gonna be where I went. Didn't know when I was gonna start my program. I decided to wait a little bit, so I had some experience within the classroom. But I specifically chose online because it just worked really well with the school that I'm in. My school is very... Our students need a lot of help. And it was best for me to learn this online and always apply what I'm learning to help those students, not just students with disabilities, but our general education students as well.

So I thought that that would allow me to kind of blend in what I'm learning into my classroom. And I really feel like I was able to apply a lot of what the high incidence special education program taught me, and especially the parts where it actually had students who didn't know if they could do things but challenged them to try things out and push their boundaries past maybe where they thought they would be and even where their parents thought they could be. And hearing about them now and now having their siblings in my own classroom, I get to hear about all their successes outside of our elementary school and now they were in our sixth grade and now moving on to our middle school. But I'm excited to use this information that I've learned and applied to my fifth grade classroom, but now apply it to a third grade classroom to especially help those students who... Technically, our soon-to-be third graders are... That was the year... Their kindergarten year was the year COVID hit.

And they didn't get a full kindergarten. So really helping them understand just their emotions, but also understanding the impact of learning and helping also my team understand that what we can do to help in bridging that gap between our special education department within our building and really developing them to come into the room and be an active part of our classrooms rather than just having the pull out section, really pulling them in to be a part of our community, because that was something I learned last year, was the more we pull them into the room, the more they're feeling welcome. And I actually had a parent who told me that at the end of the year saying that you were the first teacher in their entire time at our elementary school from kindergarten to fifth to actually make their student feel included. So this program and University of Kansas really helped me see that no matter the disability, no matter what the child can do, we have to make them feel included and we have to teach them to the best of their abilities.

And if that ability is different than other students, that's fine. We meet them where they need. But I'm really honored to have learned from the University of Kansas and spread to my colleagues at school. They're like, "Hey, if you ever need a special education program, University of Kansas is where to go."

Susan Hartz:
All right. Thanks, Kaylee. And then Deborah.

Deborah:
I ended up at Kansas by just going at the time to get the graduate certificate. As you recall, I was teaching pre-K with no experience. I needed something now and ended up at because University of Kansas is the best and I wanted to learn from the best, so I started out with that. And at the time, that was how it was picked. At the same time though, my son is actually living in right outside Kansas City, and of course I didn't know how far one was from the other, but once I was going out there and found out how close it was, my husband and my son and his wife carried me, and I got to actually go visit the school and see where I was going to school and meet some of the people there. And then later on when Dr. Travers was my advisor and I was telling him I was headed out, he actually got a group of students that were in some of my classes, and we met for coffee. So and I share that because I don't know any place that would have made you know that being an online student, I feel like that I am truly a Kansas alumnus. I'm not just, I didn't just take classes there and that made a difference.

Being that Dr. McKeithan actually lived not too far from me. I got a special visit because she actually came to my classroom and experienced pre-K [chuckle] and we had talked a lot about the different things and everything that I learned was applied immediately. If I hadn't gotten to that part yet, I would email Dr. McKeithan and say, "Help, I need to know what I can do here." And we'd get that support. So as Sydney said, I have recommended university of Kansas to many, many people that have talked about going back to get a master's degree or, and I've even sold 'em for undergrad if you're going online. I was working full-time, so I had to go online. That was the only time I really had. But having taken a few classes here and there online at other places, I can tell you that this is where I truly felt like I was a student and continue to feel that way and recommend it to anyone.

Susan Hartz:
Awesome. I'm so glad you shared your experience of visiting the campus, because I always tell prospective students, you're never required to come, but you're always welcome to visit [chuckle]] So thanks for sharing that. And then Aleya.

Aleya:
Yeah, so I actually, I graduated with my undergrad back in 2017 and at the time I was interested in going into Special Education because that was my original major. And so my dad and I kind of had a deal that I would go to Wayne State College, which is in Nebraska, but they required you to get a teaching license and I'm the oddball and I don't want one for many reasons not because the education world is, I don't wanna be in it. Just I just didn't want that. And so I was, I found KU and I noticed that A, that they had a transition secondary program and that's where my niche was. That's where I wanted to pursue and focus on and that my program didn't require to get a license. So I was like, "Great." But I had just graduated from my undergrad, and I wasn't ready to go into any type of schooling at the time, so I just put it on the back burner.

And then I met my then husband back in 2020 way before COVID and I was talking about it and he's like, "I think you should apply." And I was like, "I don't really know what I'm doing." So I applied, I got accepted, which blew my mind because again, I, my undergrad is not anything education related. And then I realized it was online, which is what I needed. My husband's in the military so I needed something that we could be flexible. We moved many times already, so I needed to be able to pack up my computer and move. And plus I just needed a break from going to campus and I just really found that I liked online programs better than being on campus, which is usually the opposite. So that's kind of how I got started with KU. And how have I been able to apply my classwork? So since I started at the beginning of the pandemic the young lady that I take care of, her program shut down, she wasn't able to go do any of her favorite things in public. And so they kind of really looked to me on, "Can you come up with new things? What can you do? What can we do?"

So I was coming up with all sorts of lists and activities and chores and games and whatever we could figure out. Some of it was an absolute fail, she just didn't wanna do it, which was fine. And then some things she's been doing 'em since I started, which is now three years. And so it's been really cool to meet the family and meet where she's at and adapt kind of like Kevin said using what he has in his own home. And so I kind of had that perspective because I lived in, so I lived in their basement 24/7. So that was just a really unique experience, being able to take what I learned in the classroom, which is a lot of knowledge and a lot of strengths and a lot of things that I didn't even realize what was out there. Like when we say that they support us and that they really show up for us and that they're just like, "Here's this, here's that you can use." If you have someone, instead of using a case study, use someone that you know with safeguards so that you can really gain that experience and really use what you're learning and use that into the real world.

Which I thought is a really unique experience because a lot of places that I talk to other students or alumni from other places, they don't get that. And I think that's why, KU is rated the top one and everyone has said so far, I'm like "Go here. Go here. You won't regret it. It is the best." So it's been a really cool experience.

Jeremiah Nast:
Thanks so much. And then Catherine?

Catherine Hansen:
Yeah, so I come from a long line of KU alumni. I did not attend KU for my undergrad, but I knew that once I was going for my master's that KU is the top and that's where I wanted to be. I chose online because I was working full-time. I had not yet accepted a teaching position. I was a substitute and then the world fell apart and they reached out to me, and my now principal was like, "Hey, I heard that you are in a SPED program." And I was like, "I am." And he's like, "Do you wanna come work here on a waiver?" And I was like, "I would love to." And I've been there ever since. So it really set up my whole future of my dream career with my dream population.

And how I've been able to apply, what I've learned, again echoing what everybody said, I've used readings and assignments taken them directly and put them in my day-to-day. And what Sydney said about being able to adapt a lot of the assignments, Dr. Bruxer knows that we sat on many a Zoom call. I work with an extremely transient population, so there were many assignments that, were actually made up of three to five different students because by the time we would get to a checkpoint, that student would have left me, and I would have no access to any of their paperwork or anything. And so to be able to work with a team who could be as flexible with me as I needed to be with my students was really, really incredible. I just, like everybody else has said, anytime someone is considering a master's in education, I'm like, "Go KU." Like the, it is just, it's, the best. And to be able to do it online, even though I live like 20 minutes from campus, it was so great to be able to have that flexibility of doing it online and being there to support my kids while knowing that I had the support of faculty behind me.

Jeremiah Nast:
I did wanna say really quickly, I personally, I am in the online MBA program, which obviously is not part of the School of Education, but it's part of KU. And one of the reasons that I am in the program is the types of conversations that I had with all of you, as we were, you know, getting people together for this webinar. Deborah, if I could have bottled our conversation and given it to every single student that I speak to I would do that. Your enthusiasm is wonderful. I know that y'all have your own stories kind of moving through, kind of, what it means for you to be a Jayhawk, and that means a lot to everybody that you speak to. I know you all mentioned that you recommend it, and that a lot of that is because of the wonderful work of the faculty members.

Susan Hartz:
Thanks, Jeremiah. And then to, for our last round of questions, they are for our faculty. What is the most challenging part of your program? What do you find most rewarding? And then what advice or tips do you have for success for new students? And then Irma, if you wanna share with everybody.

Irma:
Sure. I get stuck on the word challenging because, I don't know that I typically use that word as I'm in this role. And I know we have challenges and if you think about that over the years, boy, have we been faced with what we could call lots of challenges. So I've tried to change that mindset myself in what we do. So, oh, I would say, I guess I just can't start with that one. I'm gonna start with what you find most rewarding, because for me, that's the place to start. First and foremost is the relationships and the connections across the world. Like I have had students at Ecuador and China, I mean, all of, it's not only within the United States and the partnership that I think occurs within those relationships where certainly we are armed with best practices and research-based practices, and we definitely have our knowledge base and things within our program.

But those of you who are out there in the trenches doing the work, we also learn from you. And when the pandemic hit, I just have to say that we had to come together and say, let's learn together. How do we adapt? What are creative adaptations? What are things that we need to do? So for me, one of the most rewarding experiences is becoming a partner with the students, and sharing our knowledge of what's going on in the field and how we take what we know over here within our program and make it work within your setting. So I think that to me, I get passionate and excited about doing that. And I think about you, Catherine, 'cause that's one of the situations we had. But I do have a student like that is in Ecuador when things closed down, they had nothing, and they immediately had to go everything online. So getting with the students and helping out with that. So I just feel like the biggest reward are the students in my mind, in those relationships that we can share and help them build. I think what makes it really unique is that you get to meet colleagues and other classmates across the country, across the world, on team partnerships. So I think that also is rewarding to see that develop and see those relationships and the opportunities to communicate, really flourish and people stay together and talk with each other you know, even after.

that I find things pretty much challenging. I think for students it could be a challenge when you are, maybe I can look from a student perspective, it's going to be managing your world and your schedule because you're adding on this intensive program because it does push you it. And so I think the challenge is for our students to learn to manage their time well, to map that out and to stay in contact with instructors, and teachers and professors when there are situations that throw you off. Because we've always are willing to work with you along the way. So I think if there's a little challenge, it is that you're adding on something that's gonna be pretty demanding. And so it just requires you to step it up and to really look at what you're doing in your... This isn't just the only thing that you'll be doing is this program. You are teaching, you have life. And so I think a challenging part is more of the management of everything and then ensuring that you're able to meet the expectations and the requirements in a timely manner.

So the tips and advice that I have to be successful is there, it's a mindset going into this is that having the communication and reaching out and connecting and making sure that you're making the effort to advocate for your needs. I've had many students who let me know, gosh, I am one of those people that just need some extended time, or that KU does offer our services here, that if you do have a need that way, our special services program does allow you to work through them, and they inform us as instructors of what some of your needs are. So that is one piece of advice I would get. The other piece is, make sure you have your support team in place because you are going to be working and have family and have a program that's gonna be demanding. So I think that becomes very important because you need to be mentally, physically healthy during this so that you can give your best and you get your best out of that.

The other piece is just if you're getting into the courses, so let me move to that. Each course that is set up has your syllabus, it has a set structure. I think becoming very aware of the structure and the routine within your courses is critical to allow you to have some ease in tackling and learning deeper. And most of us have it set up as modules. In fact, all the programs we meet together, and we share what is the best practices to structure and organize and design the programs. So it's really great because I get to work with the folks, you know, like I get to work with Brandon and I get to work with Stacy, the folks that are in the other programs, and we come together, and we share what is working well. So one of the things I think that stands out for all of us is the structure of how it's laid out in campus and being familiar with that.

That would be, a tip that I would say. The other advice I would have if, if you're working in, like you mentioned, many of our alumnus, shared with us, is thinking ahead about, do I have the population so that I can apply and practice? So keep that in mind as you're beginning to enter the program that those are available because as you've heard, much of the work that we do immediately gets applied with students and or a student or a son or her daughter. So that I think is a tip to keep in mind. And I think just come in with it, knowing that you're gonna have the support and guidance that you need, that you're not expected to come in to be a master of what you're going to learn. That if you can come in being open to being a learner, open to fumbling around, this is the place, it's a safe space, but it's also a place where you can be brave enough to try different things. So I think that would be, some of my tips and advice that I would give to incoming students.

Susan Hartz:
Thanks, Irma. And then, now we are, we're at 07:02, so I don't wanna keep you folks on too much longer. So Dr. McKeithan, if you wanna give some last advice for any new students entering the program, and then we can, wrap it up.

Glennda McKeithan:
So, I think one challenge for students initially is their confidence that they can't think, they don't think they can do it, or they don't trust if they don't understand something, they should just reach out to us or one of their peers. So getting them to open up and understand that we need, we need their experiences and their thoughts and for them to help us, contribute, you know, and contribute to the learning environment, that's really a key challenge. At least initially, I have students from usually the first five classes, so by the middle of the first class, they open up and they really enjoy interacting with their colleagues. But I think at first, they believe online is gonna be a very isolated experience and they don't necessarily think that they have time or that it would be worth their while to spend time developing relationships with their instructors or their peers.

And they, they do, change their mind fairly quickly. So that's an initial challenge. The reward of the program, I think is the relationships. I spend way more time individually with my students in an online setting than I ever did face-to-face. And I know my students, Sydney, has presented at conferences. I've invited her to different conferences to present. Deb and I have presented together at conferences. We've worked on a publication together. We've served on nonprofit boards together. Kevin, when I, because of his experience in the military, so all three of these students are on my phone contact list. [laughter] And when we were talking about making adjustments in his course because of his, because he was moving from Alaska back to Kansas, I was able to give advice to, one of the students support counselors who are amazing resources for students that's also maybe unique to KU.

That we needed to make some changes because this was going on in his life and, you know, he needs to have time to move and here's what's going on. So I know my students on a much more profound level than I did when I taught face-to-face. So, an advice and tip is just to reach out to us and connect and let us know if you have a problem and to use, find out what the resources are. Like if you have a problem with technology or you're not sure about APA stuff like Irma was talking about earlier, reach out to us. One of us, whether I'm teaching you or Irma's teaching you, we will all, we will help all students and also our students help students. So we refer current students to alumni students who, if they need advice on a particular pathway or, you know, let me find out what it's like to teach in a preschool setting or a high school setting or, what's it like to be a parent of a kid on the spectrum. Kevin will let them interview him. So I love that all of the students and everybody at KU just joins together to help everyone.

Susan Hartz:
Thanks so much. And then, I really just kind of what Jeremiah was saying Dr. McKeithan about, alumni's enthusiasm is, Jeremiah and I were just taken aback by how enthusiastic all the students and alumni were that are on tonight to be a part of this. I know with a couple of people when I was on the phone I was like, hi, we've been invited to be a part of webinar. Yes, [laughter], it was just right away a yes. Didn't even wanna know what it was about what they were gonna do, they just wanted to be a part of it. So it just attests to just how amazing the program is and how supportive they are of their students. And then, so that is it for this evening. Thank you again to all the faculty and the students and alumni that were a part of this. Thank you to everybody who's attending. We look forward to seeing what everybody's gonna do in the future with their careers. So, have a good night, everybody.

Jeremiah Nast:
Rock chalk.

Irma:
Thank you all.

Glennda McKeithan:
Thank you everyone.

Learn more about KU's online special education programs.


KU Student Testimonials

KU student class review: Krysten Carroll reviews SPED 800

KU School of Education and Human Sciences student Krysten Carroll reviews KU’s SPED 800 course and shares how the class has helped her develop new strategies and processes for interventions that she is applying today.

Video Transcript

Krysten Carroll:
Hi everyone. My name is Krysten Carroll and I am in the master's program for autism spectrum disorder. I am currently taking SPED 800, which is a communication course. I have just had such a great time with this class. It's something that I have learned so much from, and I am excited to start working more with the resources that I have been given throughout this course. And throughout the learning that I have gotten from the professors that I have worked with have been absolutely amazing. And have taught me so much, and so much useful information that I can put into my day to day routine with my students. I am a first grade ICT teacher, so I am working in a special ed and general education class, fully remote. I've been working with students with communication disorders, and students who struggle with communication due to their disability. Working in this class has been so helpful in learning different strategies, and different processes and interventions, that I can use. Not only with my students that I'm working on for projects within the class, but for students who I'm working with every single day.

And any student that's struggling with a communication issue, or who is having a hard time expressing something, or showing how they're feeling. Whether it's verbally or non-verbally. I have worked with both sets of students. This course has just taught me so much. The professors have been incredibly helpful. They are so understanding and they are so willing to work with you throughout these projects. To give you so much insight and feedback when you're working on these projects, and teaching you different ins and outs of how to use these strategies. And how to use these interventions in order to help create a successful environment for your student. Something that really stuck out to me about this course was the final project, the project we were working on throughout the entire course, actually. It was our communication project. We had to choose a student who we wanted to work with, and who we wanted to pick an intervention for. And pick a process that we wanted to kind of implement throughout the day with the student, and take data and see how the student reacted to it.

I was working with a student in first grade, who I started using a reinforcement strategy and intervention. I at first was a bit nervous because I know that my student works well towards rewards, but I was thinking that the student might catch on pretty quickly that they were working towards something that I was trying to teach them. That they were going to realize that this was just a teaching process, and that they were getting these rewards because I was trying to change a behavior. My student really struggled to express how they were feeling, and they struggled to express needing help in an appropriate manner. A lot of the time it would become something that was yelling or crying, and really frustration was just taking over the student. I was nervous that at first they would catch on to that being part of the reason why I was doing the rewards.

Even when they did start to realize that it was teaching new behaviors, and teaching them how to ask for help in an appropriate manner. And how to express themselves appropriately, they were so proud of themselves for learning and understanding, that there is a different way to communicate your feelings and to communicate your frustrations, rather than just breaking down. This was something that the student is still working on, but has gained so much knowledge and has wanted to hold themselves accountable for. Meanwhile, these are only students that are in first grade. Working with visuals and working with checklists in order to help the student see, "When I am confused, I should do this." Or, "When I am, I'm struggling to ask for help, this is how I can ask." We would model those strategies and we would work with those students, and showing him how to use a different strategy rather than just shutting down. Because, he was more than capable of expressing how he was feeling in an appropriate way.

Going through this project and seeing the growth from the beginning of working with my student, and trying different processes and interventions. And ending up working with reinforcement and using different checklists to help keep the student accountable, was such a great reward. The student was so proud of himself, and he was starting to realize how he can help himself throughout the day. How it doesn't have to be a big struggle in order to ask for help. This was something that this class gave to me, and I think is just incredibly helpful and useful. Something that I will start to use now with all of my students is, just different strategies and interventions in order to help my students.

Sydney Castonguay, M.S.E. ‘21, shares her experiences in KU’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Graduate Certificate program and explains how the program has positively and directly impacted her students and her teaching career.

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Tim Wealton, a veteran teacher and graduate of KU’s online special education transition master’s program, shares how his KU master’s provided the resources that have helped him become a better educator with next-level techniques to help his students achieve success in adulthood.

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IMPORTANT DATES

AUG
12
Application Deadline
August 12
Fall 2024 Term
AUG
26
Next Start
August 26
Fall 2024 Term

EVENTS