New Integrative Community Studies Program Launches at LSU

“LSU Community” prepares and advances students with moderate disabilities with the skills to become productive and independent members of their communities


The LSU Lutrill & Pearl Payne School of Education launched a new program, the Integrative Community Studies Program. The two-year certificate program, known as “LSU Community,” is designed to provide adults with moderate disabilities with a life-changing university experience to improve independent living, competitive employment, and relationships. A significant number of Louisiana adults have intellectual or developmental disabilities (CDC). Included in that population are young adults who have exited public school special education programs for individuals with disabilities. LSU’s Integrative Community Studies program joins eight other college and university programs in the state that will be providing supports to young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“We are thrilled to welcome Louisiana students with intellectual or developmental disabilities to our campus and provide research-informed independent living and workforce skill development programming to an underserved population,” said program faculty advisor Paul Mooney, PhD, who directs undergraduate and graduate special education programming. “Our campus and its people are uniquely situated to develop as well as learn from students who are and will be accepted into the Integrative Community Studies program. We want our LSU community to be front and center in the broader efforts to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities and their families.”

Parents, educators, and other stakeholders across the state and nation have advocated for more and better postsecondary programming for this young adult population. In Baton Rouge, the LSU Integrative Community Studies program has been launched to increase and improve independent living and workforce development skills in young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The Integrative Community Studies program received financial support from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana as well as the Louisiana Legislature’s Postsecondary Inclusive Education Fund. The program is a recipient of a Collective Impact grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. Doing LIFE Together: Learning Independence From Experience: Serving Louisiana Adults with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities in University Programs was awarded $250,000.

male standing in front of LSU sign
male holding LSU acceptance letter
men and women smiling at camera with LSU Memorial Tower in the background

"LSU Community" members enjoy the LSU campus.

The LSU Integrative Community Studies Program, “LSU Community,” offers a progression of growth and experience to students living with intellectual disabilities and their families. The program was recently awarded Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program status from the United States Department of Education, allowing families to apply for scholarship support as well as work with state vocational rehabilitation services agencies.

“There is a critical divide that exists in our education system once a student becomes too old to attend traditional high school. We’ve responded to this need by creating a next-step program that reiterates independent living by implementing a process of individualized growth through the expansion of functional academics, workforce reinforcement skill labs, social and emotional training, and valuable social gatherings that make the LSU campus unique and fantastic,” said LSU Integrative Community Studies Program Director Willie Louviere, PhD. 

Academic mentors in the LSU Community are a critical component to what makes this program successful. LSU students serve as independent living assistants who provide overnight residential support; Tiger LIFE Mentors who provide academic, workforce, and independent living support; and social mentors, or students who receive service hours, attend social events with the residents, and assist during recreation time. 

“Academic mentors must have a heart to work with this demographic and a patience that goes unmatched,” said Louviere. “We teach by modeling and in most instances, mentors may be challenged to teach and reteach until the specific skill becomes a relevant part of the routine. The most wonderful thing about the LSU Community mentors is that they have become a family, and they have personal buy-in to claiming success for our residents and for the future advancements of the program and the potential to create a greater impact for students with disabilities.”

The program's mission is to provide students with intellectual disabilities with an integrative and inclusive educational experience using comprehensive transitional programming to prepare students for successful employment and in meaningful participation in their communities. Students’ daily schedules include integrative community studies courses, campus activities, skill practice, meals, tutoring, and social events. The program also plans to collaborate with other units across campus as well as programs across the state. 

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