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Professor receives national recognition for leadership in inclusive higher education

Mock Receives National Recognition for Leadership in Inclusive Higher Education

In a room packed with hundreds of colleagues, policymakers, and families at the 2018 State of the Art (SOTA) Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in Syracuse, N.Y., Martha Mock was presented with the Leadership in Inclusive Higher Education Award on October 10. The award recognizes an administrator, program director, or staff member with a higher education institution who epitomizes leadership in the postsecondary field.

Cindi May, a 2018 SOTA Conference advisory board member and a professor from the College of Charleston, presented the award with a powerful speech outlining Mock’s leadership in higher education.

“Martha’s passion for inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disabilities is contagious, and her work for the past decade has helped make tremendous gains in our still-new field,” May said. “Her dedicated leadership has directly resulted in the establishment and growth of opportunities in the state of New York and across the country. She employs an approach that emphasizes empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities, strong community collaborations, and effective advocacy at all levels.”

Mock is a clinical professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, where she serves as director of both the early childhood and inclusion/special education teacher preparation programs and the Center on Disability and Education. Mock’s career in inclusion, transition and education spans more than two decades, including her time as a teacher, professor and advocate working alongside and on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. For more than a decade, she has worked to change the landscape of educational opportunities for transition-age students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In doing so, she has impacted practice, policy, and outcomes for students across the nation.

“The result of Martha’s efforts have been critical systemic change that will ensure a long-lasting positive impact for adolescents and young adults with intellectual disabilities and their families,” added May as she summarized Mock’s achievements during the award ceremony.

May also cited Mock’s leadership in the Center on Disability and Education (formerly the Institute for Innovative Transition), which she helped establish in 2008 to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. As director of the center, Mock has successfully helped to secure significant and consistent grant support for more than a decade. The center has used the grant funds, totaling $11.8 million, to provide systematic information to families, educators, and professionals; engage with regional, state, and federal resources to improve transition outcomes; and to foster the development of model postsecondary programs to serve students with intellectual disabilities.

Mock and the center team are committed to expanding high-quality transition options across New York State, where they are currently working with the City University of New York (CUNY), AHRC New York City, and the New York City Department of Education to expand college options for students with disabilities through the support of a second U.S. Department of Education Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant. In this leadership role, Mock has also conducted lobbying and legislative advocacy at the state and federal levels.

In the fall of 2017, Mock and the center staff helped to develop, along with members from Syracuse University, the NYS Inclusive Higher Education Coalition, a group of committed universities, colleges, school districts, and disability agencies that provide access to postsecondary education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across New York State. The coalition’s goal is to create and improve college options for students with disabilities, and increase awareness of these options amongst families and school districts.

Additionally, Mock has worked to share the practical and collaborative wisdom that has emerged from the New York TPSID Consortium through peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations, webinars, film projects, community conferences, and legislative efforts. This dissemination of information, May explained, has advanced the field significantly, both in terms of policy and practice.
Martha MockDuring Mock’s acceptance speech, she took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of full inclusion in higher education.

“There are 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States, and we have access to 260 of them,” she said. “While this represents five percent of colleges, we are a mighty five percent—and many would argue the best five percent. We can agree that progress over the last decade has been significant, but I’m sure we can also agree that we have more work ahead of us.”

Referencing lyrics to the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen as the perfect description for how the world changes, Mock closed her remarks, “What we have created is a crack—a sliver of light—that each one of us in the room sees, values, and works hard to expand every single day. Students do this by showing up and setting high expectations for themselves and holding others to the same high expectations. Others expand this sliver of light by gaining access to more courses on campus, supporting students directly, conducting research alongside students, working on state and federal policies, and gaining access to dorm living and residence halls.”

She concluded, “This is how the world changes. This is how the light gets in.”

The annual SOTA Conference is an opportunity for colleges and universities, researchers, program staff, parents, and self-advocates to learn about the current state of research and practice in the field of inclusive postsecondary education and to network with others.