Apply for a Mini-Grant to Expand Inclusive Higher Education in Tennessee

Supporting Community Conversations

Through a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities), we received funding to both grow our programs and support other campuses in Tennessee to explore launching their own program. Recipients of a community conversation mini-grant will commit to holding one event, analyzing the ideas generated by attendees, and forming a team committed to moving forward on the best ideas. Our team will support mini-grant recipients in planning and carrying out their community conversation event, as well make technical assistance available as campuses move forward in exploring this possibility.

A community conversation is a unique one-time, two-hour event aimed at bringing together a cross-section of critical stakeholders to generate possible responses to a pressing need in a community. In addition to identifying promising ideas, events can help identify key allies and partners needed to move forward. We have helped host more than 20 community conversation events on topics related to creating more inclusive workplaces and more welcoming faith communities for people with disabilities. These have taken place in cities like Chattanooga, Clarksville, Germantown, Greeneville, Bristol, Jackson, Knoxville, Lafayette, Lawrenceburg, Memphis, Murfreesboro, Nashville, and Trenton.

To learn more about community conversations, visit the following links:

  • This article provides an overview of community conversations recently held in Tennessee:

Uncovering New Pathways to Employment through Community Conversations

  • This video offers a glimpse into what a community conversation might look like:

  • This guide addresses step-by-step how to put on a community conversation:

Launching Inclusive Efforts through Community Conversations

The purpose of this mini-grant is to support a minimum of three community college or university campuses in Tennessee to host “community conversation” events aimed at expanding post-secondary education opportunities for people with intellectual disability. These two-hour evening events are effective and engaging ways of gathering a cross-section of campus and community stakeholders to identify possible pathways for expanding access to campus for students with intellectual disability. Events will take place in the spring semester of the 2016-2017 academic year. We hope these events will be the catalyst for new inclusive higher education programs in Tennessee.

Campuses hosting a community conversation event this spring will then become eligible to apply for a future grant of up to $15,000 to support the development of their post-secondary program. More information about this subsequent grant will be available this October.

About Inclusive Higher Education

Across the country, two- and four-year colleges and universities are developing programs to support students with intellectual disability (including autism) to access the myriad benefits of higher education. Almost 250 such programs now exist in the United States, including five in Tennessee:

  • EDGE at Union University
  • FUTURE at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • IDEAL at Lipscomb University
  • Next Steps at Vanderbilt University
  • TigerLIFE at the University of Memphis

With more than 17,000 students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in Tennessee, we see great need for new and high-quality options for students living in all corners of the state. To learn more about college options for students with intellectual disability, visit

How Can I Apply?

Click Here to Download the Full Application. Applications are open to two- and four-year campuses interested in developing a new post-secondary program for youth with intellectual disability. Each application must be submitted along with a letter of support from a campus administrator and a minimum of at least one letter from a local disability organization, disability provider, or partnering high school or school district expressing both the commitment of the planning team and their involvement in the project.

Critical Dates and Selection Process

  • Applications are due by October 15, 2016.
  • Applications will be reviewed by members of our team.
  • Recipients will be announced by November 1, 2016.
  • Preference will be given to submissions by teams from areas of Tennessee without an inclusive higher education program.

Submit Application Electronically or by Mail To:

Jennifer Bumble
Department of Special Education
PMB 228, Peabody College
One Magnolia Circle
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37203

Feel free to contact Jennifer Bumble at 615-322-4999 with questions about the application process and/or materials.