In conjunction with the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) orientation program for incoming freshman, Career Services and Disability Services (DS&R) and Resources staff, with funding support from AccessComputing, held an additional orientation program for incoming freshman with disabilities on August 31st and September 1st, 2006.

Orientation 2 (O2) is a day and a half workshop that was designed to introduce students to college, DS&R, assistive technology, computing careers, and self-advocacy. A workshop was also provided to parents to educate them on DS&R, college transition issues, and ways in which they can support the development of self-determination.

The workshop for students included an introduction to various adaptive technologies being used on campus. Students also had the opportunity to explore various assistive software programs. A Science/Engineering Student Panel, consisting of students with disabilities majoring in computer science, mechanical engineering, and other fields, exposed the students to role models and potential mentors. Panel members shared their academic experiences, as well as accommodation strategies, and led a campus tour.

Career Services staff led a discussion on various fields of study at UMD. A Student Affairs advisor from the College of Science and Engineering was also involved to talk about computing-related fields and study strategies. Other presentations included: Accommodations in College and How to Obtain Them, Working with Professors, Campus Resources, and a Team Building exercise. Round tables were also set up in the evening with students choosing from Student Leadership/Clubs, Disclosure/Self-determination, Living on Campus/Roommates, and Assistive Technology.

Feedback indicated that students were pleased that they had the opportunity to get a head start in school and “get a taste of what they would be exploring more fully once classes began.” Parents appreciated the information they were given and enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with staff and with other parents. One parent offered to start an email newsletter so they could all stay in touch.

For UMD, this is a promising practice to give incoming freshman students with disabilities a running start, as they make that critical transition from high school to college and to begin thinking about potential studies and careers in computing and other high tech fields.

AccessComputing minigrant activities have been funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, CNS-1042260, and CNS-1539179).