by Claire Miller
College of Education Associate Professors David Houchins and Kris Varjas recently received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a project designed to support special education doctoral students who want to conduct research in alternative school settings.
“There’s a great need for this collaboration between special education and mental health, and that’s really the foundation for the project,” Houchins said. “We want to expose students to research, service and professional development opportunities in these fields.”
Project Leaders (Leaders in Exceptionalities Alternative and Delinquency-Related Environments through Research and Scholarship) is a collaboration between the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services and the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education to prepare a cohort of six full-time doctoral students to study and improve academic and mental health services for students with mild disabilities in alternative schools and the professionals who serve them. Students must be certified in special education, have taught for at least three years and have a desire to work in higher education.
Students in the program will have a combination of classwork and field experiences in local schools as they work toward earning a Ph.D. in special education with an emphasis on academics and mental health issues of students in alternative schools. The grant funding allows each student to receive up to $30,000 annually. A tuition waiver is provided through a graduate research assistantship. Additionally, monies are provided to cover the cost of textbooks and supplies, dissertation research, travel to academic conferences and other program expenses. Each program student can receive up to $178,000 over the course of the project.
In addition, students will have the opportunity to meet leaders in the field of special education and mental health who will visit the COE throughout the program. Students will gain firsthand knowledge in how mental health and special education are connected in alternative schools.
“Alternative school settings are a place to potentially prevent kids from going into the juvenile justice system, and you’re seeing more academic and mental health concerns in those settings,” Varjas said. “This program provides an opportunity for our students to be able to work in both prevention and intervention for kids with mild disabilities in alternative schools and have a huge impact on their lives.”
Applications are currently being accepted for the Fall 2012 cohort. Priority will be given to those who submit their applications by March 30, 2012.
For more information about Project Leaders and application details, visit http://education.gsu.edu/ProjectLeaders/index.html.