Michigan State University is launching a new center to meet the critical need globally to support individuals with disabilities in life and career transitions.
Co-directed by Associate Professors Marisa Fisher and Connie Sung, the MSU Center for Services, Training and Research for Independence and Desired Employment, or STRIDE, will help individuals with disabilities to achieve meaningful community engagement, including through employment, independent living and post-secondary education.
“The goal is for STRIDE to be a center of excellence in transition with a community focus,” said Fisher. While STRIDE will initially provide most support locally, the goal is to have international reach. “There are more people in this area who need services and support than there are providers. We are addressing that gap in a research-centric way.”
The center, which launched on June 13, will be housed within the MSU College of Education and the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE). Fisher, Sung and other personnel will work with individuals and also partner with researchers, service providers, employers and policymakers to provide and efficiently disseminate evidence-based practices of support.
“We want to translate research into practice to provide support services that are effective and efficient for all,” said Sung, also the director for MSU’s Rehabilitation Counseling master’s program. The center will support those with physical, mental, neurological, intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as other populations with disabilities including individuals with criminal backgrounds and veterans from underserved communities. “We want to partner with organizations to identify community needs and provide avenues to assist them.”
STRIDE will also be a hub for training future professionals and organizations through service-learning placements, conducting innovative research and engaging with communities. Evaluation work will also be included as part of the focus and services of STRIDE.
Fisher and Sung have dedicated their careers and research to improving the lives of others. Among their collaborations, they served as program directors for the award-winning Spartan Project SEARCH from 2016-2021, a national program with a satellite at MSU that supports young adults in transitioning from school to work.
“Building on the success of Spartan Project SEARCH and the amazing leadership of Drs. Fisher and Sung, STRIDE will advance MSU’s teaching, research and outreach missions for years to come,” said Cary Roseth, chair of the CEPSE department.
As Fisher and Sung have collaborated, both saw the need for an expansive center built on a three-pronged approach of outreach, teaching and research.
They also noted how their fields—special education and behavior analysis for Fisher and rehabilitation counseling for Sung—and the expertise of other faculty within the college and department are complementary and illuminate how MSU is uniquely positioned to lead such a center.
“The College of Education is very committed to research, teaching and outreach that support individuals with disabilities in their careers and lives,” added Interim Dean Ann E. Austin. “STRIDE will provide a focal point for the college’s work in this area, and we look forward to collaboration with many partners throughout the community.”
As part of their work with Spartan Project SEARCH, Fisher and Sung used a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study if combining job-related training programs with the Project SEARCH model could enhance employment readiness.
Separately, in April 2020, Fisher and Sung also initiated work on an international survey examining how COVID-19 impacted the lives of everyone, but especially those with disabilities.