East Carolina University

East Carolina University (ECU) was the first campus to connect with the College STAR initiative in 2010. The College STAR mission to create a more welcoming campus environment for students with learning differences complements East Carolina University’s (ECU) commitment to supporting student success. The idea that students with learning differences can succeed in college was growing at ECU, albeit on a small scale. At the time, professional development related to learner variability or the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the college setting were limited. Thus, timing for this initiative was ideal, and over time, the project has maintained strong support from university leadership.

For all anchor campuses, the College STAR model maintains a two-part focus: (A) Direct Student Support and (B) Instructional Support across campus grounded in the principles of Universal Design for Learning. The ECU student support program is entitled STEPP (Supporting Transition and Education through Planning and Partnership), and supports students who have identified learning disabilities. The Instructional Spport component focuses on weaving the principles of Universal Design for Learning in as many different settings on campus as possible.

Direct Student Support

The Walter and Marie Williams STEPP Program was already established at ECU before the initiation of College STAR and served as the first student support program in the network. STEPP’s mission is to provide students with learning disabilities who aspire to achieve a college education and who demonstrate the potential for postsecondary success with access and comprehensive support throughout their university experience. STEPP’s ultimate goal is opening the door to a college education for students with learning disabilities at ECU and at other universities across the nation. Thus, the program was closely aligned with the mission of College STAR.

Campus-Wide Instructional Support

The model for the Instructional Support component of College STAR at ECU casts a wider net and is guided by partnerships across campus. For example, partners such as (but not limited to) the Office for Faculty Excellence (OFE), the Pirate Academic Success Center (PASC), and the Disability Support Services office (DSS) embrace the College STAR initiatives and provide critical guidance. Instructional Support efforts are designed to balance the need to build awareness (wide impact) and facilitate deep learning (with smaller groups) about the principles of UDL and learner variability. A ranges of trainings, online modules/case studies, learning communities, and course red-design supports are in place in order to offer opportunities for faculty and staff that are convenient, personalized and relevant.

The Pirate Academic Success Center is one example of a student support office that not only embraced the principles of Universal Design for Learning, but has been a model of infusing these principles to reach to the margins and be ready to support the wide range of learners on the college campus of today.