No student left behind.
Reaching beyond the traditional definition of diversity, UT's drive for diversity has sought to access a new crop of scholars.
The FUTURE program began in 2011 after UT received a grant worth $321,683 to go toward helping students with intellectual disabilities – aged 18 to 29 – attend and succeed in higher education.
Currently the program staffs two full-time employees, seven graduate assistants and more than 70 volunteers who serve the 10 students currently enrolled in FUTURE.
"There are a bunch of people willing to work with you here, and everyone on campus is so friendly," Joseph LaCombe, a film major enrolled in the FUTURE program, said.
All students who participate in the program have an identified disability. Most exhibit an intellectual disability, meaning they have an IQ of 75 or lower.
According to the U.S Department of Education, the students must also be eligible for special education and services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The FUTURE program gives these students the opportunity to gain academic and social skills as well as utilize their skills in a work environment.
"The students audit one academic class each semester in an area of their interest and one physical education class," FUTURE Program Coordinator Tom Beeson said. "We also offer the students courses that focus on career skills, computer literacy and life skills to help them refine their understanding of what it is they would like to do."
In addition to classes, FUTURE students take part in unpaid internships, through which they apply the skills they learn in the classroom. Many of these internships take place on campus through institutions like RecSports, John C. Hodges Library and the Bursar's office.
UT is one of only 27 higher education institutions that received funding through the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities grant.
"The FUTURE program gives students with disabilities the chance to go through college and experience the college life," LaCombe said. "It has given me the opportunity to work more with filming and editing, and also use all different types of cameras."
Beeson hopes that the program will ultimately gives students the tools they need to be self-sufficient.
"The goal of the program is to help our students be successful adults with good jobs who are able to do things that interest them," Beeson said. "(And) for (the students) to become as independent as possible."