UI to add certificates in writing, disabilities


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University of Iowa officials are in the process of adding two new certificate programs that may start accepting students as early as this fall.

The two new programs — which would bring the UI’s total to 21 — are in the areas of disabilities studies and writing, both of which are pending approval by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Faculty Assembly and the provost.

“Certificates appear to be the wave of the future,” said Helena Dettmer, the associate dean for academic programs and student development in the college. “They enable students to require expertise in a particular field that often enhances their degree of study.”

The certificate in disabilities studies will have two core courses.

The first, taught by Professor Stephen Kuusisto, will examine the ways in which the understanding of disability has functioned and evolved over time.

The second core course, taught by Associate Professor Douglas Baynton, will cover the history of deafness.

“Having a profound understanding of disability in this era is a great thing,” Kuusisto said. “Disability only exists when we don’t have proper accommodations. When we take away obstacles, whether they’re physical, technological, or attitudinal barriers … then disability ceases to be a problem.”

The certificate will include a variety of relevant issues facing people with disabilities today, including sports and recreation, special education, issues in technology, and architectural obstacles.

Dettmer said the certificate in writing will offer skills to students, regardless of their field of study.

“We have so many writers in Iowa City doing so many different things, [but] we don’t have any [classes] for undergraduates to connect them to this wealth of people,” said Kathryn Hall, a director of academic programs and student development for the liberal-arts school.

The certificate will be designed to correct that problem by providing undergraduate students with writing resources that would otherwise be difficult to access, Hall said.

“We thought if we presented [these courses] as a certificate, it would give students the support they needed to seek those really necessary skills,” she said.

The certificate will offer a diverse list of courses, including creative writing, screenwriting, writing for business, grant writing, and writing about arts.

Some students find certificate studies appealing because of the number of hours required — more than a minor but less than a major — allows them to pursue the certificates in addition to double majors.

“[Certificate programs] are designed to teach what we think are critical skills necessary for students to be successful, regardless of their career path,” said David Hensley, executive director of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, which has the certificate in entrepreneurial management.

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