Cheryl Pauley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair of Special Education Department
Saint Joseph University’s Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program is a four-year certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities. The program offers Saint Joseph’s students an inclusive and supportive college experience, culminating in an Integrated Professional Studies certificate from the University. PACE offers an integrated education with individualized attention and positive outcomes from a trusted institution.
The mission of the PACE program is to provide an inclusive, authentic college experience for students with intellectual disabilities. We aim to provide academic, social, and vocational opportunities, to support students in attaining their personal and professional goals. Meaningful and gainful employment is important for college graduates, so the PACE program has a particular focus on supporting students in developing skills to obtain and retain employment.
In 2020, Saint Joseph’s University was awarded a generous Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant from the Department of Education. Shortly after, the Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program was established by the University’s School of Health Studies and Education (now known as the School of Education and Human Development) and the Department of Special Education. In spring of 2022, the PACE program began to hire full-time staff and recruit students for the program. The following fall (2022), the PACE program officially launched on the Saint Joseph’s University campus with its first class of students. The PACE program will continue to enroll new students each year, with a maximum enrollment of 30 students across the four-year program.
The PACE program is truly an inclusive, authentic college experience. SJU students enrolled through PACE will have access to all of the same experiences as any other SJU student. Students will participate in inclusive SJU classes with students without disabilities; we do not offer any “separate” classes, or classes offered only to students enrolled in PACE. Students will participate in inclusive campus events and student organizations with their peers too. Students have access to all of the same facilities (e.g. gym, cafeteria, residence halls, etc.) and campus support (e.g. Office of Learning Resources, Career Center, etc.) as other SJU students.
The PACE program is one of only a few inclusive higher education programs that focuses on a liberal arts curriculum. It is our belief that students with intellectual disabilities should have access to a broad general education curriculum, so that they can explore their unique strengths and preferences. Students enrolled through PACE are required to complete the same 17 General Education Program (GEP) courses as their undergraduate peers; these courses include, but are not limited to, English, Philosophy, Art or Music, non-native language, Science, History, and Math.
The PACE program provides a person-centered curriculum, which means that the student is at the center of the planning process and is the primary voice in their plans for the future. SJU PACE practices the MAPS/PATH person-centered planning curriculum. Each semester, students will meet with their Circle of Support (e.g. PACE team members, family members, friends, community agency representatives, etc.) to discuss their strengths, needs, preferences, interests, and goals. The Circle of Support will review their previous semester and make plans for the future to help the student attain their short- and long-term goals for social engagement, academics, employment, and self-determination (independent living).
Students will practice self-determination and self-advocacy skills while discussing:
Core (elective) classes
Work-based learning experiences
Social activities with peer social coaches
Campus extracurricular activities
Short- and long-term personal and professional goals
Since each student is unique, their college experience will be too. Students select core (elective) classes, work-based learning experiences, and social activities that align with their individualized personal and professional goals. For example, if a student is interested in working in the field of sports after graduation, they may choose to take a Sports Marketing course, join an intramural sports team, and complete an internship with the campus athletic department. Since the person-centered planning process is fluid, students are welcome to (and encouraged to) share if they have changed their minds and would like to try something new the following semester. The goal of the program is to provide meaningful experiences for students that will support them in their personal and professional lives after college.
As noted in the University’s mission, Saint Joseph’s strives to be an inclusive and diverse community; the PACE program furthers this mission by providing an inclusive experience for students with intellectual disabilities. The Jesuit ideal of cura personalis, or care for the whole person, is an essential part of what we do; the PACE program follows a person-centered approach to develop students’ academic, social, self-determination, and vocational skills. SJU students enrolled through PACE will learn about the Jesuit ideals in many of their General Education Program (GEP) courses. They will also be encouraged to participate in service learning and community service initiatives on campus, since social justice is a staple of Jesuit education.
Saint Joseph’s is one of the first Jesuit institutions in the country to establish an inclusive higher education program; it is our hope that the PACE program can serve as an example for other Jesuit institutions to adopt similar inclusive programs in the future.
PACE is housed in the Department of Special Education within SJU’s School of Education and Human Development; we are led by three faculty members (Drs. George, Johnson, and Sheppard) who are experts in the field of Special Education. The School of Education and Human Development also houses the widely-known Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, which offers a higher education program for matriculating students with Autism (ASPIRE). The PACE program expands on the University’s mission to provide an inclusive education for an even more diverse population of students.
Research shows that students who attend inclusive college education programs, like PACE, benefit both socially and vocationally.
National employment rate of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (National Core Indicators, 2019)
National employment rate of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have completed an inclusive higher education program (National Core Indicators, 2019)
Percentage of adults with intellectual disabilities who report having friends to talk to and do things with (Butler et al, 2016)
Percentage of college students with intellectual disabilities who report having friends to talk to and do things with (Butler et al, 2016)
SJU students enrolled through PACE will have an authentic college schedule. This means that students’ day-to-day schedules will vary based on their class meeting times, their extracurricular activities, and their work-based learning experiences. Students will have the opportunity to follow a schedule, manage their time, and make choices about how to spend their unscheduled time. A sample schedule can be found on the Program Components page.
No. The PACE program is truly an inclusive, individualized program. Enrolled students will participate in inclusive classes and activities with SJU students without disabilities. We do not offer any “separate” classes, or classes offered only to students enrolled in PACE. While students may choose to spend their free time with friends who are enrolled in the PACE program, they will likely have different classes and activities scheduled, due to the person-centered nature of the program.
The PACE program provides a person-centered curriculum, which means that the student is at the center of the planning process and is the primary voice in their plans for the future. Students will meet with their Circle of Support each semester to discuss their strengths, needs, preferences, interests, and goals. The Circle of Support will discuss which classes and activities would help the student attain their short- and long-term goals for social engagement, academics, and employment.
We expect to enroll 2-7 students per class, over the next few years. However, as the program continues to expand and grow, we plan to cap our enrollment at 30 students across all 4 class years. The student maximum enrollment allows us to maintain individualized attention for each student enrolled in the program.
SJU students enrolled through PACE participate in classes like any other SJU student. Students are expected to attend class consistently, be engaged (e.g. ask questions, take notes, respond to questions), and maintain the expected behavior of a college student. Students will complete modified homework assignments, which would be established by their Individualized Learning Agreements. Students will be assessed on their individualized goals by a rubric. For more information, please see the Academic Experience section of the Program Components page.
Students will be supported by their instructors and PACE program faculty and staff. They will also have access to inclusive support provided by other campus departments. Additionally, students will receive weekly social, academic, and employment support from peer coaches. For more information, please see the Student Support page.
Parents and families can prepare their students for the PACE program by reinforcing self-determination and self-advocacy skills at home. Students enrolled in PACE are expected to be able to communicate reliably with others, operate a cell phone, exhibit appropriate behavior on campus, and navigate the campus safely. Parents and families can encourage their students to practice these skills in their daily lives. For example, students can decide on a new place to visit in their community and practice following directions on their cell phone’s GPS.
Students who are interested in attending an inclusive postsecondary education program are encouraged to view the Opening the Doors to College documentary; it gives a great overview of what a college experience entails. Think College’s “Getting it Right and Learning on the Fly” webinars are excellent resources for parents who would like to prepare their students for an inclusive college program.
We really appreciate your interest in supporting the PACE program! There’s many different ways that community members can help our program and our students succeed.
Parents, Families, and Students: You can support our program by providing ongoing feedback as we continue to grow our program. We would love for you to participate in the PACE Advisory Board in the future; additionally, parents can apply to participate in University-wide parent leadership programs. If you are interested in either of these opportunities, please contact the PACE Program Director for more information.
Alumni, Parents, Families, and Other Community Members: We would like to ensure that our program is an option for all interested students, regardless of their financial status. So, we are actively seeking donors to establish a scholarship fund for students enrolled in PACE. SJU Alumni, if you are interested in supporting PACE as a part of an annual gift, you can write-in that your donation is intended for the PACE program. If you are a community member or organization and are interested in supporting PACE, please contact the Program Director. Thank you!
The PACE program and the Kinney Center ASPIRE program are two separate programs at Saint Joseph's University and are not affiliated with each other. Please read the information below to determine which program would be the best fit for you/your student.
The Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program is a four-year certificate program for non-matriculating students with intellectual disabilities; students who successfully complete the program will receive a Certificate of Integrated Professional Studies (rather than a degree). The program offers Saint Joseph’s students an inclusive and supportive college experience with opportunities to develop and grow their academic, social, employment, and self-determination skills with weekly support from peer academic, social, and employment coaches. Students have the opportunity to participate in inclusive SJU courses for credit (without modifications) or on an audit basis (with an individualized learning contract with modified course goals). A good candidate for the PACE program is a student who requires little to no support in areas of daily living, can communicate reliably with others, demonstrates appropriate behavior, and can safely navigate a college campus.
The ASPIRE program, on the other hand, is designed for full-time, matriculated students with autism spectrum disorder who have been accepted to Saint Joseph’s University on their own academic merit. Students in the ASPIRE program are participating in every aspect of campus independently, but with support in areas of executive functioning, socialization, academic success, and employment. Students in the ASPIRE program are working towards bachelor’s degrees and are not receiving any modifications to their coursework. A good candidate for the ASPIRE program is a student who requires little to no support in areas of daily living, can manage a full time (15 credits) schedule, and does not require any behavioral support in an academic or community setting. Please feel free to also explore the ASPIRE program website for additional information.
Students enrolled through PACE take various inclusive SJU courses. Students can choose to take classes on an audit basis or for credit. If a student chooses to audit a course, the PACE team will use the course syllabus to create a modified learning contract with individualized assignments and learning goals. If a student takes a course for credit, they would be expected to complete all of the assignments (including quizzes and tests) in the syllabus (without modification).
ThinkCollege - Provides a list of inclusive higher education programs across the country and an extensive resource library for prospective students and their families
D.R.E.A.M. Partnership - Information about inclusive higher education programs in the state of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (PIHEC) - Information about inclusive higher education programs in the state of Pennsylvania
Opening the Doors to College - PIHEC's documentary about inclusive higher education programs in Pennsylvania
Department of Education CTP Information - Information about financial aid for Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs
Saint Joseph’s School of Education and Human Development - The PACE program is housed in SJU’s School of Education and Human Development; SEHD offers undergraduate majors and minors, doctoral and graduate degrees and certificate and endorsement programs that prepare students to become skilled educators and behavioral and mental health professionals who are ready to create positive change.
Saint Joseph’s Department of Special Education - SJU’s Department of Special Education offers undergraduate, graduate and five-year bachelor’s/master’s programs that prepare students to establish effective teaching and learning environments for children with special needs.The PACE program is led by faculty and staff in the department of Special Education.
Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (PIHEC) - The PACE program is a member of the Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (PIHEC). The consortium provides consultation and technical assistance for diverse communities to sustain institutions of higher education (IHE) in developing accessible inclusive higher education opportunities for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
D.R.E.A.M. Partnership - The D.R.E.A.M partnership establishes a network of colleges in the state of Pennsylvania that provide educational opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities through certificate programs that lead to competitive employment and independent living. The PACE program joined the D.R.E.A.M partnership network of colleges in spring of 2022.
U.S. Department of Education - The PACE program is recipient of the 2020 Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant from the Department of Education.
Think College - Think College provides resources, technical assistance and training related to college options for students with intellectual disability, and manages the only national listing of college programs for students with intellectual disability in the United States.
PACE Advisory Board - In the near future, the PACE program plans to establish a PACE Advisory Board, which will meet to discuss the development and sustainability of the PACE program. The board will include supporters of the PACE program who have various perspectives, including faculty, staff, parents, current students, and community members. If you would like to be considered for the board, please contact the Program Director.
PACE Steering Committee - In the near future, the PACE program plans to establish a PACE Steering Committee. This committee will serve as a resource for the general operations of the PACE program. The committee will be made up of various campus partners who will share how things are done for all students on campus; this ensures that PACE provides the most inclusive and authentic experience possible.
If you are a prospective student (or family member) and may be interested in applying for the PACE program, please submit the PACE Inquiry Form; a member of the PACE team will follow up with you with more information. For general information about the PACE program, please email PACE@sju.edu or call 610-660-2189. For information about peer coaching opportunities, please contact the PACE Program Coordinator.
|Dr. Cheryl Pauley||Co-Project Director / Principal Investigator|
|Dr. Mollie Sheppard||Co-Project Director|
|Dr. James Johnson||Local Education Agency (LEA) Coordinator|
|Kaitlyn Martin '16||Program Director|
|Sara Corley||Director of Employment Services|
|Rosemary Theveny||Program Coordinator|
|Megan Coleman||Administrative Assistant|
Members of the PACE Team attended the TPSID Project Director Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio in July of 2022. (Pictured from left to right: Rosemary Theveny, Dr. Mollie Sheppard, Kaitlyn Martin, Dr. Cheryl Pauley, Dr. James Johnson)
Associate Professor and Chair of Special Education Department
Program Director, Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate Advisor
Director of the Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program; Adjunct professor
Director of Employment Services, Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program
Program Coordinator, Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program
Administrative Assistant, Pathways to Authentic College Experiences (PACE) program