On May 6, UNCG’s Beyond Academics will hold its annual departmental ceremony. On May 8, 11 more students will graduate from the program.

Beyond Academics is one of only a handful of four-year certificate programs in the nation for individuals with intellectual disabilities – and one of the largest, says says Joan Johnson, the program’s director.

Photo of Joan Johnson“We started with eight students in 2007,” she says. “We’ve had 34 graduates since 2011.”

And they continue to grow. “We’ll bring in 25 freshmen in the fall. We’ll have 64 students total.”

Joan Johnson recently won the Helen C. “Holly” Riddle award at the recent North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) awards event.

The award is presented to professionals whose work touches the lives of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It is the highest recognition given by the NCCDD to those who have made lasting contributions towards improving opportunities, breaking down barriers, and promoting increased quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

UNCG’s Beyond Academics is a certificate program for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities which provides student support for participation in the Integrative Community Studies program offered by UNCG. The program emphasizes higher education, self-determination, community inclusion, career development and independent living..

The award is not for her; it’s recognition for the Beyond Academics program, she explains. “A project is only as good as the team. This team deserves lots of credit.”

The success of the program is largely owed to the team of committed staff who provide direct and tailored support to the students and families as they move through the curriculum and college life, she stresses. She also says that the guidance of Vice Chancellor Terri Shelton and also the program’s partnerships with various academic departments and other UNCG divisions and units have been key in Beyond Academics’ progress.

Next week, Johnson will mark the 40th anniversary of her graduation from UNCG. Her bachelor’s was in Communication Disorders. She became a teacher at a developmental daycare center. She eventually became its director. She went on to managing and leading comprehensive service systems for people with developmental disabilities for local public entities for 20 years and worked as a state agency DD systems consultant for more than 10 years, then did private service provider consulting for several years before become part of Beyond Academics.

She invites everyone to come to the UNCG May 8 commencement at 10 a.m. at the Coliseum. And to attend the program’s awards celebration May 6, 10 a.m. in Cone Ballroom, EUC.

Also, she notes that on May 3 and 4, UNCG will be one of only three locations in the state to be part of the Americans with Disabilities Act Legacy Tour, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Act’s passing, hosted by UNCG and the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Additionally, on May 4, at 11 a.m. in the EUC there will be a short programs; speakers will include Acting Chancellor Dana Dunn; Dr. Michael Mayer, senior partner, Community Resource Alliance; Chris Eagan, executive director of the N.C. Council on Disabilities; and Remington Brown, a 2015 graduate of UNCG’s Integrative Community Studies Certificate Program of Study (part of Beyond Academics).