Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity

Dionne O'Dell, Dean Long, Theatre chair, and 4th Wall community partner

Dionne O'Dell, Dean Long, Theatre chair, and 4th Wall community partner

Congratulations to both Spartan Project SEARCH and the Sense-Ability Ensemble on being recognized with the Michigan State University Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity!

Spartan Project SEARCH

Connie Sung and Marisa Fisher, College of Education, Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual, and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Michigan Rehabilitation Services

Ingham Intermediate School District

For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), the anxiety and obstacles experienced during the transition from youth to adulthood can be overwhelming. In 2016, MSU faculty members Connie Sung and Marisa Fisher, in collaboration with intermediate school district and vocational rehabilitation agencies, initiated Spartan Project SEARCH at MSU, a program that helps transition-aged youth with IDD to overcome some of those obstacles. MSU is the first large public university to host the international Project SEARCH program.

To date, Spartan Project SEARCH has provided internship and employment opportunities to 25 transition-age individuals with IDD; involved over 40 MSU undergraduate students in a peer mentoring program; engaged over 30 internship site supervisors; provided disability awareness training to over 200 staff of departments/units across campus; and provided clinical and research training opportunities for over 10 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Academic outcomes include research publications examining the impact of this program on students with IDD and on the MSU community (4 peer-reviewed journal articles and 12 conference presentations) and 8 new funding awards.

Spartan Project SEARCH is a clear example of multiple partners and large groups of people successfully collaborating to improve the quality of life of individuals with disabilities and to embrace a more inclusive and diverse campus.


Sense-Ability Ensemble: Creating Innovative, Multi-Sensory, Interactive Theatrical Performance for Neurodiverse Audiences

Dionne O’Dell, College of Arts and Letters

4th Wall Theatre Company

For the past seven years, Dionne O’Dell in the Department of Theatre has partnered with the 4th Wall Theatre Company, a group that works with neurodiverse students. O’Dell is the advisor of the Sense-Ability Ensemble, a student organization that conducts regular theatrical workshops for neurodiverse students, including those with autism spectrum disorders, through a ten-week residency program. Led by 4th Wall instructors and MSU students, the workshops culminate in a final performance for friends and family.

In 2015, the collaboration expanded to include the Resource Center in Genesee County and Flint Youth Theatre to offer a modified residency program to the Flint community free of charge as part of the Imagine Flint program through the MSU College of Arts and Letters.

This partnership has developed two world premiere productions that tour special education classrooms around Michigan: Farm! A Musical Experience and Soda Pop Shop. Funded by MSU grants from Theatre, Arts and Letters, the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and the Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders, these productions contribute to a wider understanding of the arts, health, and social/emotional well-being. Additional partners include the Oily Cart Theatre in London, Lincoln Center Education, and the Trusty Sidekick Theater in NYC.

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