Kennesaw State's Academy for Inclusive Learning students on historic Middle East trip


KENNESAW, Ga. (April 6, 2015) –This year, Charlie Miller’s spring break is taking him…

Georgia (Apr 6, 2015)KENNESAW, Ga. (April 6, 2015) –This year, Charlie Miller’s spring break is taking him far from his comfort zone and in the direction of greater independence.

Miller, Brielyn Roper-Hubbert and Janet Keller – all students in Kennesaw State University’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth – embarked Friday on a 10-day visit to the United Arab Emirates. They will be part of a Kennesaw State contingent — five Exercise Science and Sports Management students and three staff members — who will be making the 14-hour flight to Dubai.

The trip, considered the first of its kind where students with disabilities are full participants, will include stops in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah while in the Middle East.

“It’s groundbreaking, really,” said Miller, a sophomore from Gainesville, Ga. “It’s the first trip of its kind for an Inclusive Academy. It’s really the start of something new and really something amazing.

“It’s going to be interesting to be so far away from our secure location into somewhere new. So we have to get more independent. And it’s just really cool how we get to do it.”

The Academy is a program that offers a fully inclusive college experience to students with intellectual or developmental disabilities that do not meet the university requirements for admission as degree-seeking students. It includes enrollment as non-degree seeking audit students in typical university courses alongside degree-seeking students.

Kennesaw State has the first program in Georgia to make this kind of trip with its students.

“This is inclusive,” said Dr. Ibrahim Elsawy, the Academy’s executive director, “We are going to the Middle East, which is a totally different culture.

“It’s a 14-hour trip, which is difficult for anyone. International travel is difficult. And we will be prepared.”

In efforts to acclimate to what they would experience, the students took trips to New York and Washington. Last March on their trip to D.C., they visited advocacy agencies to prepare documentation for the trip and visit Congress. In November, in New York, they toured the United Nations.The trips afforded them the chance to train the students about traveling through airports, how to handle themselves on planes and other travel dos and don’ts.

Granted, those trips can’t approximate the journey the students are about to take, but they do help.

“I’ve been working really hard in school,” Roper-Hubbert said. “This is a new experience and I don’t want to get any kind of trouble over there where I don’t come back.”

“I just hate taking off my shoes,” Keller said, of the airport security procedures. “But I’m excited and we’ve been learning how to say thank you and please. It is going to be different.”

As part of the trip, the students will work as volunteers as part of a community service project, attend a class at Sharjah University and visit with non-governmental organizations. Along with other Kennesaw State students, they will also visit the Sharjah Sports Council and attend athletic events.

Elsawy chose the UAE because of its progressive work with students with disabilities. He added that the country’s disabilities instruction is good for the students, and they will have partners to work with the students while in Sharjah.

“This trip is for us to exchange information,” Elsawy said. “We are going to learn from them and to tell them about our experience — especially as an inclusive university. So it’s win-win. We are working with them as equals. Our students are not going there as tourists. They are going on a mission, and they are going as ambassadors of the United States.

“And actually, this is more effective than official politicians that represent the United States. Because people-to-people is more effective than anything else in this area. This is very important to them to feel proud and to be part of the community and part of the country. They are becoming Global Citizens.”


– by Tim Turner


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit