Unique and Valuable Class

2015 Academy inclusive Ed Grad dc 114.jpg

Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth graduates six KENNESAW, Ga. (May 15, 2015)…

Georgia (May 20, 2015)

Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth graduates six

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 15, 2015) — The graduates of Kennesaw State University’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth were reminded not to give ear to the people who don’t know "beans" about what they are capable of because of their uniqueness.

That was the central theme of Gregory Schmieg’s keynote speech during the Academy’s Commencement ceremony Thursday morning in Prillaman Hall, for students of the Academy. The program offers a fully inclusive two-year college experience to students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who do not meet the university requirements for admission as a degree-seeking student.

Schmieg, Executive Director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, shared the story of the Peaberry Premium with the graduates. The peaberry, Schmieg explained, is among the 5 percent of the world’s coffee beans that grows solo instead of in a pair.

He explained that the smaller, denser and rounder peaberry was actually thrown away because it was viewed as damaged, flawed and less valuable. That was before coffee masters learned that because the peaberry was round it was better to roast. It is now considered the most flavorful coffee today, hence the name the Peaberry Premium.

“Just like the peaberry, people with disabilities have historically been undervalued,” Schmieg said. “The word disability even suggests a defect or a flaw. However, just like good coffee masters, we all need to rethink that term. We need to begin to fully appreciate the unique assets that each of us has. That makes each of us, and each of our graduates, a premium . . . you are unique. You are valuable. And you have a lot to offer to the world.”

Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp also offered his congratulations to the graduates and thanked those who have been responsible for the success of the students and the program.

“One of the objectives of Kennesaw State University is to change lives,” Papp said. “And through the efforts of the Academy, we are doing exactly that.”

The Academy has grown a lot since Kennesaw State began the program in 2009. There were three students in its first cohort. This fall, the Academy will have a total of 36.

During the cereminy Monica Nandan, the interim dean of the WellStar College of Health and Human Services, shared some of the key accomplishments for the Academy over the past year:

  • Students took a trip to New York to the United Nations in fall 2014 as part of a Global Issues and Civic Engagement course.
  • A second-year student addressed Georgia senators at the Capitol about the benefits of inclusion post-secondary programs. His presentation, Nandan said, has contributed to the forming of a joint study committee on Employment First and Inclusive Postsecondary programming. The Academy will host one of the five statewide meetings later this year.
  • Three Academy students participated in Georgia’s first inclusive education abroad program in collaboration with the Department of Exercise Science and Sports Management on a 10-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, a trip that was led by Ibrahim Elsawy,  executive director of the Academy and Jimmy Calloway, from Exercise Science and Sports Management.
  • The Academy will open a two-plus-two program. The second two-year program will commence Fall 2015 through a certificate program in Advanced Leadership and Career Development (LCD).
  • The Academy has signed the first Inclusive Postsecondary agreement with the Georgia Rehabilitation Agency. With this agreement, students will receive undivided attention from one vocational rehabilitation specialist for job placements.


— by Tim Turner

— photo by David Caselli


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 kennesaw.edu