Research News

Six students graduate from Next Steps at Vanderbilt in Class of 2021

Six students graduated from the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program as part of the Class of 2021 this May. Housed in the Department of Special Education at Peabody College of education and human development, Next Steps at Vanderbilt provides students with intellectual disability an inclusive, transformational higher education experience that embodies the values of equality, compassion and excellence in all endeavors.

While in the program, students work with Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff to create a self-directed program of study focused on academic development, independent living skills, career exploration and campus life. Students also can participate in up to two Vanderbilt courses per semester. They participate in individualized on-campus internships during their first two years and in off-campus paid internships in their field of interest during their last two years.

“Next Steps is the first four-year, inclusive program in Tennessee for students with intellectual disabilities,” said Lauren Bethune-Dix, assistant director of Next Steps at Vanderbilt. “Our students are offered the chance to have a truly transformational and authentic college experience, in which they are fully immersed on and off campus. We are so incredibly proud of the Class of 2021 and cannot wait to see what the future holds for each of them.”

All Next Steps students worked closely with program advisers and staff. Program staff wrote senior salutes for each student highlighting their growth and accomplishments over the past four years.

Next Steps senior salutes from program staff

Andrew Lloyd:
“Andrew Lloyd is a native of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and he is known among his family, friends, co-workers and teachers as someone you can count on. When Andrew had appointments with AmbassaDores, meetings with his adviser, or work hours at his internships, everyone learned that he would be on time, come prepared and, most importantly, he would come ready to be involved. Andrew’s level of dedication helped him to find significant success in four Vanderbilt science courses that included zoology and astronomy. His willingness to get involved was a real treat for his professor and classmates when he took DIY Music Movements and performed an improvisational piano piece for his whole class. Through his internships at The Store, Taziki’s, the Country Music Hall of Fame and others, his supervisors and co-workers looked forward to Andrew’s quiet, gentle nature and his thorough work. No matter the setting or task at hand, Andrew shows up ready to participate.”
–Tammy Day, director, Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Corbin Pierce:
“Corbin Pierce is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. His proudest accomplishment as a college student is that he can make friends more easily, and a family member recently reflected that Corbin has increased his skills in speaking up and sharing his ideas and needs. Corbin has used his college journey to explore a variety of courses like songwriting, film and psychology. Through self-advocacy, he let us know that he wanted to attempt all the course assignments, and he was successful. Corbin’s creative side became evident through career interests that led him to video production internships with Vanderbilt Television and Transition Tennessee. Two of his Experiential Seminar topics followed the same vein, with more video production and exploration of creating a YouTube channel. Along with four years of memorable experiences, Corbin is leaving college with solid friendships and a strong sense of what is important to him.”
–Tammy Day

Clark Rice:
“A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Clark Rice is known for his famous one-liners and love for music and animals, and he has brought laughter and smiles to our university for the past four years. Clark took full advantage of all the music courses offered at Vanderbilt, including country music, jazz and world music. In his Experiential Seminars, Clark developed skills around transportation, safety, independent living and emotional regulation—applying what he learned in his CCS classes and enhancing his ability to be more independent as a college graduate. Clark also excelled in his internships, forming lasting relationships with co-workers and supervisors at places like the Vanderbilt Munchie Mart, the Science and Engineering Library, VU Recycling and the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was even named employee of the month at the Dog Spot, where he currently works. In addition to success on the job and in class, Clark leaves a legacy of kindness. As an uncle, pet owner, friend, co-worker or fellow classmate, Clark leads with a compassionate and tender spirit that shows compassion and care to all around him.”
–Lindsay Krech, assistant director of career development, Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Daniel Rodriguez:

“Hundreds of miles away, before he even started his senior year in high school, we knew Daniel Rodriguez was a perfect fit for Next Steps at Vanderbilt. A native of Florida, he attended Next Steps Summer Institute after his junior year of high school and decided Vanderbilt was for him. He has been a model of enthusiasm and positivity for us all, especially in the past year of virtual classes and activities. In Vanderbilt courses ranging from astronomy to zoology to children’s literature, Daniel has continually asked questions, engaged classmates and endeared professors. Once Daniel discovered more about his skills in videography and literature, he chose internships at Brentwood Library, Tennessee Works and other places where he could be exceptionally creative. He plans to continue working in a field where he can use his many talents and meet new people.”
–Jenny Gustafson, residential director, Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Devon Sinclair:
“Devon Sinclair is from Nashville, Tennessee, and she knows EVERYONE. Throughout her four years at Vanderbilt, Devon could be found with Tim Tebow on The Commons on a Saturday morning, taking a picture with Mookie Betts (of the L.A. Dodgers) during a bowling outing or hanging with the VandyBoys whenever she could. In her favorite Vanderbilt course, Sociology through Baseball, Devon led small and large groups of classmates in projects and assignments because of her extensive knowledge of baseball and all things sports. Devon focused on independent living skills in her Experiential Seminars, such as cooking and apartment living. As a loyal and valuable employee at the Vanderbilt bookstore, Devon will be continuing her employment there after graduation. And eventually, we think we will hear her as a sports broadcaster for Vanderbilt. Anchor Down, Devon!”
–Jenny Gustafson

Kristi Van Wulven:
A native of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, Kristi Van Wulven is known for her strong desire to try new things and to be involved with friends and colleagues. With the help of family members, Kristi would spend long hours on campus participating in every Special Olympics team sport, Circle K International, two dance companies, Best Buddies and so much more. Kristi’s desire to try new things led her to taking a variety of fascinating classes that included sustainable fashion, understanding organizations, stars and galaxies, and more. Through her internships, Kristi learned that she has many interests and can see herself enjoying different types of employment settings. She hopes to continue developing her video editing and administrative office skills. One thing is clear, wherever Kristi gets involved, people will benefit from her strong people skills and her enjoyment in becoming friends.”
–Tammy Day

The members of the Next Steps Class of 2021 were recognized during Vanderbilt Commencement activities in May.