At the close of this summer’s Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence (IEEI) internship program, 19 interns from seven Indiana colleges and universities received their well-deserved recognition. With the expansion of IEEI to include more colleges and more students with physical and sensory disabilities, what began as a partnership between Ball State and Eskenazi Health demonstrates the importance of collaboration among institutions of higher education and local corporations. Thanks to the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s generous gift to the program, this inclusion marks the beginning of forward progress for college students with physical and sensory disabilities and the anticipation of the 2019 creation of the Gregory S. Fehribach Center for Excellence.
The collegiality between the original partners, Ball State and Eskenazi Health, fosters individual responsibility in the interns, whether in economics or health care. Ball State has the distinct privilege of being a champion of inclusion and access and a role model for other institutions of higher education. By providing students with physical and sensory disabilities the tools to prepare for meaningful employment, Ball State is working to minimize the number of graduates with disabilities without sustainable, equitable income.
When diversity succeeds, the community also succeeds. Our interns were placed in a variety of departments and locations throughout the Eskenazi Health network where they performed significant jobs that contributed to the achievements of the departments. The students gained workplace experience and networking skills, and had the opportunity to teach their counterparts in their offices. By educating their coworkers, the interns were able to break down preconceived notions about people with physical and sensory disabilities in the work place.
As the students return to their campuses to continue their education, the skills and experience gained through IEEI internships will support and encourage their ventures into new areas. These students continually exceed expectations and gather strategies for success that will help them develop into the leaders of the community.