Big Ten Means Big Opportunities for Collaboration with Other Schools

Rutgers flowersEveryone is talking about Rutgers joining the Big Ten Conference this past July for Division-I sports. However, what everyone should be talking about is that Rutgers joined the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). The CIC is the "nation's premier education consortium of top-tier research institutions, including the Big Ten Conference members and the University of Chicago. Through collaborations, the CIC members save money, share assets, and increase teaching, learning and research opportunities." This is much more than a change in athletic conference. Rutgers will benefit from collaboration opportunities for students, faculty and staff, increase research opportunities, share expertise at all levels, leverage resources, and create innovative collaborative programming opportunities. 

The Office of Disability Services has embraced this new association with the CIC and has taken full advantage of the collaboration benefits of the CIC. One example of this is that the Executive Director Bill Welsh and Director Carlie Andrews recently travelled to Purdue to attend the first annual Big Ten Disability Services Directors Conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The conference gave Directors from most of the Big 10 schools a chance to meet and discuss current issues related to disability services and initiatives throughout the CIC campuses. The agenda included topics such as accessible curriculum, data management and assessment, topics specific to various disability types, assistive technology, web accessibility, and a general sharing of best practices. Participants had an opportunity to tour the Purdue campus on a replica of the Boiler Maker Purdue boilermaker traintrain and spent one morning touring and speaking with the staff in the Disability Resource Center and another morning with the staff within their Assistive Technology Center. Andrews commented that "while we all work at different institutions, in different parts of the country, we still all face very similar challenges. Having a venue to come together and tackle these issues collaboratively is extremely valuable."

In addition to face to face meetings once a year, the CIC Directors of Disability Services keep in touch and continue this collaboration throughout the year. The directors participate in a monthly conference call, and created a listserv to share information collectively. Bill Welsh, our Executive Director from Rutgers, worked with the CIC to create an online collaborative site - CICme - to share, collect and store all information that is shared among the group. The CICme site also includes a Wiki site, a survey tool, a blog, and numerous other methods for sharing information.  

The Office of Disability Services and the Office of Information Technology at Rutgers are also  members of the CIC's collaborative group called the Information Technology Accessibility Group (ITAG) which is sponsored and supported by the CIO's of all CIC institutions. This group is working together on accessible technology projects including web accessibility tools, accessible video players, captioning of videos and multimedia, vendor relations and planning for purchase of accessible technology, and a new group on training for accessibility across all systems. Bill Welsh was a member of this group when he worked at Penn State and he reports, "It's exciting to be a part of the CIC again in my role at Rutgers. I've seen the great collaborative work that was accomplished during the fourteen years I was at Penn State, and now being a member of this group again at Rutgers is a very important step for Rutgers that goes well beyond athletics. Although, that is exciting, too!”