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Exceptional education students making inroads locally, nationally

Moving across the country to other schools is not unusual for graduates, but a couple of alumni from Florida Atlantic University's Exceptional Student Education division have chosen to stay and make a difference in the local community.

Chair and Professor Michael Brady says that job offers for students of exceptional education are almost instantaneous, even at undergraduate level.

According to Brady, 12 of the last 14 alumni who graduated with a doctorate in education have received university faculty positions at other schools. These include the University of Colorado, University of Central Florida and Winthrop University in South Carolina.

Although small, the exceptional student education department showcases its graduates in a glass display in the front lobby of their offices.

Among the displayed is one of the department's most recent specialists, Kyle Bennett, who, after graduating in May 2009, took a position at FAU in Boca Raton.

University positions allow these professionals to conduct research in the bigger field of special education that they're interested in.

Bennett is now director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at FAU, the only campus-based autism center in the area.

"I feel it's important to have interactive projects because they allow for better field study. You're dealing with real people, so you have to be serious," elementary education student Rachael Baranzelli said.

These programs allow students establish a better relationship with the community, which leads to more accurate and therefore better studies, Brady said.

"I would have to say the professors are what stood out to me the most at FAU. I was fortunate to work with a number of professors who really mentored me and helped me through the program," doctorate graduate Jessica Bucholz said.

She is an assistant professor of special education at the University of West Georgia and coordinates the undergraduate special education program. She also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses while conducting research in the field.

"I would recommend FAU because of the expertise of the faculty members, opportunities to work on grant projects, opportunities to conduct research with faculty members -- and it is in a great location," said Debra Leach, who now works at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She specializes in research for the integration of students with autism or other disabilities to general classroom settings.



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Exceptional education students making inroads locally, nationally