First students set to graduate from inclusive KPU arts program

The Including All Citizens program was designed for students with intellectual disabilities

Including All Citizens program soon-to-be graduates, Anju Miller. (Submitted)

The Including All Citizens program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University will see the graduation of three of its first students.

The program, designed by sociology instructor and Inclusion BC president Dr. Fiona Whittington-Walsh, was designed to fully include students with intellectual disabilities into arts courses. The graduates will receive a Faculty of Arts certificate, which consists of 10 courses transferable through the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer.

One of the soon-to-be graduates, Anju Miller, was in the Access Program for People with Disabilities when they collaborated with Whittington-Walsh’s class.

“She actually came in and wanted to do a movie with everybody…and she learned through the first two days that there were a lot of questions that we were discussing and that I was very focused on the movie,” says Miller.

According to Miller, this gave Whittington-Walsh the idea to start a film club with Miller and four other students, with the discussions of their educational experiences in high school later motivating Whittington-Walsh to start the IAC program at KPU. Through the program, Miller took courses she would not have otherwise taken and enjoyed them.

“Taking the courses, I learned that I actually enjoy writing essays,” says Miller. “I’m normally a public speaker, but the teachers really advocated for me to do essays instead of only doing speeches… I realized that I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and that really helped me in actual life.”

In a KPU media release, Whittington-Walsh said that all students benefit from inclusive education, including post-secondary, and that the program “is a student-centered learning environment where everyone is included and valued on an equal basis, thereby making it an exemplary learning experience for all and is one of the first fully inclusive, for-credit university certificate programs.”

For Miller, a big part of IAC program’s success has been due to the close interactions between students and teachers.

“I think this really worked with how open the teachers have been with us as individuals,” Miller says.

“I met Kathleen and Fiona first before taking their courses, which really helped with my confidence… I didn’t meet prior to going into her course, so when I first met her, I was terrified, thinking that it would be like high school all over again. But midway through the semester, we talked… with me being able to talk to her about the difficulties I was going through with her course and the confidence level I was having, and she was able to help a lot.”

Receiving the certificate means a lot to her, says Miller and that she feels like she had been able to succeed in taking courses that she normally wouldn’t have had the confidence to pass.

“Like, it’s been shown that I can actually take things without a barrier.”