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OASIS thrives at Mercyhurst North East

Monday, October 19, 2015

With a new residential component, a new academic concentration and a new director, the Oasis Program at Mercyhurst North East continues to thrive.

Earlier this year, Oasis—a non-credit certificate program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities—received a $60,000 grant from the D.R.E.A.M. Partnership.

One of the primary uses for the grant was to establish a residential component allowing Oasis students to live on the North East campus, according to new program director Jim Conroy, who took over the position in September. In the first year of the residential option, Oasis already has one student living on campus.

“It’s an experience no different than that of a degree-seeking student,” Conroy said. “We have a graduate assistant who provides some assistance, but for the most part, they’re independent.”

He added that the student, who lives in Neumann Hall with a degree-seeking student as his roommate, has access to the dining hall, campus clubs, activities and other features of the typical Mercyhurst North East student experience.

Conroy hopes this new residential component will make Oasis more accessible to other interested students, as it will allow students from outside the geographic region to attend more easily.

“In the past, we couldn’t draw students too far beyond Erie County because a lot of the students we serve rely on public transportation or family and friends to get them to and from campus,” Conroy said. “Now that they have the option to live on campus, they don’t have to worry about travel.”

The grant money also allowed Oasis to launch a concentration in Early Childhood Education this year, in addition to concentrations in Culinary Arts and Hospitality. The new concentration trains students to work as aides in childcare centers and preschool, kindergarten and primary grade settings. It’s proven a popular concentration, Conroy said, enrolling two out of this year’s five Oasis students.

“I’ve had a lot inquiries from parents and teachers about Early Childhood Education, saying they have students who would be a good fit for it,” Conroy said.

Conroy, who recently received a Master of Science in special education from Mercyhurst, is no stranger to Oasis, having interned with the program while in grad school. Now, he’s taking on the responsibility of expanding Oasis’s reach, with plans to visit transition fairs for special education students throughout the state.

“I do see Oasis growing in the future,” he said. “I’ve reached out to some places where we might not be as well known, and I’ve gotten a lot of contact from people very interested in our program.”

PHOTO: From left: Provost David Dausey; OASIS Director Jim Conroy; President Michael Victor; Sherri Landis, executive director of the D.R.E.A.M. Partnership; MNE Chief Academic Officer David Hyland; and Jordan Knab, consultant to the D.R.E.A.M. Partnership.