WKU Public Broadcasting is establishing an innovative training program to serve the growing number of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
In partnership with the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex, WKU Public Broadcasting is creating a student employment fellowship program to support the training and advancement of WKU students with ASD. As the rate of diagnosed individuals with ASD increases each year – currently 1 in 68 – there is a growing need to develop employment opportunities for these individuals as they transition permanently to the workforce.
“This fellowship allows us to address a critical need for college students on the autism spectrum,” said David Brinkley, director of WKU Public Broadcasting. “We have an opportunity to improve their transition from college to employment by providing practical work experience and professional training. It is central to our public service mission to educate and adds value to the communities we serve. The establishment of this fellowship is just another example of how we do that.”
The fellowship was established with some existing funds previously designated for scholarship use. Currently, the endowment is 70 percent funded, nearing its $250,000 goal. The first two ASD fellows are on track to begin employment in the fall of 2018.
“WKU Public Broadcasting is deeply invested in supporting and training students,” said Mary Lloyd Moore, executive director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex. “I can’t think of a better organization or group of professionals to guide our ASD students and help them successfully transition to the post-graduate workforce.”
Students participating in the CEC’s Kelly Autism Program Circle of Support – a unit designed to assist university students on the autism spectrum – have the opportunity to apply for two fellowship positions each year. As each fellow completes his or her first year, they will transition to part-time student employment supported by WKU Public Broadcasting. At the end of every four-year cycle, a cohort of eight ASD students will be employed in the training program.
“This fellowship program not only provides training and employment opportunities, but it stands to make a lasting impact for generations to come,” said Moore. “Our board of directors was so inspired by WKU Public Broadcasting’s generosity that it unanimously voted to name the fellowship The David Brinkley Student Employment Fellowship Program in recognition of the program’s director.”
Brinkley was diagnosed with head and neck cancer late last year. The diagnosis is terminal and he has, by one estimate, around 18 months to live. He has chosen to continue to work in an industry that means a great deal to him personally and professionally. Also, he hopes to use this opportunity to raise awareness for the additional mission impact areas of public broadcasting.
“It was a humbling surprise to be recognized in such a meaningful way,” said Brinkley. “I have dedicated most of my professional career to helping develop students’ professional skills, and I have a deep passion for public broadcasting. This fellowship program combines these two in an impactful way, and it’s an honor to have it bear my name. As long as I am able to work, I want to continue to promote our mission and help others live up to their potential.”
For more than 30 years, WKU Public Broadcasting has trained students in the areas of television and radio production and operations, employing an average of 26 students each year. Professional staff of WKU PBS, public educational television, and WKU Public Radio, the region’s National Public Radio member station, work with students to develop their skills in a variety of areas. WKU has the only joint-licensed (television and radio) public stations in the Commonwealth.
WKU Public Broadcasting intends to take its experiences with training ASD students and create a replicable model for other businesses, organizations and public broadcasting entities to implement.
“It’s not enough to simply provide this training opportunity for ASD students,” said Brinkley. “We want to serve as educators and advocates to increase understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder within our communities. By doing that, we create a platform for learning and workforce development success.”
Contact: David Brinkley, (270) 745-6140