Category Archives: University Programs

Learn More about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality


“We tossed a small pebble and made a big splash.” 

Jacqueline Blank  

Fall 2022 marks the first official semester of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality! Although we supported two students last year, the full program we envisioned will be in place this academic year for our inaugural cohort of twice-exceptional University of Iowa students.  

The Academy’s three-part structure of support (academics, practical skills, and social-emotional skills) will take place through whole group workshops, weekly one-on-one meetings, planned social events, and a cohort living situation for first-year students.  

We are now recruiting for our 2023-2024 cohort!

If you are interested in finding out more about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, please plan to attend one of our Information Sessions. The dates for the online sessions are August 31st, September 28th, and November 9th, 2022. We also have an on-campus Information Session planned for October 18th. Sign up for a session at belinblank.org/2eacademy.  

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is a prime example of building off the Belin-Blank Center’s expertise and showing a commitment to tossing a small pebble. We are confident that the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right fit for many students, and we would love to talk about it with you! 

Applications Open for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

What are people saying about the Belin-Blank Center’s new Academy for Twice-Exceptionality?

“The individual weekly meeting helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college overall.”

-Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Student

In Spring 2021, the staff at the Belin-Blank Center began working on a pilot for an Academy for Twice-Exceptionality. Our expertise in twice-exceptionality and experience with university programs (specifically the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy), made us the perfect fit for starting such a program. We are now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 cohort!

Academy students must be high school graduates and ideally entering Iowa as first-year or transfer students. (We will consider students who fit other academic standings.) Currently, students who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or identify as Autistic are the target population. In the future, we hope to be able to expand into other areas of twice-exceptionality. Students must also be registered with the University of Iowa Student Disability Services (SDS).

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality offers a variety of services for its students:

  • a weekly seminar for the entire cohort
  • weekly one-on-one meetings to work on individual needs and goals
  • assistance with connecting to university-based supports and resources
  • helping students better understand their struggles and then leverage their unique strengths
  • consistent communication with parents/guardians.

Start the journey to see if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right fit for you or your student by visiting our website. We are confident we will be!

Early Entrance to College: Are You Ready?

With special thanks to Jan Warren for co-authoring this post

Fifteen-year-old Sophie was in Spain as a high school sophomore living with a host family when she decided to apply to college as an early entrant.  Her family lived in a small, rural town in the Midwest.  

 After being accepted to the early entrance program, Sophie received Pell Grants, scholarships, and additional financial aid to cover the cost of attendance. She entered the university as a psychology major at age 16.  She intended to transfer to a more well-known university after her first year but decided against it after becoming engaged both academically and socially. Inspired by seeing a political rally on campus, she declared a Social Justice major. Because of her interest in human rights and policy issues, she added a pre-law designation. Sophie was known for her outspokenness, quick sense of humor, loyalty, and ability to bring everyone together. 

Sophie graduated with honors at age 20. She currently is working in Fairbanks, Alaska through AmeriCorps and is applying to Law School. Sophie says,

“Although I grew up fairly normal, I was always that one ‘nerd’ who went home after school and continued to research in-depth about the topics we were learning about. However, growing up in such a small town never gave me many opportunities to be surrounded by people who enjoy learning and knowledge as much as I do. I put up with this vague feeling of suffocation caused by lack of stimulation until my sophomore year, when I found a study abroad program that would not only unite me with intellectuals and other cultures but also reignite my love for learning and my curiosity about the world. At this moment, I do not want to stop my exploration of the world when I return [to my state].”

Early entrance to college is a great option for students like Sophie who are ready. What do we mean by ready? Students who demonstrate academic ability, who have already taken many of the challenging courses available in their high school, demonstrate maturity, and are ready to live away from home may be prepared for the challenges of entering college early. These students might enter college early on their own, while others might participate in a formal program designed to support young students entering college.

For example, the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy at the University of Iowa is designed for students who have completed 10th or 11th grade. Early entrants live in a cohort on the University of Iowa campus in the honor’s residence hall and attend classes with other college students. Supports offered to the students include a first-year seminar designed to build self-efficacy skills, weekly one-on-one meetings with a graduate student, activities and events designed to challenge and support them, and all types of advocacy and encouragement. After successful completion of the two-year program, nearly all students go on to finish their degrees at the University of Iowa.

Parents might be especially concerned about the idea of early entrance to college. They can be reassured by the body of research supporting early entrance; students have been entering college early for decades, in both formal and informal programs. As a group, they are highly successful. Linda Brody and Michelle Muratori (2015) provide an excellent summary of what we know about early entrance to college. As a group, early entrants achieve at higher levels in college, complete their college degrees and often go on to graduate school, publish professional papers, and earn higher incomes than matched peers who do not enter college early. Socially, this group also performs well – many researchers have concluded that, as a group, early entrants thrive in their new environment.  The research indicates that most participants in these programs are successful in developing satisfying social relationships. Overall, they do well.

Some studies have indicated that a few individuals may encounter social or emotional challenges and find it difficult to adjust to early entrance to college. An important goal at the Bucksbaum Academy is to help identify the students who would find the program a good match—students who are ready for the independence and intellectual challenge of college life.  The application process includes letters of recommendation from two teachers, a series of student essays, parent essays, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores.  All students are required to attend an information session about the Academy and semi-finalists attend a personal interview with their parents/guardians.

Some suggestions for students considering early entrance include:

  1. Take challenging courses in high school. These include honors and accelerated courses, and also the Advanced Placement (AP) courses many high schools provide. AP courses are designed to offer high school students college level material, and they help to prepare students for the challenges of college courses. Talk with your counselor about your interest in leaving high school early so they can assist you in choosing the courses which will best prepare you for life as a university student.
  2. If the high school doesn’t provide enough challenging options, consider attending academic summer programs or online learning courses.
  3. Attend a residential summer camp for the experience of being away from home for an extended period of time. It can be an academic program, a sports camp, or any other summer camp offered on a college or university campus.
  4. Seek out opportunities to develop study skills and time management skills, which will help students be ready for advanced classes and the challenge of managing the independence of a college schedule. For example, students who are used to managing several activities or a job while in high school are better candidates for early entrance because they know how to juggle their time and prioritize tasks.
  5. Talk with your guidance counselor about how your school and community will handle local scholarships for you—will you need to apply as a sophomore? Or wait until your first year at the university, which would have been your junior year in high school?
  6. Recognize that early entrance to college is not the best match for all intellectually talented high school students.  If early entrance isn’t the best match for a particular student, other options can be considered, such as subject acceleration, dual enrollment in high school and college, and academic summer programs. Students might also opt for completing college in 3 years instead of 4, if they are able to get credit for work completed before matriculating in a college.

Resources

Brody, L.E., & Muratori, M.C. (2015). Early entrance to college: Academic, social, and emotional considerations. In S. G. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses That Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Vol. 2 (pp. 153-167). Iowa City, IA: Belin-Blank Center. Access this chapter by downloading the entire publication at www.nationempowered.org

Early Entrance to College page, Acceleration Institute website

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy, University of Iowa

2e at the B-BC: New Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022.  This post is the first in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check back soon for the next installment!


Many individuals who identify as autistic also have exceptional gifts and talents.  When cultivated, these gifts and talents contribute to great advances across a variety of domains in society.  However, many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also experience difficulty with a variety of skill areas, like executive functioning and adaptive skills that are necessary for flexibly navigating everyday life.  While many individuals who identify as autistic may have been supported within their primary and secondary education, there has been a proverbial “cliff” described for the significantly fewer services and supports they receive after leaving high school.  The Belin-Blank Center is bringing a new program to the University of Iowa to support college students who otherwise might have come upon such a cliff.  This program is called the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is for University of Iowa college students who are on the autism spectrum or identify as autistic and have high cognitive ability and/or academic achievement.  Such students are also known as “twice-exceptional” (2e), given their exceptionality in both their cognitive ability and/or academic achievement, as well as in their neurodevelopment that results in a disability.  Participants in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality will be supported through weekly meetings with a graduate assistant, organized social events, and a weekly seminar, where they can identify goals, as well as gain knowledge and skills to support their adjustment to campus life and the increased expectations for greater independence. Additionally, professional staff at the Belin-Blank Center will communicate and work closely with parents to support their student’s success.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently in a pilot year, supporting 2e University of Iowa students who identify as autistic.  Activities include individual goal setting, and assistance navigating and adjusting to campus life.  Emily (Emmy) Kuhlmann, a graduate assistant for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, meets with students on a weekly basis, to encourage their overall well-being and offer information regarding ways to seek appropriate supports if needed, either on- or off-campus.  She described her work with the students: “I have been working with students on individual goals to ease their transition into college student life. Some students wish to discuss organization and time management, others want to discuss stress and imposter syndrome. All are hoping to work on their goals to be successful college students – beyond the classroom.” Additionally, she added, “Goal setting and adjusting are a big part of my work. I want students to feel they can set big goals. I also encourage them to take smaller steps to reach their goals or adjust their timeline or approach if it’s not going well.” 

One current participant in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality shared how they have found meeting with the graduate assistant to be helpful.  They shared, “Emmy helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college, overall.”  This U of I student identified organized social events as helpful in introducing them to new people on campus, as well. 

Emmy also described the importance of a strong working relationship with students.  She stated, “with my background in counseling, I have learned that the most successful growth and change comes through the support of a strong working relationship. With each student I am working with, I try to build relationships to really get to know the students – their interests, their strengths, and their needs. It is only by understanding more of who they are that I am able to assist with individualized support to work towards their goals. This has also been the most enjoyable part of my job, as I now know many wonderful students!” 

In addition to these invaluable relationships and weekly meetings, which are supervised by a licensed psychologist, weekly seminars are designed to support University of Iowa students who are in the Academy.  More specifically, seminars were developed with input from University-wide stakeholders who share expert knowledge regarding the needs of college students who identify as autistic.  Seminars were designed by Belin-Blank Center experts in education and clinical psychology to provide instruction aimed at building important knowledge and skills for independence, social-emotional maturity, effective communication, and career readiness, Belin-Blank Center professional staff and faculty also utilize instructional strategies and accommodations to help twice-exceptional students understand the importance of gaining and using new skills, such as instruction with visuals, support in perspective taking, and peer-mediated instruction.  “It has been such an honor to be a part of developing this much-needed service,” shared Dr. Amanda Berns, a clinical psychologist at the Belin-Blank’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic, with expertise in supporting twice-exceptional individuals who identify as autistic. An integral team member in the development of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, Dr. Berns also indicates, “I am so excited to see the impact the Academy will have in so many young autistic people’s lives!”  

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently accepting applicants for the 2022-2023 academic year.  If you or someone you know is interested in attending the University of Iowa and participating in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, more information about the academy and the application can be found on the Belin-Blank Center’s website: belinblank.org/2eacademy. Questions can be sent through the website or via email at 2eacademy@belinblank.org . 

7 Tips for a Successful SSTP Application

SSTP Extracurriculars 2017-5

Applications are officially open for the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa. The fall break is a perfect time to work on your materials, so here are 6 quick tips for making your application the best it can be!

  1. Once you’ve started your application, write down your username and password! The $75 application fee applies for each application account you start on the portal, so be sure you can log back in when it’s time to finish your application later.
  2. Contact your references now! The application requires two references from you: First, the academic reference, which should come from a teacher who can speak to your abilities in your desired research fields; Second, the character reference, which should come from a mentor who can speak to your character and maturity as a person. We define mentor broadly. Past applicants have chosen teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, rabbis, etc. Just make sure that your mentor is not a friend or family member. Once your teacher and mentor have agree to provide references on your behalf, enter their email addresses into the appropriate field in your application. We will then email them a few short questions. They have until February 1st to send us their responses. Late references cannot be accepted, and it’s your responsibility to follow up and ensure that your references respond on time.
  3. Start yApp5our essays now! We ask for two separate pieces of writing from you: First, a 750-word essay describing your research interests and background; And second, a 750-word essay explaining why SSTP is a good fit for you. We recommend writing and editing your essays in a separate document and pasting them into the application platform once you’re satisfied with your work. Please bear in mind that the essay fields in the online platform will save your essays as plain text, meaning that your formatting will not be kept.
  4. Carefully consider your desired research areas. In the application, we will ask you for top three research areas, and we include a list of research areas that other SSTP students have used in the past. If you do not see your desired field, that’s fine! You may write in research areas that we have not listed. If you’re not sure what’s available, be sure to check out our virtual poster session on the SSTP website, where you can view past students’ work. Although not every research area you see there will necessarily be available in 2019, what you see can give you a good idea of the kind of research that students have been able to do in the past.
  5. You may only submit one set of test scores. We recommend the SAT, ACT, PSAT, or PLAN, but if you have not taken one of those four tests, you may also submit state-administered standardized test scores. Since you may only submit one set of scores, we strongly advise against submitting SATII subject test scores. If you are a non-native speaker of English, no problem! You do not have to submit TOEFLs scores or any other proof of English ability. Your English results from the SAT, ACT, etc., will suffice.
  6. SSTP Buchholz Lab 2018-1Review the costs of the program. For students applying from within the US, the total costs will add up to $6,270. US students may also apply for financial aid within the online application platform. For students applying from outside the US, however, no financial aid may be awarded. Additionally, students applying from outside the US must pay an additional $550 fee to cover the costs of insurance and two additional nights of room and board, bringing the total costs of the program for international students to $6820.
  7. When you’re done, save your application and leave it is as! There’s no “submit button.” Whatever you have on your application as of February 1st will be what we use to make admission decisions. Until February 1st, you may return to your application and make edits as often as you like. Applications are considered on a non-rolling basis, so there are no advantages to finishing early other than peace of mind and the assurance that your application is complete. You will be able to see at-a-glance what sections still need your attention using the little red lights. Once they all have turned green, you’re all set.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at sstp@belinblank.org. During times of high inquiry volume, it may take us up to two business days to respond to your email, so please contact us sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive your response in a timely manner.

We look forward to seeing your application!

SSTP Musselman Lab 2018-13.jpg

What If You Started College Next Year?

It’s not too late…but the clock is ticking!

Applications are still being accepted for the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for students beginning their studies this fall.  If you are a 10th or 11th grader looking to leap forward into the excitement of university life, go to www.belinblank.org/academy or visit our blog at www.academyatiowa.org .

Bucksbaum

Are You Ready?

BucksbaumThe Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy is an early college entrance program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center. Since 1999, we have provided an opportunity for high school students who are academically gifted to skip their final years of high school and head straight to college. We offer an enriched academic and social community for young students as they transition to university life.

Are you ready? Whether you are in eighth, ninth, or tenth grade in high school, our information days are designed to give you the information you need to decide whether applying for early entrance is right for you. Come to one of our Information Days to learn more about our program, the University of Iowa campus, and the Iowa City community. This is a great way to experience what being a student at the University of Iowa is like – eat where our students eat, visit where our students live and study, and have your questions answered about our program and the University of Iowa. Our fall dates are Friday, October 7 and Friday, November 11.  Go to www.belinblank.org/academy for more information.

Message from the Director: What’s in a Name?

Everything!

A new baby enters the world and one of the first things we want to know is the name. Not surprisingly, there are entire websites devoted to the meaning of a name. Being a namesake is nothing short of a very big deal!

Therefore, it is no wonder that the Iowa Board of Regents was required to vote on approving the naming of the Belin-Blank Center’s Early Entrance Academy. At the February 24-25, 2016, Board of Regents meeting, we received approval for the naming of the Martin and Melva Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan

As I shared with you in December, Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan and her husband, Patrick Scanlan, have pledged $10 million dollars to the Belin-Blank Center to create the Bucksbaum Academy, which is named after Mary’s parents, Melva and Martin Bucksbaum. The Bucksbaum Academy is unique among early entrance academies for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the integration of the arts and humanities with STEM. Melva Bucksbaum was one of the country’s most important curators of art, a passion she nurtured from a very young age throughout her life. Mary’s father, Martin Bucksbaum, along with his two brothers, pioneered the development of large shopping centers.

Martin and Melva Bucksbaum were close friends of the Belin-Blank Center’s co-founders, Myron and Jacqueline Blank and David and Connie Belin. It is with deep gratitude that I acknowledge the vision and generosity of our co-founders and recognize how their philanthropy inspires our work each and every day. They have all passed away, yet their names live on through the Center and through our work – our professional development, research, programs and services for students, and now, the Bucksbaum Academy.

I thank the families of Martin and Melva Bucksbaum, Myron and Jacqueline Blank, and Connie and David Belin for trusting us to continue to honor their names. Indeed, honoring these names is, and will continue to be, a part of every decision that I make and every action I take with the team of colleagues who make the Center a vibrant organization where we nurture potential and inspire excellence.

Message from the Director: Thanks a Million x 10!!

Question: What is the result of juxtaposing generosity and inspiration with excellence in programming and collaboration?

Answer: Educational leadership and innovation designed to create outstanding educational experiences for some of the world’s most capable high-school-aged students, all supported through an endowed program made possible with a $10 million dollar commitment to the Belin-Blank Center.

 

In the February newsletter, we’ll have additional details regarding the program and the people who inspired philanthropist Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan to create an endowment for this unique and highly specialized program (formal naming subject to Board of Regents, State of Iowa approval). The endowment will include merit scholarships to students admitted to this specialized program and comprehensive programming to support the scholarship recipients.  Learn more at belinblank.org/academy.

This exciting news is an indescribably incredible welcome to 2016.  While the calendar year is just winding down, 2016 has been a major presence at the Belin-Blank Center since August, when we commenced planning for summer. In fact, it’s not too early for professionals and students to think about this coming summer.

At the same time, it’s not too late for parents to register students for spring 2016 opportunities, including above-level testing through BESTS and enrichment experiences through the Weekend Institute for Gifted Students (WINGS). Likewise, professionals have myriad options for spring professional development, including a webinar on twice-exceptionality and several courses offering from one to three semester hours of credit.

An end-of-year edition of a newsletter would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the highlights from the past 12 months and an expression of gratitude to the people responsible for the highlights as well as the every-day activities, which form the foundation of the center’s programming. My thanks to the Belin-Blank Center’s staff of 14 administrators, 5 secretaries, 19 students (including graduate, practicum, and undergraduate students), 2 faculty partners, and 2 resource staff members. Through our collaborations, we made possible the two-volume publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students; summer programming for 743 pre-college students; the installation of the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Gallery; the launch of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program for middle-school students; professional development courses and workshops that resulted in 852 credit hours earned by 572 educators; the creation of I-Excel, an online above-level test for advanced 4th-6th grade students; specialized social-skills groups for high-ability students; and at least 15 paper, poster, round-table, special sessions at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) conference in Phoenix.

Our founders and benefactors continue to inspire our work with the students and professionals we serve. We look forward to continuing this work into the next year! Happy New Year!!

Pottery with University Programs

Our University Programs students recently visited local favorite Fired Up! to paint some pottery and hang out.

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A Familiar Face on The Today Show

We recently spotted ITP alum Julius Carter on The Today Show!Julius

 

Check out the performance:

 

Congratulations, CSP!

China Scholars Program (CSP) students attend a graduation reception at the Belin-Blank Center with their families. Twelve students graduated this year and most plan to attend graduate school in the US. We wish them all the best!

Have You Seen Our February Newsletter?

Feb15newsletter

We’ve got news, details about our summer programs, an exciting new blog, and more!  Visit belinblank.org/newsletter to get the latest news from the Center.

Want to be the first to hear news from us?  Subscribe to our newsletter!

Talking Early Entrance to College in LA

Jan Warren, Assistant Director for Student Services,  recently attended the National Consortium of Early College Entrance Programs (NCECEP) in Los Angeles.  Directors of several early-entrance programs are pictured, along with several students in the Early Entrance Program (EEP) at California State University, Los Angeles.  The NAASE program at the Belin-Blank Center is a founding member of the Consortium.

NCECEP_edited

In Need of a Solution: Medical Care and Education in Gambia

Breonna Carroll is an Iowa Talent Project (ITP) student and is a photojournalism major and is also earning a Global Health Certificate. She recently finished her international requirements through the MHIRT program this summer and has been selected to present her photographic work and research at an art show in April. If you are interested in the environmental and health efforts in Africa, you won’t want to miss this event.

THE GAMBIA Artist Statement

As I sat scrunched in a rickety minivan traveling down an unmarked dirt road I saw the main Gambian dump site. For the first time in my life I silently watched as mothers, children and men scrupulously scavenged through plumes of smoke and refuse lumped together like mini volcanoes. All were diligently focused on finding a shiny reward of metal to turn into a pot, a spoon or tourist jewelry; anything that would turn into money. As a 20 year old African American who had never seen a dump site besides the one in Toy Story 3 I was completely baffled that an entire community was un-begrudgingly living with the suffocating stench of burning refuse. Why weren’t the people up in arms, pounding on their president’s door? I was sure I could rally a group of concerned citizens to flood the streets ready to clean. Not one thing was picked up.

Instead, for three months I listened. At the end the only thing that I had rallied together was the realization that in order for my concerns to be answered I must ask if they are the concerns of those whom they would most impact. It is not my job to tell people what they need, it is to help them see they have the capability to make a change.

The Gambian government has made major strides in providing its citizens with free or affordable healthcare. However, it is now time to focus on cleaning up the environment so that Gambian residents benefit fully from their government’s efforts. This is a brief visual documentation of the triumphs and shortcomings of a nation that deserves better. Through my lens I hope to tell the story of an emergent people who are strong and intelligent, but are also desperately in need of a solution.

The Future of Early Entrance to College

Members of the National Consortium of Early College Entrance Programs met recently at the Belin-Blank Center for their annual meeting.  Directors from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS), Clarkson School, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Robinson Center for Young Scholars at The University of Washington, Early College Mary Baldwin-Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, Early Entrance Program at Cal State University-LA, and our own Jan Warren from the National Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (NAASE) attended.

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Bowling with University Programs

Our annual trip to the apple orchard was rained out, but our University Programs students had a great time bowling instead!

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Our UP Students Went to Chicago!

Some of our University Programs students (both NAASE and ITP) recently took a trip to Chicago.  UP graduate assistants Alex Wenger and Amanda Berns chaperoned and took some fantastic pictures!

Click on the images to see them at full size: