The Integrated Post-Secondary Education Society of Alberta officially started in 1992 as The Varsity Education Program (VEP). Our organization began in the days when programs offered to people having any type of developmental disability were strictly segregated, sheltered workshops. Our service was created with the expressed purpose and determination to find a young man named Murray Vavra a meaningful way to live in a more inclusive environment. Inspired by the “On Campus” program in Edmonton, and with the support of the Rehabilitation Studies Department within the University of Calgary, a person-centered program was developed within the University of Calgary where Murray could enroll as a student, fully integrated into the University population of their peers.
DEVELOPMENT OF OUR SERVICE
In 1988, Murray’s parents Murdeen and Steve Vavra were investigating the future opportunities for their son as his time in school was coming to an end. The Vavra’s found that they were deeply dissatisfied with current service opportunities to support their son; as all parents do, they yearned for a more profound and meaningful life for Murray.
The Vavra’s were encouraged to continue forward after several meetings of planning and development with University of Calgary staff, and after conducting and receiving results of a Needs Survey in the community showing a strong desire for opportunities in post-secondary education opportunity for students with developmental disabilities.
After meeting with Ministers for Advanced Education, Education, and Family and Social Services as well as several Deputy Ministers in an attempt to gain funding, along with the University’s approval, Murray was granted individual funding, and the Rehabilitation Studies Department would act as an “Academic Home”.
The hard work and determination of the Vavra’s finally came to fruition and in January of 1993, Murray began his new university experience with the support of a facilitator. With these new support networks in place, Murray could now access university courses that would match his skill level. By 1997, the service grew to support seven students with the aid of three staff members.
GRADUATE SUPPORT SERVICES
Soon thereafter, the Graduate Support Services (GSS) department was developed to transition students into meaningful employment positions through employment preparation, skill-building, and direct on-site support.
Today, our service has grown significantly from humble beginnings, having the privilege to have served many wonderful individuals and their families. We currently support 26 individuals between our Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) service and Graduate Support Services (GSS).