Meet Dr. Michelle Rowe, director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and program director for the Autism Studies Track within the BS in Liberal Studies program. Dr. Rowe is also a professor of Health Services at Saint Joseph's University.
INTERVIEWER: Today, we're talking with Dr. Michelle Rowe, the Executive Director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and Professor of Health Services at St. Joseph's University. She's also the Program Director for the new Autism Studies Concentration Program within the Professional and Liberal Studies Bachelor's Degree Completion Program.
Dr. Rowe, since you are the course developer, let's start with you. Tell me about your role for this autism studies concentration and your tie to the Kinney Center.
MICHELLE ROWE: I've been at the university for almost 20 years now. I started the undergraduate-- developed the undergraduate health services major, which is an allied health sort of major. About 10 years or so ago, I started doing an Autism Awareness Day event. It was at the time when the media started to become interested in autism because suddenly, these kids were being diagnosed with this thing that no one had really heard of other than institutionalized kids.
So I started that and a lot of grassroots efforts around university. One year, we were blowing bubbles for autism. There was a high school kid who did that-- bring in guest speakers and those sorts of things. My area of research has always been on how people cope with difficult situations and this was one that was creating a lot of havoc in families, a lot of not knowing what this whole thing is and how these kids are headed.
So in about 2007, I guess it was, I had an autism awareness event and the chairman of the board of trustees at that time at the university, he and his wife came and identified that they had a child or have a child with autism. So they were keeping a watch on what I had been doing and at one point, they decided that they wanted to possibly donate into doing something in autism.
So I put together a plan in developing the Kinney Center so we opened in 2009. So what we do at the Kinney Center is use the classes-- the students actually who are taking classes in the day program, that's how we train them. So if we have the summer camp, for example, we just finished, the students are staffed one on one with the kids and they learn how to work with kids with autism.
So it's just a field that you can't learn about unless you're actually in the trenches, getting your hands dirty, and figuring things out on your own. So a lot of it is just critical thinking skills-- ability to problem solve.
So shortly I guess about a year and a half, two years later, I developed the minor, which is a similar kind of program, very much like what we're going to do in CPLS. And from there, it grew pretty significantly but within that minor, we're not covering the adult learners, students who are either looking to go into another field or wanting to become more specialized in the field of autism and concentrate in it.
So from there, the CPLS program will really open up the door for the nontraditional students or even students that want to be able to take courses at night with the online program nights-- weekends. So we're trying to hit this from multiple areas and my interest is to move back into academics a bit more.