Wilkerson is a professor with the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, and the director of the Teacher Education Center.
Wilkerson explained to the program’s host, Rob Ferrett, that there has been a challenge across the nation, and in Wisconsin, attracting people to the field of special education. She said that rural districts can feel that challenge more severely than more populated areas, because they may have fewer applicants or fewer qualified people who apply for job openings.
The UW-SET program seeks to fill that gap through a unique partnership with rural districts across Wisconsin. “Our students are in a one-year residency in a partner district,” Wilkerson said, “so they agree to and know up front that they are going to work in one of these rural districts … and they commit to learning and growing in that setting for the entire academic year, and also agree to work in that district upon their graduation.”
Wilkerson landed a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that funds the UW-SET program, including a living stipend for program participants.
“Because they commit (to) this one-year residency,” Wilkerson said, “(students) really get to know the staff there, and … also develop relationships with families that might be different than the relationships you would develop in other kinds of school districts. So, there are some unique elements, and people get to live that and see that.”
Wilkerson added: “I think learning in this setting, when you know you’re going to work in that setting when you graduate, is a special incentive for the school district to really care about your preparation and be invested in your preparation, because they know you’re going to be their colleague in the next year and for several years thereafter.”
Hear the full segment on the WPR website, here.