Faith Thomas, Utah
2021 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate
How many years have you been involved in integrated employment/supported employment?
The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in integrated employment/supported employment.
For the past 22+ years, my career has focused on competitive integrated employment for young adults with disabilities. My first job out of college was working in Workforce Development where I met many young people who had job hopped for 5-6 years since leaving high school. I was concerned that schools were not preparing youth for successful employment. After completing my M.Ed. with a concentration in transition at Indiana University – Indianapolis, I began working at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. Throughout my career at IU, I worked on projects funded by Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation and the Indiana Department of Education. Whatever my role, I have always focused on competitive integrated employment – which is the gateway to independence and community inclusion for all people.
As a transition coordinator in a suburban school corporation, I received my real education working with students and their families to prepare for and to pursue their post-secondary goals which included competitive integrated employment. I have always felt my most important role has been to support students to realize their potential by providing information and supporting them to make informed choices on their transition to adulthood. I hope I have been a persistent advocate to support young adults to achieve competitive integrated employment and to become active members of their communities. In recent years, I have moved to Utah and completed my Ph.D. in Disability Disciplines with a concentration in Transition. I am currently working at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University as a Program Manager. As I begin my career in Utah, I am anxious to become reconnected with APSE and continue my work in supporting people with disabilities by confront barriers to employment and promote providers implementing evidence-based strategies to support people with disabilities to achieve their career goals.
How will you be able to contribute to the growth and improvement of APSE as an organization?
As a 10-year board member of Indiana APSE, I understand the power that a committed group of people can have on changing policies, improving knowledge, and building advocacy skills. As a former member of Indiana APSE leadership, I understand the necessity of APSE to be THE voice of competitive integrated employment. I realize that each member of a volunteer board must be a working member – doing what is asked, putting in the time, and being active on subcommittees – in order for APSE to challenge the barriers to competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities and achieve its annual goals. I welcome the opportunity to share my energy and experience with the APSE Board.
Faith Thomas completed her Ph.D. in Disability Disciplines with a focus on transition at Utah State University in June 2020. Dr. Thomas’ dissertation was a national study on the professional development of secondary special education teachers on writing compliant transition IEPs. In July 2020, she began working as a program coordinator senior at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. She is currently a co-PI for the Mental Health Developmental Disabilities National Training Center whose mission is to improve mental health services for people with developmental disabilities.
Faith Thomas has over 25 years of experience working with people with disabilities, transition-age youth, their families, and adult service agencies. Beginning her career working with economically disadvantaged, Faith continued to develop her knowledge by completing a M.Ed. in Special Education with a focus on Transition from Indiana University-Purdue University. Since that time, she worked 15 years at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community on multiple transition-related projects funded by Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Indiana Department of Education. She was also project coordinator of a 5-year NIDILRR funded field-based research study, The Indiana School-to-Work Collaborative which integrated adult service agency staff into secondary schools to develop permanent employment for transition students. In addition, Faith worked for 4 years as a transition coordinator in a suburban school district in southern Indiana.
Faith has been involved with APSE since 1999 and has held multiple roles on the Indiana APSE Board of Directors. As a 10-year member of the Indiana APSE BOD, she was conference committee co-chair, membership chair, and co-president. She was recognized as the Indiana Rebecca McDonald award winner in 2005 and the National Rebecca McDonald winner in 2006.