Newman University has a number of ties to Envision, one of the largest employers of people who are blind or visually impaired in Kansas and Texas. In addition to employment opportunities, the nonprofit organization provides innovative outreach, rehabilitation, education and research programs.
One such individual who works for Envision is Teresa Houston, a Newman alumna who currently serves as director of the Envision Child Development Center.
“When looking at my experience with Newman, all I can say is it was wonderful as an adult student who is married with two children and working full time,” Houston said.
She pursued her bachelor’s degree in Newman’s counseling program and appreciated the accommodations the university was able to make for her.
“I reported to the same flat building, which helped me navigate easily since I am legally blind and was not using a white cane,” Houston explained. “The Disability Services Office ran like a well-oiled machine, and my books were always on time. If I needed to take a test, the staff were not only eager to help, but they were also extremely nice.”
Houston started at Envision as a preschool teacher and staff scheduler. Recently, though, she transitioned into her role as director of the Child Development Center.
“As the director, I have made it a priority to make sure we are inclusive,” Houston said. “I have five blind or visually impaired staff members who are working alongside their typically sighted peers.”
She added that another of her goals is to practice servant leadership — a skill she learned at Newman.
“My experience at Newman was life-changing, and I am forever grateful for the level of commitment and passion they pour into each student regardless of race, religion or different ability.”
Newman interns benefit from working at Envision
Newman students in the occupational therapy assistant program regularly intern at Envision.
Karen Kendrick, a Newman alumna and low vision occupational therapist at Envision, has worked with these interns for nearly 20 years. She describes her role as evaluating clients to determine what functional problems they are experiencing day-to-day due to their vision loss and helping them establish and meet their goals.
“There is honestly not a day that goes by at work where I don’t feel like I impacted someone’s life in regard to their vision loss,” Kendrick says. “It can be as simple as teaching them techniques to tell the difference between a quarter and a nickel. Or it could be more complex like helping the patients return to reading again or using the computer.”
Kendrick especially enjoys working with Newman interns because of their professionalism and willingness to learn.
“The OTA interns always seem to come prepared and ready to learn,” she said. “They present themselves very professionally and always ask great questions. They typically observe my evaluations, but I then allow them to help with providing treatment as needed during the session.”
Kendrick adds that these internships benefit both the students and Envision.
“Low vision is a growing field,” she explained. “Nationally, there are not enough occupational therapy professionals trained in low vision. So having the opportunity to have these Newman students come in and learn about our growing field is so important and vital to continuing having low vision providers to treat our low vision clients.”
A Newman occupational therapy assistant’s experience
Alumna Andra Mies was an adult student when she attended Newman for its OTA program and now works with Kendrick at Envision.
“I remember thinking when I started the program ‘How do these OT/OTAs see so much and know how to adapt it?’” Mies said. “Thanks to my experience with Newman and the OTA program, I obtained the foundations for that skill, and my clients will continue to benefit.”
For Mies, working with Newman interns is both rewarding and challenging.
“I need to remind myself that each visit takes additional time, as I am explaining everything so that the students gain a good understanding of this unique low vision field,” Mies said. “I ask my students to consider their clients’ needs as they proceed into their own field and learn to recognize the signs of vision issues, as there are individuals out there who don’t like to share that they have a vision issue as some are afraid it will lead to them losing their home or independence, where Envision is all about keeping them independent and safe in their current living situation.”
She added, “I love learning from my students as well and find I almost always take away something new regarding documentation or techniques outside of the low vision field.”
Another connection Newman has to Envision is that former president Noreen Carrocci, Ph.D., was recently named senior vice president for foundation and mission services at Envision.
“I always thought I would work part-time or be a professional volunteer once I retired, but the pandemic really forced me to learn how to retire,” said Carrocci.
Carrocci said she was drawn to Envision’s mission and has been a “passionate supporter” for more than 14 years.
In a press release announcing her hiring, Envision president and CEO Michael Monteferrante said, “We’re honored to have Noreen’s passion, experience and aptitude added to our leadership team at Envision. She has been an integral community member leading many important efforts at Newman and countless nonprofits in Wichita. I know she will drive our mission forward in all areas.”
Carrocci added, “Now, I look forward to working directly with the team to advocate for and improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired.”
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