GVSU’s Campus Links program recognized for support of ASD community

Sarah Hollis

Online College Plan, a website that ranks the top online college degree programs in the country, recognized Grand Valley State University’s Campus Links program as one of the top 10 programs in the country for students with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

The Campus Links program received this recognition for its success in helping students with ASD adjust to life at college and in preparing them to acclimate to their professional lives. The ranking was calculated based half on the freshman retention rate and half on the graduation rate for students with ASD at GVSU. These were calculated to be 84 percent and 66 percent, respectively. 

“The Campus Links program connects students who have Autism spectrum disorder with students who have been trained as coaches and mentors,” said Jason Osborne, senior program adviser at Disability Support Resources. “Campus Links mentors help students adjust to new environments and routines more quickly in the hopes mentees will have more fulfilling and enriched lives.

“The program is unique among similar programs because the participants and mentors, and those diagnosed with ASD, live together in … campus housing and provide daily support. We also have another sector of it that is not residential where a student still wants to live on campus or at home, and they can still be involved with the program and have a mentor, but they don’t have to live in the residential building.”  

The program began in the fall of 2012, and it has undergone many improvements to get where it is today. 

“When it first started, it was strictly residential; people lived in the South E Living Center, and then we added the Blue program, which is non-residential because we were finding that students didn’t always like to live in a specific housing unit or they wanted to live at home but they still needed the support of the program,” Osborne explained. 

There are several benefits for students who take part in the Campus Links program. 

“The benefits would be that they have support to help, with this particular disability, transition into a new environment, which is what they typically have the biggest trouble with,” Osborne said. “Plus, this provides social support.”  

Since the release of Online College Plan’s ranking, Campus Links has already experienced some positive effects. 

“We’ve had a lot more requests for mentors, people wanting to be mentors in the program, which is really nice,” Osborne said. “We usually don’t recruit for that until February, but now we’re already getting applications, so it’s much easier for next year.”

All these unique aspects of the Campus Links program have contributed to its newfound national ranking. The program was able to earn the eighth spot on Online College Plan’s list.

To learn more about the Campus Links program or about signing up to be a mentor or mentee, visit www.gvsu.edu/dsr/campus-links-96.htm or contact Disability Support Resources at 616-331-2490 or [email protected]