Presently there is a critical shortage of leadership personnel in the low incidence area of blindness and visual impairment (VI).  Personnel preparation programs in VI have closed, and leadership positions at remaining institutions continue to be unfilled by qualified doctoral level personnel. Leadership positions at federal, state, and local levels are generally filled by professionals from outside the field of VI.  The result is that the needs of children who are VI and those of their families and teachers are not adequately or appropriately represented in policy or service provision. 

Only 15 universities currently offer doctoral degrees that support advanced training in VI.  In 2002 there were 9 active leadership programs with one or more students in VI.  These programs together have produced an average of 4 doctoral graduates annually since 1996. Only 25% of these graduates took faculty positions between 1996-2001.  While funding is available for leadership, only one university has received leadership funds for a doctoral program in VI alone over the last 10 years. 

The Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) submits this proposal to develop a student-oriented collaborative leadership training program in education of students with visual impairments, with the goal of increasing the number of leadership graduates to an eventual 10 per year, a 250% increase. This will be accomplished through working in partnership with colleagues at Carnegie doctoral/research-intensive and doctoral/research-extensive universities across the country, establishing a community of practice among doctoral students and faculty that maximizes current resources while building capacity for the future.  This community of practice will be referred to as the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI).


Develop a collaborative model for producing leadership personnel in special education with an emphasis on VI through the establishment of a national consortium of Carnegie doctoral/research-intensive and doctoral research-extensive institutions.

Facilitate the preparation of leadership personnel in education of students with visual impairments to increase the numbers of doctoral graduates available for positions in one or more areas of emphasis, such as higher education teaching and research, public policy, administration at national state and/or local levels, curriculum development and supervision and/or general research. In particular prepare sufficient leadership personnel to meet the needs of university personnel preparation programs.

Enhance the training of leadership personnel by the creation of enrichment activities such as special topic seminars, special meetings, specialized lectures, or listserv discussions developed for the cohort of doctoral students.

Increase the capacity of HECSE members and other Universities that have existing doctoral programs, by helping them to establish new minors and emphases in visual impairment. 

Conduct an evaluation of the collaboration -- both outcomes and process-- that will provide formative and summative data to assist in improving the project, and detailed information about the development of the collaborative model for replication purposes.  

Disseminate information about the model, including evaluative findings, for possible replication in other areas of leadership training.