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July 4, 2003

Helping hand - - Intern finds niche at work

From: Topeka Capital Journal, KS - Jul 4, 2003

By Amy Bauer The Capital-Journal

Washburn University senior Teresa Shipley never pictured herself at a "desk job," but her human resources internship at Fort Riley this summer may be changing her mind.

Shipley, who is hearing impaired, also said she never pictured the respect and acceptance she would find among her co-workers at Army Air Force Exchange Services, or AAFES.

"I don't really know how to explain it. You can actually see the 'I care' upon them," she said. "I don't feel different. I feel just like everybody else."

Shipley is one of 313 students -- two in Kansas -- placed in summer and permanent jobs this year through the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Recruitment Program.

Shipley said AAFES has met any accommodations she needed, including providing volume control for her telephone and raising awareness among co-workers to talk directly to her.

"They talk to me. They don't yell at me. I get a lot of people who think I'm deaf, and they just have to yell as loud as they can," Shipley said.

Through on-campus interviews across the nation, the Workforce Recruitment Program creates an electronic database of students with disabilities that government and private employers can access to hire.

Paul Meyer is the director of employment initiatives for the Office of Disability Employment Policy, which administers the Workforce Recruitment Program in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense. Meyer has been part of the program since its inception 28 years ago.

"If you allow somebody to get in the front door, they sell themselves," Meyer said. "They become a person with a disability, not a disabled person, which is an important distinction."

Meyer points to one of the program's stars, a 1976 participant with muscular dystrophy who ascended the ranks at the Department of Defense. Today, she leads a computer division and supervises 40 employees.

While the program has been operating for some time, Meyer said only during the past five years has it been open to the private sector.

Duane Williams, Washburn Career Services specialist, said about a dozen students have interviewed with the program each spring. Of those, Shipley is the fourth to secure a job directly from WRP's database. One other WU student has secured an internship, and two students have been hired by state governments for full-time positions -- one in Kansas and one in Wisconsin.

Williams said the program provides other benefits: experience preparing resumes and participating in interviews and access to Career Services aid, including online resume posting and job listings.

The number of students participating has increased over the years, and Williams said he wants to see that number continue to grow.

"It's just been a real positive experience for Washburn," he said.

Shipley said Williams contacted her this spring about the program, and she got involved just for the sake of trying.

Shipley's art background -- she is an art history major -- initially interested AAFES. She was offered an internship at the company's Dallas headquarters to design its logo. When Shipley was unable to travel that far for the summer, AAFES offered her the job at Fort Riley.

"I have to say this company has really done anything and everything," she said.

She said the Workforce Recruitment Program helped put some of the awkward questions aside and let AAFES focus on her job qualifications.

"When you don't tell someone that you have a disability, it can affect their impressions of you," she said. "When they already know, they can push that impression that you have a disability away and look at if you meet the job requirements."


Students: Contact Washburn University Career Services at 231-1010, ext. 1450, or the career office at your college or university. More information about the program is available online at

Employers: Go to, or contact the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy at (202) 693-7880. A free CD-ROM database of student candidates is available.

More information: More information about Office of Disability Employment Policy programs is online at

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