Special Education Department at Peabody College at Vanderbilt

Ranked as the #1 Special Education Program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade, our department has long been a leader both in research and practice. Our department ranks first in scholarly production and is a leader in equipping special educators to deliver high-quality educational experiences for students with disabilities.

The mission of the Department of Special Education is to improve the lives of children and youth with disabilities through (a) the preparation of exceptionally competent teachers and researchers, (b) conducting research that informs and improves educational programs and behavioral interventions, and (c) leadership in professional associations and advocacy for persons with disabilities. We are committed to equipping students with diverse backgrounds and experiences to provide exceptional services and supports to people with disabilities and their families.

Vanderbilt University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities provides innovative leadership in education, research and services to people with disabilities, the community, and families. They promote the independence, self-determination, productivity, integration, and inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities and provide supports for families.

TN Inclusive Higher Education (IHE) Alliance

The Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance was formed in May 2007 to increase awareness about the need for postsecondary opportunities in Tennessee, to gather information about postsecondary programs in other states, and to develop a pilot program on a Tennessee college campus.

The first program in Tennessee, Next Steps at Vanderbilt, began in January 2010. The second program, University of Tennessee FUTURE, began in August 2011. Additional programs are currently housed at Lipscomb University (IDEAL), Union University (EDGE), the University of Memphis (TigerLIFE), and East Tennessee State University (ACCESS).

The Alliance continues to work to develop more programs on campuses across Tennessee and meets quarterly. The Alliance comprises representatives from state and local agencies, self-advocates, and family members, representatives from colleges and universities in Tennessee, and business owners. For information on Alliance meetings, contact

To learn more about the Alliance and to connect with one of Tennessee's six programs, visit the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance Website at: .

 You can also find out more information about the Alliance in this flyer or this video.

Next Steps Advisory Council

The Next Steps Advisory Council guides and supports in the development and sustainability of Next Steps at Vanderbilt. Through quarterly meetings and action throughout the year, the members share their expertise and talents.

2023-2024 Advisory Council members:

Ariana Amaya  | Catherine Duggan | Charles Feddemen| Elena Graves | Carrie Guiden |Clisby Hall| Heidi Haines| Megan Heim | Jennifer Holt | Gregg Hutchins| Rincon Jagarlamudi  |  John Lewis  | Julie Lounds Taylor | Anne Martin| Adrienne Nordman| Wee S. Ng | James Purcell |  Sharon Shields|  Billy Worsham |  

Staff:  Lauren Bethune-Dix | Jessica Clifton 

Auxiliary Council Members: Morel Harvey | Sarah Hunt| Sam Moran| Mary Layne Van Cleave |Tom Woodard   

Next Steps Steering Committee

Next Steps has enjoyed and benefited from the support of Vanderbilt's administration from the Chancellor's and Provost's Offices on down. Top level administrators have provided guidance in developing Next Steps, always beginning with the advice, "This is how things are done for ALL students on our campus."

2023-2024 Next Steps Steering Committee:

Sharon Shields, Peabody College Senior Associate Dean

GL Black, Assistant Provost and Deputy Dean of Students

William Robinson, Vice Provost for Academic Advancement, Executive Director of Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence

Cathy Weisbrodt, Associate Director of Career Center, Science Careers Y Health Professions Advising

Ariana Amaya, Director of Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Lauren Bethune-Dix, Assistant Director and Academic Director of Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Frances Niarhos, Associate Director for Training, University Counseling Center

Anita Wager, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs