Dr. Chandra Foote, dean of Niagara University’s College of Education, and Dr. Mary Ellen Bardsley, a professor in the college, with the women from ICA who completed master’s degrees in early childhood special education or advanced certificates in applied behavior analysis.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, Niagara University welcomed 66 men and women from the Institute for Career Advancement to its alumni family during two separate commencement ceremonies at the Ateres Chana Malka Banquet Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y. The graduates earned master’s degrees in early childhood special education or advanced certificates in applied behavior analysis online through NU’s College of Education, thanks to a partnership established between NU and ICA.

Featured speakers at both events included Yechiel Binet, ICA executive director; Dr. Timothy Ireland, Niagara University provost; and Rabbi Yakov Sputz, clinical instructor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Nechemya Horowitz, ICA’s director of graduate programs, served as emcee. Dr. Chandra Foote, dean of NU’s College of Education, and faculty members Dr. Naima Bhana and Dr. Mary Ellen Bardsley attended the women’s ceremony, and Dr. Robin Erwin and Dr. Dennis Garland attended the men's ceremony.

The ICA students, members of an Ultra Orthodox community, completed their courses via Zoom in classes that were separated by gender and offered during the evenings for men and on Sundays for women. In addition, adjustments to the academic calendar and to course content were made to align with the religious requirements of the community. The graduates will now take teaching positions in schools, Head Start programs, and agencies within their own community.

“This partnership helps us to further our Vincentian mission by preparing teachers and licensed behavior analysts to serve children with special needs,” said Dr. Foote. 

The partnership, which began in February 2021 with a cohort of 41 students, was formalized in July 2022, when the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president, and Binet signed an agreement to create educational opportunities for members of the Ultra Orthodox community in Brooklyn, N.Y. More than 350 students are currently completing degrees through this agreement, which will add programs in professional accountancy and information security and digital forensics in 2023. 

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