Program Spotlight: VUnited Scholars


Courtesy of VU Scholars

VU Scholars celebrate at a banquet at the Villanova Inn.

Zoe Manning, Staff Writer

VUnited Scholars, better known as VU Scholars, is a two-year academic certificate program for highly motivated students with disabilities. The program is held within the College of Professional Studies. Through VU Scholars, students can complete academic coursework, supervised employment and career development opportunities. Specifically, the program prepares students to work in fields such as Human Services and Business, in addition to immersing them in the social community at Villanova through living independently on campus in a traditional college setting. 


Students interested in the program must apply and be accepted through an admissions process. The application is available on the College of Professional Studies’ website, and there are various materials that need to be submitted throughout the process, such as questionnaires and letters of recommendation. Roughly five to eight students are accepted each year. 


Once enrolled, students take non-credit courses taught by Villanova faculty and can also take credit courses during the program. VU Scholars also allows students to gain considerable experience in off-campus employment and obtain crucial skills to pursue a career in the future. At the end of the program, the students involved will earn a certificate in Community and Professional Development. 


Steve McWilliams, Director of Disability Services, explained how he became involved with VU Scholars, and how it blossomed into a program as successful as it is today. 


“I’ve been involved with the Office of Disability Services for many years as an advisor for students living with a disability,” McWilliams said. “Through the office, we sponsored the VUnited Program, which is a student-run life skills program on Saturday mornings. From that program, the VU Scholars program grew.” 


One of the best aspects of the program, McWilliams shared, is how VU Scholars interact with the entire student body here at Villanova and immerse themselves in their college experience. 


“This inclusive experience allows students with intellectual disabilities to have a college experience which previously was not available to them,” McWilliams said. “The students are engaged in a variety of clubs and organizations. All of our activities, we hope, involve our students blending into existing events.” 


Students who partake in the VU Scholars program can also participate in campus ministry events, such as service and worship. 


Pursuing a certificate program at Villanova is an opportunity unlike any program that may be offered at other universities. Villanova’s Augustinian, welcoming community is built upon the values of Unitas, Veritas and Caritas, which promote a supportive and unifying environment. 


“By offering this population of students the opportunity to live and learn on campus, Villanova furthers its mission as a place where differences are valued and supported,” McWilliams said.