What is IDEAL?

The Inclusive Digital Expression and Literacy (IDEAL) Program is an inclusive post-secondary program for students with mild intellectual disabilities. Being in the heart of Atlanta, IDEAL takes advantage of being in a global hub for media and the arts. IDEAL is focused on the development of media literacy, storytelling, and media production skills, to develop each participating student’s communication skills and media maker “voice” — an empowering identity for anyone in our media-saturated culture, especially for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities whose stories are often overlooked or conveyed by others. As students’ progress through the program, they create a digital “exit portfolio” that highlights each participant’s best project outcomes, skills, and products. This digital portfolio allows students to show, rather than tell, future employers about their skills developed during their time in the IDEAL program.

Program Goals:

  1. Academic Enrichment: To advance students’ academic knowledge skills, facilitating lifelong learning specifically in the areas of film, television, media, and digital expression.
  2. Career Development and Gainful Employment: To bolster students’ work experience and career development, preparing them to seek, obtain, and secure employment, having gained job readiness skills, knowledge of work etiquette, and skills specific to their focus of study.
  3. Independent Living: To prepare students for responsible decision making and to develop essential skills for students to live independently in a setting or context of their choosing.
  4. Self-determination: To support students’ emotional and social growth, leading to meaningful relationships, greater self-knowledge, advocacy, and confidence beyond college life. To help students build effective interpersonal and intrapersonal communication techniques for success in college, career, and life.
  5. Campus & Community Engagement: To establish and expand students’ relationships with the broader Georgia State University community, alumni, through engaging in coursework and extracurricular activities on campus.

What do students do at IDEAL?

IDEAL students take classes with other Georgia State University students and receive work related experience through internships. Our students get to participate in all aspects of university life, such as club memberships, athletic events, arts events, and multicultural events. Our program helps build students’ connections on campus through peer mentors, faculty, and staff.

Program Details:

The IDEAL program provides a two-year course of study where the students audit courses offered by GSU colleges and academic departments, complete work-study and internship experiences, and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities on campus. Students audit two courses per semester for five semesters (including 1 summer). Students audit courses from a core curriculum track (six courses) that focuses on technology use, digital/media literacy, communication skills, success in the college environment, self-determination, and career development. Students will also audit an additional four elective courses to build knowledge and skills in their selected area of focus. The IDEAL program currently offers four areas of focus: Film, Art, Music, and Theater. Both core and elective courses are part of the general undergraduate curriculum, participating in the classes alongside their peers with and without disabilities.

During the spring and summer semester of their second year in the program, each IDEAL student will take a capstone experience that will include two components:

  • Participation in an internship in a local business or arts organization related to his or her identified career goals
    • The internship will provide an opportunity for on-going experiences and mentoring/coaching in an aspirational work context.
  • Development of a digital exit portfolio of his or her work

Students also participate in a weekly (non-credit) IDEAL program seminar which will focus on a variety of topics including:

  • Identifying learning strategies and supports,
  • Career development and job-related “soft skills”
  • Awareness of and involvement with existing campus activities, organizations, and resources
  • Development and promotion of self-determination and self-advocacy skills
  • Relationships and Dating
  • Transportation and Mobility Training

Each semester, IDEAL staff aids students by utilizing the Students Transitioning to Adult Roles (STAR) Person-Centered Planning (PCP) model to facilitate goal setting and monitor progress across five domains: Career Development & Employment, Academic Enrichment, Campus & Community Engagement, Independent Living, and Self-Determination.

Upon completion of the IDEAL program, students will receive a GSU Certificate of Career Readiness.


The Application Process

  • Applications for our next cohort (Fall 2019), applications will be available beginning October 1st and will be accepted through April 1st, 2019.
  • Admissions Criteria
    • Must be/have:
      • Between the ages of 18 and 25 in the year of admission
      • Able to sit through a class period (1.5 hours)
      • Able to read at the 3rd grade level or above (preferred)
      • Ability to search the internet, email and use word processing programs
      • Ability to function independently for a sustained period of time
      • Sufficient behavioral and emotional skills necessary to participate in course work and GSU campus life
      • A primary diagnosis of intellectual disability. An intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18. The applicant must have been (or is presently) eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • A desire to gain skills for self-determination, independent living and career development at GSU
  • A desire to learn the skills to be successful in competitive integrated employment situations
  • Motivation to complete a postsecondary program
  • Have a willingness to complete all assignments with support
  • Ability to understand instructions and follow rules
  • Student must be able to be legally responsible for understanding and adhering to the GSU Code of Conduct
  • A cell phone
  • Transportation to and from campus
  • Be able to provide the most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and/or psychological evaluation



Cost (per semester)

  • Tuition and Fees model the current GSU structure for the term – this is subject to change (https://sfs.gsu.edu/tuition-fees/what-it-costs/tuition-and-fees/)
  • Academic Tuition:$1,746.00 (in state) for 6 credit hours
  • GSU Student Fees:$1,064.00 (required for My ID and access to auxiliary student services)
  • Program Fee:$4,500 per semester (administrative expenses)
  • Approximate total: $7311.00

Tuition and fees for course attendance are the same as those for students registered for credit and are based on a 9-month academic year (spring/fall) for an average undergraduate student.

GSU does offer payment plans. Please click here for more information.

Costs do not include books, materials, or other course required expenses.

Costs do not include housing. IDEAL housing is not currently available.