Vision Program graduate student earns prestigious Donald Blasch Scholarship

Michael Foster
Michael Foster

Michael Foster, a Vision Program graduate student working toward a master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility, is one of two recipients of the prestigious Donald Blasch Scholarship.

Sponsored by the O&M division of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the scholarship competition celebrates the memory of one of the founders of O&M university preparation and his long and distinguished service to the profession. Blasch served many years as chair of the Department of Blind Rehabilitation at Western Michigan University.

The pair of $1,000 scholarships, given each June, are given to individuals who are enrolled in, or admitted to, one of the AER-approved university preparation programs in orientation and mobility.

Recipients are chosen by a panel of approximately nine members of the division.

Selection is based primarily on applicants’ variety and extent of experience (paid or unpaid) in human services endeavors, leadership work and leadership potential, and commitment/passion for the field of O&M as reflected in the 200-word essay and in the letters of reference. Financial need is not a criterion for selection.

Professors Stacy Kelly and Gaylen Kapperman supported Foster’s application.

“He does not waiver from his desire to be an orientation and mobility specialist when he has the opportunity to add on other areas of specialization in the field of visual impairments. This is something I have not come across before either and it is remarkable. All of Michael’s time and energy is entirely focused on becoming the best orientation and mobility specialist he can in his time learning with us at NIU,” Kelly wrote in her letter.

“Our beginning braille course is considered to be one of considerable difficulty. Many students struggle mightily in their efforts to master the code,” Kapperman wrote.

“Without prompting from the faculty, Michael elected to form and lead a study group. The purpose of the group was to offer assistance to those students in the class who were having difficulty,” his letter continued. “This is not a formal leadership position. He received no extra credit for taking on this responsibility. He did it because he cares and the other students view him as the individual among them who exhibits leadership qualities.”

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