An Open Letter from OU Students and Alumni to OU Administration



Oakland University Board of Trustees;

Incoming President of Oakland University;

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost;

Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management;


As Oakland University is broadening its academic environment, we hope that it can continue to once again be recognized as a truly inclusive community that welcomes people with intellectual disabilities to live, learn and prosper in a diverse and accepting educational institution. Oakland University “Reached Beyond the Ordinary” from 2007-2011 when the School of Education and Human Services offered college-age students with mild cognitive disabilities opportunities to take classes through the Oakland University Post-Secondary TrasnitIONS (OPTIONS) Program. OPTIONS students were afforded opportunities to experience all that college had to offer through auditing university classes, participating in clubs and student organizations, doing volunteer work on campus, learning life skills and developing without their progress being measured by a GPA.


This program ended abruptly in 2011 without any explanation given other than lack of funding forced them to close. However, these students paid full tuition. In addition to OPTIONS students paying out of pocket expenses, provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act and two multimillion-dollar federal grants allow students with intellectual disabilities to qualify for Pell grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, the Federal Work Study Program, and establishes a new grant program that will fund the development of programs tailored specifically to college students with intellectual disabilities across the country.


Closing this program was very short sighted and counter-productive to the Mission of OU that states,  “In all its activities, the university strives to exemplify educational leadership in a diverse and inclusive environment.” Furthermore, student development is a core pillar of the OU Role and Mission Statement and the options program gave students at all levels of ability the chance to interact with each other and grow together. Oakland University should reinstate the OPTIONS program that was the very definition of inclusion and student development. In the words of Dan Wilkins, “A community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all.”


Oakland is falling behind other colleges and universities across the country recognizing the power of inclusion and diversity in a campus setting. There arenow 209 programs across the country that offer inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disabilities. These programs have shown to be successful in helping students obtain better jobs with a 48% employment rate and $316 weekly earnings compared to a weekly income of $195 for youth who did not receive postsecondary education services. Youth with intellectual disabilities should be viewed as valued members of our society who can make a valiant contribution given a chance to participate in a postsecondary education. OU can once again help young adults with intellectual disabilities expand their independent living skills; their ability to earn competitive employment wages and be part of a community experiencing inclusion by same-age peers.


Micah Fialka-Feldman is the prime example of a persevering student who graduated from the OPTIONS program and went on to accomplish greater things after his time spent at Oakland University. While he attended school, Micah impacted hundreds of peers and inspired many faculty members. Today Micah is a paid Graduate Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University School of Education and this past summer he completed a distinguished paid internship at the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Washington, DC. Every year he continues to participate in dozens of speaking engagements promoting inclusive education all around the world. When asked to describe his experience at Oakland University Micah said, “The Options Program at Oakland University opened doors and taught me to think differently”. In the words of actor, producer and human rights activist Danny Glover, who was the keynote speaker for Oakland University’s 17th annual Keeper of the Dream awards celebration and is a close friend of Micah Fialka-Felman, “Children with disabilities and their communities both benefit if we all focus on what these children can achieve, rather than what they cannot.


As Oakland University students and alumni, we are witnessing our alma mater expand its academic offerings through the new medical school building, construction of the Human Health Building, Engineering Center, new student housing complex, and we hope that the OPTIONS Program can be a significant part of this continuing advancement. Like any student who is eager to learn in a postsecondary educational institution, people with intellectual disabilities deserve to have OPTIONS.




Kristin Dayag (‘11), First Responder, Oakland County Homeland Security


Micah Fialka-Feldman (‘11), Graduate Teaching Assistant, Syracuse University  


Jarret Schlaff (‘10), Midwest Fossil Free Organizer,


Cathy C Courtney, MPH, (Mom attended OU), Health Care For All


Alex Hancook (‘12), Video Production


Alex Cherup (‘08), Law Student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA


Daniel Valentine (‘13), Field Tech with the Clinton River Watershed Council

Nathan Ogg (’09), Law Student at the University of Nebraska College of Law


Hien Vu (08′) Clinical Pharmacy Technician at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan


Thomas Kosiorek (05′)(10′) Program Management Specialist Chrysler LLC


Nicole Bertrand (08′) Rochester Hills, MI


Garrett Pomeroy (‘10) Natural Resource Technician – Waterford, MI


Carla Kosiorek (’03) Mathematics Teacher -Shelby Township, MI


Michelle L.R. Everett (’08) Attorney


Amy Smalley (‘86 and ‘88), Southfield, MI


Candice Hofmann (’09) Educator


Brian Swanson (‘97 BSME – 05MSEM) Oxford, MI