People Supported by ADVANCE Give Guest Lectures to Undergraduate Class

Jenn Anderson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor & Health Communication Minor Coordinator
(605) 651-2393


ADVANCE Partnership with SDSU Class Teaches Students Profound Lessons about Communication and Disability

People Supported by ADVANCE Give Guest Lectures to Undergraduate Class


Brookings, S.D. – October 7, 2015– Drake Bandemer, a person supported at ADVANCE, had a central message for undergraduate students in an Interpersonal Communication class at South Dakota State University (SDSU) this semester, “I have a disability, but it doesn’t define me.” Bandemer is one of about a dozen people supported who, along with ADVANCE staff, have given guest presentations to the SDSU class.


This October marks the 70th anniversary of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month. People supported at ADVANCE are employed at many local businesses, including 3M, Daktronics, and Bel Brands. Much of their work takes place at the main ADVANCE facility.  Sherry Woodraska, a person supported, gave the SDSU students a tour of the facility last month. Woodraska and the students were eager to reconnect, since she had given a lively presentation to the class earlier in the semester.


Justin Anderson, a residential supervisor at ADVANCE, has coordinated the ADVANCE contributions to the class. Mr. Anderson serves on the Leadership Team at ADVANCE, which works to make connections with the community and increase awareness about ADVANCE. This partnership with SDSU has increased awareness about ADVANCE and its contributions to the community, especially in the workplace. One student remarked, “These presentations make me think about how good it is that the community has ADVANCE.”


Mr. Anderson also speaks passionately about what this partnership means to the people supported. “This is something that people supported look forward to. They are proud to share their personal experiences with the class. They want to come back again and again! And they enjoy hearing about how students responded to their presentations.”


Students are also enthusiastic about this unique learning opportunity. One student said, “I absolutely love the partnership with ADVANCE in this class!”

About half the class periods in this semester’s Interpersonal Communication class are devoted to learning from ADVANCE representatives about communication and disability. Jenn Anderson, Assistant Professor of Communication, teaches the class and explains that this partnership will produce significant learning outcomes for both the students and ADVANCE partners. Ms. Anderson says that students will “apply course concepts to real-world scenarios, encounter and appreciate diverse life experiences, and critically reflect on and develop their own interpersonal communication skills.” ADVANCE partners, in turn, will “practice public speaking skills, reflect on the role of communication in their personal and professional lives, and understand the impact of their presentations on the students.”

Students are already experiencing deep learning outcomes from these presentations. They are connecting the presentations to course concepts like empathy and perspective-taking. One student said, “I think trying to imagine what life is like for others can open our minds to how they feel and would want to be treated.”

The ADVANCE presentations are also breaking down stereotypes—another important concept for the class. Katie Armstrong, a person supported at ADVANCE, gave a powerful presentation on stereotypes about disability. Afterward, a student reflected that, “The presentations from ADVANCE have totally undone the stereotypes about people with disabilities. The more I see the presentations, and hear their real-life stories, the more I see similarities between myself and the presenters.” Another student noted, “What I’m now understanding is that they are just like me.”

This partnership is not just about teaching Interpersonal Communication, it’s about making interpersonal connections. Bandemer’s presentation cultivated that connection with the students and left a lasting impact. In response to his presentation, one student said, “I always knew you shouldn’t define people with disabilities as just the disability. But today I just realized how important that is to people.”


ADVANCE is a Community Support Provider in Brookings, SD. We provide support to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. We offer opportunities for people to live their lives to the fullest. For more information about ADVANCE, please call (605) 692-7852 or visit us on the Web at

PHOTO: Josh Aderhold, Drake Bandemer, and Paige Jorgensen give a guest presentation to an Interpersonal Communication class at SDSU.



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