Community Service: TOPS at COSI

Image of TOPS students and mentors at COSI.

As part of the partnership with COSI and Children’s Hunger Alliance teaming up to feed lives and minds of Columbus Children they have partnered to distribute grab-and-go meals and a new COSI “Learning Lunchbox,” which is a resource kit filled with hands-on science activities for children in need in the Columbus area.

Seven TOPS students and two mentors attended a community service event on October 23rd, 2020 to assist with the assembly of science kits to support the COSI “Learning Lunchbox.” Student’s traveled in small group car pools and worked with their masks on. They were provided gloves and a socially distanced work station for this in-person event.  We were able to take a quick moment to catch the group posing for a photo for you all.  Thank you to COSI for allowing us to come and volunteer, and thank you to the TOPS Students and mentors for your service!

“Students had a lot of fun making science kits and listening to Halloween music.  Molly and Alex from COSI were great!”
~Lauren B., Mentor

So happy to hear the students had a great time, we really enjoyed hosting them and they really helped out!
~ Molly, COSI

To learn more about the learning lunchbox project, please visit:

On Top of the World: Meet Austin!


More than anything, Austin Shirk wanted to be a Buckeye.

Austin putting a sterilization rack back on the belt in Central Sterile Supplyl

From his home in Allen, Texas, he’d cheer for the football team alongside his parents, Dina ’88 and Dave ’92, and he often went to games when visiting Ohio relatives. As he grew up, he dreamed of taking college classes at Ohio State, making new friends and finding a good job.

But his prospects for higher education seemed remote to Austin and his parents. Austin is among millions of people in this country with an intellectual or developmental disability, less than a quarter of whom go on to college after finishing high school, according to Think College, a national nonprofit working to raise that percentage.

As for finding a good job, “We were having a heck of a time getting anyone to give Austin a chance in Texas,” Dina said. Though her son enrolled in independent living and job training programs, they didn’t lead to jobs. Instead, he languished on waiting lists.

If local programs could not help Austin, the Shirks decided, then they would move on. They began searching for an alternative and could hardly believe it when their quest led to their alma mater.

Ohio State had created a program in 2011 called Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings, or TOPS, to provide personalized support to students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The program is designed for students who want to learn life skills and find a job that matches their abilities and talents — all while experiencing the university’s vibrant academic and social life.

Austin had a chance to be a Buckeye.

He couldn’t fill out the TOPS application fast enough, and the Shirks waited nervously for the call. Then it came: He was in. “It was a big accomplishment, a big step to get into TOPS,” Austin said.

A world of firsts awaited Austin when he arrived in Columbus in 2014. While he was excited to be on campus, it was a big adjustment, and he would be living in his own apartment for the first time. Austin, who loved auditing classes with more “typical” Ohio State students, discovered a special interest he didn’t know of: “I enjoyed earth sciences, especially the lectures, labs and hands-on activities,” he said.

Based on that, his job coaches found him internships with the Nisonger Center Dental Program and a private dental clinic in Columbus, where he assembled instrumentation trays and sterilized equipment.

After completing the TOPS program in 2016, Austin went to work at the Wexner Medical Center where he supports the Central Sterile Supply department. His position pays a fair-market wage with full benefits, including retirement benefits and health insurance. “I love my job,” he said. “It’s worth going through the [challenges that accompany] being in TOPS.”

His manager, Jen Smith, is similarly delighted.

“Austin is so eager to learn new tasks, and he gets along with everyone,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen one human being get along so well with everyone.” It’s not just that Austin is nice; his contributions make the entire team more effective. “He can handle tasks that were taking our clinical staff away from production,” said Smith, who hopes to create another job with TOPS. “We would have two of Austin if we could.”

In helping students find their way as young adults, TOPS changes lives for entire families.

“I am so excited about Austin’s job,” Dina Shirk said. “When we got his diagnosis at age 10, the doctor said, ‘If I were you, I would teach him a few things and forget everything else.’ We never went back to him, and Austin has so exceeded those expectations.”

Source: MacLellan, Erin. “On Top of the World.” The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Ohio State Alumni Magazine, 2017,


Upcoming BuckeyePass DUO Changes

BuckeyePass changes coming in October

You may need to adjust your BuckeyePass DUO authentication options. On October 15th, the “Call Me” option will be retired. If you use this option, you will need to go to before October 15th and add a new contact method.

On October 29th, BuckeyePass will also begin protecting all Office 365 applications, including Outlook. You will be prompted to reconnect to these applications using BuckeyePass. New authentication options have been added such as MacBook Touch ID, security keys and hard tokens.

Read more here

For questions, contact the OSU OCIO Office here

Upcoming Event: 9/30 Virtual Transition Conference & Disability Resource Fair

The CapABLE Employee Resource Group at Nationwide Children’s Hospital along with The Ohio State University Nisonger Center and Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities will be hosting a Virtual Transition Conference and Disability Resource Fair on Wednesday September 30th from 8:30am-4:00pm.

Blue and white flyer from Nationwide Children's Hospital for the Virtual Transition Conference and Disability Resource Fair on Wednesday September 30th, 2020 from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The NCH logo is in the top left corner of the flyer and the middle of the flyer has an image of two butterflies (one blue and one yellow). The top right corner of the flyer depicts a black and white street. The flyer has the hosts of the conference (NCH CapABLE Employee Resource Group, OSU Nisonger Center, and Franklin County Board of DD) along with the agenda of the conference.

Conference Agenda:

  • 8:30-9:45am – Panel Discussion on the Parent Perspective: Racism and Systemic Inequities moderated by Jennifer Walton, MD
  • 10-11:15am – Beyond the ABC’s of Behavior Supports: Navigating the Transition to Adulthood by Cara Inglis, PsyD, BCBA, COBA,  Vanessa Rodriguez, PhD, BCBA-D, and Farah Langlois, MACMHC, LPC
  • 11:30am-12:45pm – Navigating the Health Care Transition: Through the Lenses of Youth, Family and Clinicians by Pankhuree Vandana, MD and Lindsey Bartram, DO.
  • 1:00-2:15pm – Importance of Preparation for Lifelong Learning moderated by Erin Powers, MSW, LISW-S (Our very own Jessie Green will be part of this panel!)
  • 2:30-3:45pm – The Role of Coping Skills to Address Mental Health of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities by Natalie Raff, PhD, Karen Tabern, PsyD, and Janette Long, MA, BCBA, COBA

To ask a question or to register for this free event, contact

OSU Nisonger TOPS Program Information Sessions

What is TOPS?

Red block O with buckeye leaves

The Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings program at The Ohio State University Nisonger Center offers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities a unique opportunity to engage in OSU academic coursework and work experiences.

We offer a 2 and 4-year Workforce Development Certificate Program that focuses on: Academics, Career Development, Independent Living, and Self-Determination.

The sessions will feature in-depth discussion on: 

  • Academic Classes
  • Work Experiences
  • Independent Living
  • Application and Financial Aid Processes

Session Dates and Times:

  • 9/11/20 9:30am-11:00am
  • 10/5/20 12:00pm-1:30pm
  • 11/10/20 5:00pm-6:30pm
  • 1/13/21 5:00pm-6:30pm
  • 3/4/21* 5:00pm-6:30pm

*Please note that the March information session is after the application deadline

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action: November 15th
  • Regular Decision: February 1st


Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 973 8452 0687
Password: 891356


Call 614-685-3185 or email

Visit our website at

QR code and ThinkCOLLEGE logo

Welcome to Transitions Vinotheni!

Please join us in welcoming Vinotheni as the new Program Assistant to the Transitions Department at The Ohio State University Nisonger Center.

Vino lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband and two daughters. They lived in Japan for 10 years before moving to the United States in 2014. Vino started volunteering for an after-school learning program in Dublin and became their Center Administrator before joining us here at Nisonger. Her husband works as an Engineer at Honda. Their daughters will be entering 9th grade and 4th grade this fall and are fun, loving and caring. As a family, they enjoy spending time together playing sports (basketball, volleyball and badminton), watching movies, taking walks and watching the kids play.

Vinotheni and her family

We are so excited to have Vino join our team. She looks forward to meeting all of our students soon – please be sure to give her a warm welcome when you meet her!

Ian Danielsen, Longwood University – Programs for Students With Disabilities


Portrait of Ian Danielsen, Assistant Professor at Longwood University. Ian is wearing a blue button up shirt with an orange tie and a plaid blazer.

Ian Danielsen, Assistant Professor at Longwood University

Ian Danielsen, assistant professor of social work, discusses programs designed to help those with disabilities get the education they need in the Academic Minute Podcast for Inside Higher Ed.

Assistant Professor Ian Danielsen earned his Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992. He then worked for the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice for nearly ten years in an intensive treatment program for sexually reactive youths.  He then worked for almost four years as a Clinician for a private agency providing residential treatment services for sexually reactive adolescent boys in foster care.

He began serving as the Director of the Greater Richmond SCAN Children’s Advocacy Center in June of 2006. Serving also as an adjunct faculty instructor for the VCU School of Social Work from 2009 to 2016, Ian has coordinated several important projects including earning Accreditation from the National Children’s Alliance, forming new multidisciplinary child abuse teams, and engaging in statewide legislative advocacy efforts.

Ian was honored to be a 2011 recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award and a 2012 awardee of the Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect. He also serves on the Virginia Bar Association’s Commission on the Needs of Children. He was also named an honoree of the “Unsung Hero” award for victim advocacy in April 2020 by the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.

Ian accepted a faculty position in Longwood University’s Social Work Program in 2016.  Shortly thereafter, he joined a steering committee to form “The Longwood LIFE” Program, a post-secondary education program at Longwood for young adults who have intellectual disabilities.

Discussing Programs for Students With Disabilities


Transcript of the Academic Minute Podcast with Ian Danielsen

Increasingly across the U.S., colleges and universities are establishing programs for young adult students with intellectual disabilities and students on the Autism spectrum. In Virginia alone, there are at least three such post-secondary programs active in state universities, with some collaboration among them. 

While programs vary in style, structure, and cost, they are all rooted in a value system of inclusion and accessibility.  The growth of programs nationally reflects a collective recognition that the vast and deep resources of universities can be of great benefit students with intellectual disabilities, both academically and vocationally.

Colleges and universities are often seen as microcosms of larger society; they represent a training ground for students to practice skills for future independent living.  It therefore follows that if students with disabilities gain access to this setting of supported semi-independent living, then their competencies for greater independence will grow as well.

Some university programs include students with disabilities in pre-existing non-degree courses, on a sort of “audit” basis, tailoring the students’ course loads to their academic and career interests. Others provide more individualized instruction, offering courses in social skills, daily living skills, and skills for development of healthy relationships, as well as tailor-made coursework in economics, physical education, music, and theatre.

We have studied the ways in which our program has benefited students and found genuine growth in their life skills and vocational readiness. My research focus is in the benefits to other university students, faculty, staff, and parents, as we have seen time and time again that inclusion enhances and lifts the culture of the university as a whole, our mutually beneficial experiences supporting the personal and professional growth of us all.


New Staff: TOPS Residential Coordinator – Sheri Uhrin

Good Day,

I’m Sheri Uhrin and I recently joined the TOPS staff as the new residential coordinator.  I have lived in the Columbus area for the past twenty years but grew up in Wisconsin. I attended college at University of Wisconsin – Stout and earned my B.S degree in Vocational Rehabilitation and M.A in Rehabilitation Counseling from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C.   I have a CRC Certification (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor). I was previously the Transition Services Coordinator at the Ohio School for the Deaf for over twenty years. Where I have worked with youth 14- 22 with transitioning and preparing for life after high school.

My husband Janos of 26 years met in Tucson, AZ when I was on an internship for my Masters and he was traveling and visiting the states (he is originally from Hungary). We have an adult son Riley, who is 23.  Stella, is our 8 year old Australian Sheppard.

Things I enjoy in my free time are: traveling, hiking, cooking and spending time with my family and friends.

I am looking forward to being a part of the TOPS Staff and getting to know you all.  🙂