cover of supporting people of color in employment resource

Supporting People of Color in Employment

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute seeks to cultivate a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with disability as its main focus. In service to our mission and employment priority area, a resource titled Supporting People of Color (POC) in Employment, authored by Sincere Holmes, Stuart Rumrill, Stefani Whaley, and Nicholas L. Wright is available to hiring officials and job seekers. This resource explains the additional obstacles, challenges, and effects that POC may face in the workplace and in hiring due to systemic racism and unconscious biases, as well as open prejudice, and breaks down ways these problems can be addressed. “It aims to provide essential information and support to help POC thrive in their careers and create a more inclusive and equitable career landscape,” Wright said.

 While the team creating the article did significant research, they also found the creation of this resource a rather personal process. “It made me think about past experiences in different realms of employment,” Holmes said.

Though HDI’s primary focus is disability, equity and inclusion for all people are parts of its culture, and the members of the team that constructed this resource indicated that breaking down barriers is important to that work – and those barriers don’t need to be limited just to discussions around disability.

HDI’s goal is support,” Whaley said. “In thinking about this particular project, support through research and representation…As we are researching, who else is at the table? I think that is at the heart of HDI.” The article can be found here:

RETAIN Exhibit Table

RETAIN Kentucky Goes to the 2022 Kentucky State Fair

The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN KY) Team recently participated in the Kentucky State Fair to raise awareness about a Department of Labor funded research study that examines how an early, intensive vocational intervention impacts recovery and the likelihood of remaining employed for people with non-work related injuries, illnesses or impairments.

Lynn Robbins, Nurse Navigator for RETAIN at UofL Health, organized the effort and coordinated booth staffing by RETAIN team members including Bethaney Curry, Kristina Kirk, Paula Kinzer, Michelle Graham-Smith, John Victor, Derek Vincent, and Mackenzie Wilson.

RETAIN Kentucky services are free to participants who receive support to identify their stay-at-work and return-to-work goals and connections to community resources, as needed.

Eligibility criteria to participate in RETAIN Kentucky research study are:

  • 18 years of age and older
  • Kentucky resident
  • employed now OR employed in the last 12 months
  • have a non-work related illness, injury or impairment that could prevent them from keeping OR getting a job
  • not currently receiving SSI or SSDI OR not applied for SSI or SSDI in the last three years

RETAIN Kentucky also works with employees, employers and healthcare providers to address issues related to successful return-to-work and stay-at-work.  This study aims to build capacity, provide direct services, and embed practices that will continue to improve employment outcomes long after the funded project ends.

Participants can enroll in the study through March 2024. Individuals interested in RETAIN Kentucky can get more information by visiting, emailing or calling (859) 562-3251.

RETAIN Kentucky is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and implemented by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training and the University of Kentucky. Project partners include the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, local Workforce Development Boards, UofL Health, UK HealthCare, The Council of State Governments, Kentucky Department for Public Health, Kentucky Hospital Association, and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

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Sheppard-Jones receives 2021 APSE Award

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute – HDI congratulates Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, recipient of the Kentucky APSE Willie Byrd Legislative Award 2021. This award is given to a person who has supported & promoted the employment of people with significant disabilities through legislation and/or legislative & policy efforts.

Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, PhD, CRC, has worked in the field of rehabilitation for the past 25 years, with an emphasis on systems change and community building through participant and data drivers. She leads 275 staff working on projects around inclusion with an emphasis of people with disabilities, is the Lead Administrator for Employment First in Kentucky, and collaborates with state agencies, employers, and communities. Dr. Sheppard-Jones also serves on the University of Kentucky Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Team and teaches in the UK College of Education.

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Addressing Education and Postsecondary Inequities for Kentucky Students with Intellectual Disabilities

On May 20, 2021, the University of Kentucky submitted application to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid to establish a Comprehensive Transition & Postsecondary (CTP) Program for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Upon approval, this program – which will be known as UK-SHEP (University of Kentucky Supported Higher Education Partnership) – will begin accepting applications for admission.

CTPs were created by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) and are higher education programs for students with ID who want to continue academic, career and technical, and independent living instruction in order to prepare for competitive integrated employment.

The underrepresentation of students with ID in higher education is a longstanding and pervasive problem in Kentucky, one that presents both an economic challenge and opportunity for our state. As an Employment First state, Kentucky is committed to ensuring that competitive integrated employment is the first and preferred option for citizens with disabilities, and we expect the UK-SHEP will contribute positively toward building a truly inclusive workforce in Kentucky.

As the state’s flagship University and home to the Human Development Institute (HDI) –  our state’s University Center on Disability – UK is uniquely positioned to implement and sustain a CTP program. HDI is also the statewide technical assistance center supporting three current CTP programs (Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, and Bluegrass Community & Technical College), and a resource to other Kentucky institutions of higher education interested in establishing a program.

UK-SHEP will provide students with ID a fully inclusive college experience which will better prepare them for competitive integrated employment and independent living.

What will this mean for current students and instructors at UK?

The addition of a CTP program will not change any current courses or the way they are taught. Rather, the same courses that are currently offered will continue to be offered. The biggest change you may see is the inclusion of students with ID on campus – perhaps in one of your classes, or in other areas of student life. With chosen supports and person-centered planning, UK-SHEP students will engage in all areas of campus life, from classes to clubs to social events and activities.

Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI, said, “The UK-SHEP will advance our efforts to address the inequities that have disproportionately characterized the education and postsecondary life of Kentucky students with ID.”

If you would like to learn more about the proposed UK-SHEP program or about HDI’s role in supporting this work, please contact Erin Fitzgerald ( or Johnny Collett ( for more information.

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RETAIN Kentucky Receives Grant to Expand Services

The UK Human Development Institute Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones joins Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman and UK President Eli Capilouto to announce the state has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to boost efforts to help newly injured and ill employees remain at or return to work. The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute will work in collaboration with the Office of Research, Human Resources, and UK Healthcare to lead RETAIN’s implementation.

The federal funding will enable RETAIN Kentucky to expand implementation statewide, address enduring implications that COVID-19 will have on the physical and mental health of Kentucky’s workforce, expand a multisystems leadership team that will advise on policies and practices that promote an inclusive, healthy workforce, and develop pre-professional and continuing education training in return-to-work/stay-at-work strategies.

In a state where roughly one-third of adults have a physical or mental impairment, we need to deploy strategies intentionally that will help us build and strengthen a workforce that is inclusive of all Kentuckians,” said Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI.

To learn more about RETAIN in Kentucky, visit or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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