Integrated Studies

Integrated Studies at Gwynedd Mercy University is a student-centered, inclusive post-secondary program for individuals aged 18-26 with intellectual disabilities.
This program is designed to provide excellent opportunities in education, career development, and social participation within an inclusive academic setting. Integrated Studies strives to create a community that cultivates self-determination, service, self-efficacy, and lifelong learning.

Integrated Studies Pre-College Summer Institute
June 17-21 & July 8-12, 2024 (choose one week)

Live with us for a week this summer! For rising high school juniors, seniors, or students in a transition program, this weeklong, residential program introduces students with intellectual disability to college life. Both weeks are at capacity; please apply to be on our waiting list. 

Integrated Studies program

Program Details

Integrated Studies is a fully-inclusive postsecondary program on Gwynedd Mercy University’s campus, offering two-year or four-year college experiences for students with intellectual disabilities (ID) to progressively develop skills each semester related to academic interest, employment, communication, healthy living, and technology with the ultimate goal of increased independence, meaningful employment and self-actualization. The program is based on Think College Standards and created with support from the PA Inclusive Higher Education Consortium and other successful programs.

Integrated Studies students will be active members of Gwynedd Mercy University’s community as they will audit college courses, participate in community-based internships, attend sporting events, eat in the dining hall, and have the opportunity to live in the residence halls.

Students will earn a non-degree certificate of Integrated Studies and a university transcript that includes the courses and internships completed as well as a portfolio of highlighted work.


Students will audit four inclusive courses per semester (12 credits) related to their academic and employment goals. Students will receive a certificate of Integrated Studies and a GMercyU transcript that includes the courses and internships completed. Students will have the access to the Student Success Center and may receive tutoring from trained peer tutors and academic coaching for enhancing study and organizational skills.


Students will explore career interests and learn employment skills through partnerships with the Career Development Office and community / university partnerships. These activities will occur outside of class time, on an individual and group basis. Students will complete individualized on-campus and community-based internships (paid or unpaid), that can count towards audit credit with the ultimate goal of paid employment. Students will be required to attend campus workshops and webinars that relate to their individualized goals (e.g. building a resume, interview skills, career exploration, etc.)

Social Participation

Students will participate in campus and community activities like all Griffins, including extracurricular activities, intramural sports, peer mentorships, and community service to promote active membership in the community. Integrated Studies students will be required to participate in at least one campus club / organization per semester. Students will be required to attend campus workshops and events thtat relate to their individualized goals (e.g. resident hall cooking workshops, group exercise classes, etc).

Prior to the start of a student’s first semester, a person-centered planning meeting will take place including the student, Integrated Studies program staff, family members, supports coordinators etc. to discuss and create an individualized plan for a student’s time at GMercyU. Students will have individualized supports to maximize independence and success on campus.

Some examples include: 

  • Syllabus modification for audited courses – creating assignments to meet student’s learning goals within each course
  • Weekly/Bi-weekly meeting with Integrated Studies program staff to review goals and introduce strategies for success
  • Academic coaches – peer students who offer academic support (time management strategies, organization etc.) outside of class time 
  • Peer mentors- peer students that will provide support within classes, during lunch, at the gym etc. 
  • Peer tutors- All Gwynedd students have access to tutors through the Academic Resource Center, who will have gone through additional training on unique teaching strategies for diverse learners
  • Job coaches- Students will have job coaches provided (either students who have received additional training, or through supports coordination) as needed with the goal of fading supports and introducing strategies to maximize independence 
  • Natural supports will be encouraged within the classroom and campus environment

Students will have the option to live in the residence halls in an inclusive environment. Students will be supported by an RA (Resident Assistant) who has received additional training in strategies to support students with ID. 

Additional information about residence hall options may be found here. 

Zack Hulings, MA (he, him, his)
Interim Program Director of Integrated Studies

Zack joined GMercyU as a Masters Counseling Intern in 2018 and was thrilled to assume the role of Assistant Director of Integrated Studies in Fall 2021. Prior to his time at GMercyU, he worked in various roles throughout primary and secondary education with individuals with intellectual disability, autism, and emotional support needs. Zack earned his Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Arcadia University, and his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading all manner of things, and playing the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Go Flyers.


Christa Fisher
Christa Fisher (she/her/hers)
Interim Assistant Director of Integrated Studies and Internship and Employer Engagement Specialist

Christa is so happy to step into the role of Interim Assistant Director of Integrated Studies, having joined the department of Career Development in the Fall of 2022 as the Internship and Employer Engagement Specialist. Prior to GMercyU, Christa was a special education teacher specializing in secondary transition. Christa earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from West Chester University, her Special Education Certification from the Chester County Intermediate Unit, and her Master's Degree in Special Education: Secondary Transition from Bowling Green State University. Christa enjoys spending her free time with her family, reading, going to the theater, and traveling.

GMercyU Integrated Studies is seeking peer mentors, academic coaches, and job coaches to promote independence and provide individualized support. 

If interested, please reach out to Zach Hulings, Interim Program Coordinator of Integrated Studies at

News-Story---Sebastian-GMA-Tiny.pngSebastian DeSimone '26
Sebastian helped change the game for students with intellectual disabilities nationwide to compete in Division III athletics. A talented runner, Sebastian was determined to continue his athletic career in college.  In partnership with GMercyU's Director of Athletics Keith Mondillo and the former program director for Integrated Studies, Sebastian successfully obtained a waiver allowing him to run on GMercyU’s Track & Field and Cross Country teams, creating a new standard for the NCAA. Watch him on Good Morning America 3

Varun Parakala
Varun Parakala '25

Learn about Varun's internship, participating in GMercyU's annual research conference, his career goals, and more. Read Varun's story

I love how many peer mentors I have that help me, and I like having the support to get me through my classes. Integrated Studies has allowed me to make new friends. 

Varun Parakala '25

Next Steps

In order to be admitted into GMercyU's Integrated Studies program, each student must:

  • Be between the ages of 18-26 at the start of the program. 
  • Have a documented diagnosis of intellectual disability.
  • Demonstrate interest in pursuing higher education at Gwynedd Mercy University and gaining meaningful employment.
  • Have exited high school or secondary institution (diploma, GED, special education diploma, certificate). 
  • Have either received or would have been eligible to receive services under IDEA (i.e., had an IEP/504). 
  • Demonstrate sufficient emotional stability, safety, and independent living skills to participate with minimal support in all aspects of the Integrated Studies coursework and campus environment.
  • Have functional literacy skills and basic computer literacy in order to comprehend basic safety signage, complete assignments with supports, and navigate the campus independently.
  • Have the potential to successfully achieve goals and the course requirements set out for an Audit designation with minimal support. 
  • Be able to appropriately participate in 75-minute classes with necessary accommodations in place to function independently in social situations such as being alone in the Griffin Complex, academic buildings, cafeteria, etc.
  • Be able to accept and follow campus rules and policies and behave respectfully towards others without supervision.
  • Have their own cell phone. 
  • Highly desired: enrolled in county supports coordination/OVR/waiver at the start of the program. 

The Integrated Studies program is not a Dual Enrollment program.

Admissions for Fall 2024 are now closed. Thank you for your interest!

If you have any questions, please contact or

  • Students will pay per credit that they audit; a Comprehensive Fee; and an Educational Support Fee. You can check out the rates on the Tuition & Fees page
  • The cost of living in residence halls varies depending on the room selected. Learn more about GMercyU's Residence Halls rates. 
  • Residential students will be required to purchase a meal plan, but it is strongly encouraged for non-residential students to have a meal plan as well to provide opportunity for campus social participation over lunch with peers. 
  • Books, class materials, and school supplies are not included in the cost of tuition. 

  • Think College has a helpful resource on paying for college, and program staff is available to advise on this process to ensure that the program is financially accessible for any accepted student.
  • Integrated Studies is a Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP). Students should complete the FAFSA during their admissions process to determine if they are eligible for Federal Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Grants or Federal Work-Study.
  • Students may apply funds from PA Medicaid waiver funding toward tuition and educational support; and/or apply funds from OVR.
  • Additional scholarships may be available through:
Did you know? Integrated Studies student Sebastian DeSimone '26 was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer for his role in ensuring students with intellectual disabilities nationwide can compete in Division III athletics.