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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 23, 2008

The Principal Financial Group pledges to help disabled students in workplace

Thanks to a $319,000 pledge to the University of Iowa's Realizing Educational and Career Hopes (REACH) program from the Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc. announced today, Thursday, Oct. 23, students with cognitive and learning disabilities will have more employment options and a greater chance of succeeding in the workplace.

Jim Crawford, The Principal government relations director and REACH Advisory Board member, announced the pledge commitment at the second annual board meeting of the REACH Advisory Board at the Belin-Blank Center in the UI Blank Honors Building. The gift is being made through the UI Foundation.

"This innovative program will enhance our state's efforts to expand employment opportunities for a special needs population that can make valuable contributions to businesses and society as a whole," Crawford said. "To remain competitive in today's global marketplace, we must make every effort to train and educate all individuals in our communities so their skills and talents can be utilized to the maximum extent possible."

The goals for REACH complement other initiatives undertaken by The Principal in the field of workforce development, Crawford said.

"The Principal is proud to employ and successfully accommodate many individuals with disabilities who have a broad range of functional limitations impacting them at work and in their personal lives," Crawford said.

Janis Mendenhall, REACH coordinator of career development, said that the pledge from The Principal is providing vital support to help students successfully transition from REACH to independent living and successful employment.

REACH Interim Director Jo Hendrickson said she and her staff also will work with employers and businesses to examine their job positions and ways REACH students could potentially work in jobs that are modified.

Mendenhall describes this approach as "job carving," where duties are rearranged among positions based on skills and abilities of individuals.

Hendrickson said The Principal is to be commended for its leadership within the Iowa business community, especially in a time of economic downturn.

"It is exemplary that The Principal is stepping forward and taking the initiative to expand job accessibility and diversity in the workplace," Hendrickson said. "Increasing accessibility to jobs not typically available to students with disabilities and creating a larger and more diverse workforce is good for students, good for business and good for the state of Iowa."

Hendrickson said that REACH students have a wide range of competencies, skills and talents.

"Each has the potential to succeed in a wider array of jobs than those typically considered by employers and educators," Hendrickson said. "Working together with a fresh eye and new technologies, we should be able to modify traditional positions and design niche jobs well suited to the talents and interests of students with varied disabilities and well matched with the needs of future workplaces."

REACH students hosted a breakfast for the REACH Advisory Board members and other university officials prior to the meeting. Some of those attending included REACH Advisory Board Chair and former Iowa Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson; Crawford; UI Executive Vice President and Provost Wallace Loh; UI Foundation President Lynette Marshall; College of Education Dean Damico; and Hendrickson.

To view the complete list of REACH Advisory Board members, visit

REACH is part of the UI College of Education. For more information on REACH, visit

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information, visit the foundation's Web site at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jo M. Hendrickson, 319-384-2127,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,