RISE Program

RISE professor and students

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Visit Campus and Learn More

Visit us, tour campus, and get an overview during a special RISE Campus Preview Day.


Many Judson students have said that they knew they wanted to attend Judson U as soon as they stepped on campus. Preview Days are a way for you to learn more about Judson, the RISE program, and to experience chapel with the student body, faculty, and staff. The schedule for Preview Day is:

  • 8:30-9 a.m. – Check-in & Meet RISE students
  • 9-9:50 a.m. – RISE Overview, Supports, Dorm Living, Curriculum, Internships
  • 10-10:45 a.m. – Chapel
  • 11-11:50 a.m. – Campus Tour
  • 12-12:50 a.m. – Lunch
  • 1-3 p.m. – Faculty Perspective, Student Life, Classroom Observation, Campus Safety, Financial Aid, Application Process, Questions


RISE Internships

Employment development is an important aspect of the RISE Program. Our curriculum is designed to help cultivate professional skills within our students that prepare them for competitive employment after the two-years in our program.

In Professional Skills and Person-Centered Planning courses, we expose our students to different employment options and industries while coaching them on how to be an exceptional employee. During the first semester of the program, students identify areas of interest through career evaluations, self-discovery surveys, and experiential visits to several business departments on the Judson campus. The students have on-campus internships during their second semester and off-campus internships with local organizations and/or businesses in the third and fourth semester.

  • Campus Post Office
  • Fresh Ideas – Food Services
  • Advancement
  • Campus Safety
  • Plant Operations
  • Benjamin P. Brown Library
  • Business Offices
  • Lindner Fitness Center
  • University Registrar’s Office
  • Financial Aid Office
  • Student Success Center
  • Department of Education
  • Marketing
  • Advocate Sherman Hospital
  • Gail Borden Public Library
  • TJ Maxx
  • Immanuel Lutheran School – West Dundee
  • Willow Creek Community Church
  • Boys and Girls Club of Carpentersville
  • Anderson Animal Shelter
  • Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch
  • Westminster Christian School
  • The Elgin History Museum


As an important aspect of the RISE Program, we hire Judson University undergraduate students as Vocational Advisors who work alongside our students as a one-on-one support, helping them develop independence and self-advocacy skills within the work place. Vocational Advisors serve as a liaison to the Work Site Supervisor in order to gauge the students’ performance, ensuring that the student is trained appropriately and maintaining a high level of focus and motivation. Vocational Advisors work with our students to coordinate all transportation to and from internship sites using the RISE program Uber account with the hopes of training them to use this tool independently.



If you have any questions about RISE student internships or if you are a business interested in partnering with the RISE Program as an internship site, please contact the RISE Program Vocational Coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions

RISE stands for Road to Independent Living, Spiritual Formation and Employment.

The purpose is to provide students with intellectual disabilities the college life experience, in a Christian community, to prepare for independent living and competitive employment.

RISE was founded in 2016, with our first cohort beginning in the Fall semester, August, 2017.

Ideal candidates for the RISE program:

a. Aged 18-25 upon enrollment

b. With a diagnosed intellectual disability

c. A high school diploma or equivalent

d. Practical reading & writing skills (ideally grade 4 or higher)

e. A desire to live on campus, and learn with, traditional college students


We evaluate each candidate on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure if your student qualifies for the RISE program, please contact us.

The RISE program accommodates 10-12 students in each cohort; we select the most qualified students for each cohort.

RISE is a 2-year certification program. Students receive a Certificate of Completion in Liberal Arts at the conclusion of his/her cohort. Each RISE student is invited to participate in the Judson graduation ceremony and receive his/her certificate on stage, along with all of our traditional graduating students.

All students will need a laptop, iPad, or tablet to complete their coursework and assignments, as well as having access to email.

The RISE students take a variety of classes, including: independent living, current events, math & money management, fitness & wellness, person-centered planning and professional skills. First semester RISE students also take a general education class with traditional freshmen, who learn about the Judson community. In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th semesters, RISE students take one class with traditional students in a subject area concentration that s/he selects. Faculty have the option to offer the class as audit only or with an adapted syllabus. Judson offers RISE students six concentrations to choose from, including:

a. Business & Entrepreneurship

b. Christian Ministries

c. Creative Arts-3 different tracks: Visual, Vocal, Instrumental

d. Education

e. Health & Wellness

f. Math & Technology



In their second semester, RISE students have an on-campus internship, accompanied by a Vocational Advisor. Second year RISE students work alongside his/her Vocational Advisor at a local business, church or organization. Placement for all internships are based upon the students’ interests and abilities.

Sample daily RISE Schedule for the first semester.

Each RISE student lives on campus in a residence hall. S/he rooms with another RISE student and a RISE Resident Advisor lives adjacent to, or across the hall from, their assigned students. RISE students eat their meals with traditional students and staff at the Betty Lindner Campus Commons. The food service staff accommodates special dietary requirements for any student. All facilities that are available to traditional students are open to the RISE students, including the library, on-campus cafes, intramural sports and the fitness center. The daily class schedule is designed so that the students have a relatively full day of activity, with short breaks. We expect that all RISE students can navigate the campus independently. That said, most of the time, RISE students walk to class and/or other activities in groups. Spiritual formation is a key component of the RISE program. Therefore, RISE students participate in all campus life activities, including chapel three times each week and small groups. During weekdays, either a class instructor or a Student Advisor are with RISE students most of the day. Should a RISE student not come to class or be available for his/her on-/off-campus internship, the instructor or Student Advisor attempts to contact the student to confirm their whereabouts. Judson University is a very safe environment, recently named the third safest college campus in the U.S. by Universities.com. The RISE staff leverages mobile technology, including Life360, to determine the location of the student. These tools are used as safety precautions and not to track students on a minute-by-minute basis.

A key component of the RISE program are Student Advisors. A RISE Resident Advisor (RA) shares the suite or lives across the hall from two RISE students and is there to help the RISE students by answering questions, assisting them to navigate campus and resolving roommate issues. RISE students must check-in by 11pm each night with the RISE RA on duty. RISE Resident Advisors receive a discount on room and board. There are also Learning and Vocational Advisors, who are paid hourly for their time. Learning Advisors assist RISE students with curriculum and class assignments. Vocational Advisors help train RISE students and work alongside of them for both on- and off-campus internships. We also encourage RISE students to use all campus resources, including the Student Success Center. The Student Success Center is a place where RISE students can connect with counselors and/or resources who can assist him/her to successfully understand and complete class assignments, as well as achieving personal goals. The Wellness Center includes counseling services, which are available to any student. Should a student wish to utilize counseling services on an ongoing basis, there is a sliding scale hourly rate.

The RISE staff requests multiple contact methods for parents and guardians, including email, phone and/or text options. RISE students send a weekly email update to his/her parents. A bi-monthly RISE newsletter is sent to parents. Parents/Guardians may reach out to the RISE Program Director or Assistant Director at any time to discuss the student and/or questions.

If the student becomes homesick, the RISE staff, Student Advisors and/or the Student Success Center attempt to resolve the situation with the individual. If the feelings persist, we encourage the student to contact his/her parent or guardian. Should there be any concern for the student’s personal care or safety, the RISE staff contacts the parent or guardian immediately. If the student becomes ill with conditions such as the common cold or flu, there is a Wellness Center on campus. RISE students can be diagnosed and treated by this medical team. The Department of Campus Safety is licensed by the State of Illinois as an EMS Non-Transport Provider through Advocate Sherman Hospital, with most Campus Safety staff licensed at the EMT-b level. EMT staff are equipped for life-saving intervention including administration of oxygen, EpiPen, albuterol and automated defibrillator. All department personnel receive training in CPR/AED use, controlling severe bleeding via tourniquet use and other methods, and other life safety techniques

Current RISE tuition, fees, and room & board can be found on the RISE Program Aid page.

The only additional costs would be for Gen Ed 101 or traditional courses that the RISE student elects to take within his/her subject area concentration. RISE students have the option of purchasing the course materials and/or may be subject to additional fees for private music lessons, lab or studio fees for certain classes. Typically, the traditional class instructors will communicate the course materials/cost to RISE students on the first day of class. Private music lessons, lab or studio fees are communicated to families prior to the start of the semester.

The RISE application for admission is available to download online above as a PDF document. If you are unable to access the application online, please contact us. Applications may be submitted from September through January, with the goal of finalizing the Fall cohort by February 28th.

RISE is a Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP); therefore, our students qualify for federal student aid through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Judson University’s School Code is: 001700. RISE has received scholarship monies from local, private foundations. There are also four endowments that have been created to provide scholarships for RISE students:


RISE Frequently Asked Questions 8 •

Al Rogers Scholarship Fund – Awards scholarship monies to a RISE student in memory of Al Rogers, whose daughter, Emily, graduated with the first RISE cohort in May, 2019.

• Cody Binger Scholarship Fund – Awards scholarship monies to a RISE student who has Down syndrome, in honor of Cody Binger.

• RISE Founder Scholarship Fund – Awards scholarship monies to a RISE student, in honor of the Gianopulos family and the many people who funded the RISE Program start-up.

• Tracy Naples Gassen Scholarship Fund – Awards scholarship monies to a RISE student, in memory of Tracy Naples Gassen, whose daughter, Ellie, graduated with the first RISE cohort in May, 2019. Private Grants or scholarships are also available from various agencies and organizations.


Visit these websites for more information:

• American Autism Association


• Epilepsy Foundation

• HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center

• National Down Syndrome Society

• Nitro College

• Ruby’s Rainbow

• Scholarships.com

• Think College

• UPS for DownS



Judson University is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Private, church and/or corporate donations may be tax deductible.

Please contact the Financial Aid office to discuss:

• Federal Student Aid

• Charitable Donations

• Endowments

• Corporate Sponsorships