STARKVILLE, Miss.--A new nationwide research project at Mississippi State seeks to help students who are legally blind find employment through a unique mentoring program.
The project by the university's National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is designed to match students who are legally blind with successful mentors in their career fields who also are blind.
Now in its third decade of service on the Starkville campus, the center is the sole U.S. Department of Education-funded program focused on employment outcomes of persons with blindness or low vision.
Funded by a five-year National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research grant, the goal of this latest project and several others is to improve competitive employment outcomes and other success indicators for individuals who are legally blind. Specifically, center researchers will be working to develop and evaluate new and existing employment interventions and practices.
"Many students who are blind may have little to no work experience, making it hard for them to find a job in an already competitive job market," said Jamie O'Mally, NRTC assistant research professor.
The students currently participating in the program work with a career mentor who is blind, receiving assistance in career goal development, job placement and job shadowing opportunities.
Mentors also benefit by providing professional development and assistance to young professionals as they begin their careers.
"Both mentors and students are in an amazing mix of fields, which shows the variety of options individuals who are blind are pursuing for careers," O'Mally observed.
Participants are divided into either an intervention group, in which they receive a mentor, or a comparison group, whose members receive traditional career resources. Each group participates for a year.
Each month, those in the intervention group are required to complete three hours of face-to-face time and a written report. They also receive a stipend that may go toward expenses incurred when meeting with the mentor.
Those in the comparison group complete quarterly reports and receive a small financial incentive.
O'Mally said the mentoring program is one-of-a-kind.
"No other blind mentoring program exists nationally that matches its student participants with mentors in their field for a one year face-to-face relationship," she said.
For more information about the program and its eligibility requirements, visit