The Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) has a rich history of diverse research, curriculum development, professional development, and technical assistance activities that reflect and support the research and public service mission of the university. In 1976, Gary Siperstein founded the Center for the Study of Social Acceptance at UMass Boston, a research institute dedicated to studying issues that affect the education and socialization of children with disabilities. During the 1980s, the center received much of its funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study the social aspects of mental retardation. The center conducted numerous studies on hundreds of children and teachers, producing data that established a knowledge base for understanding the challenges that individuals with mental retardation face in becoming part of the social fabric of their school and community. (Siperstein received the prestigious MERIT Award from NIH for this research).
During the 1990s, with the advent of state and federal legislation mandating the inclusion of all children with disabilities into regular education, school systems were faced with the need to "re-tool" their staff and to modify their programs to accommodate students with disabilities. Responding to these changes, the center broadened its research activities to include all students with disabilities and expanded its professional development, curriculum development, and technical assistance activities in the broad area of disabilities (not only students with mental retardation, but students with learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioural/emotional problems, and autism). The center was renamed the Center for Social Development and Education in 1995.
In this new decade, CSDE is expanding its applied research even further by entering into a formal collaborative relationship with Special Olympics, Inc. Recognizing the importance of cross-cultural research in mental retardation, Dr. Timothy Shriver, President of Special Olympics, Inc. (SOI) and Joanne Gora, past-chancellor of UMass Boston, signed the memorandum of agreement to establish UMass Boston as a Regional Collaborating Center (RCC). The purpose of the RCC is to conduct rigorous scientific research that is of value to the international community. The UMass Boston/Special Olympics Regional Collaborating Center is responsible for all international research related to attitudes and intellectual disabilities, as well as evaluations of SO programs at the international, national, and regional levels. CSDE has also broadened the scope of its activities and reaffirmed its commitment to addressing the needs of the community through several new initiatives this year, including the evaluation of a violence prevention program implemented at Boston Centers for Youth and Family.
At present, CSDE is a multidisciplinary, multi-service institute, providing the educational community with the support it needs to meet the increasing challenges of providing for children and adolescents who are at risk, both academically and socially. Emphasis is given to carrying out rigorous applied research that informs practice, and the design and implementation of professional development programs to prepare school personnel to meet the challenges of teaching at-risk children and adolescents in the general education setting.