Sigalu Epenesa, a student in the Vision Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston), has won a $1,000 Blasch Scholarship from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), Orientation and Mobility Division. Epenesa, a native of American Samoa, is one of two recipients of the annual international award.
Epenesa’s fields of study are orientation and mobility (O&M) and teacher for students with visual impairment (TVI). O&M professionals teach people with visual impairment and blindness how to navigate their communities confidently and independently. TVI experts support access to education for students who are blind or have vision loss.
Epenesa is an educator at an elementary school in American Samoa. She is working toward her master’s in vision studies with specializations in O&M and TVI in the Pacific Vision Instruction Project (Pacific VIP). The Pacific VIP is administered by the University of Guam Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (Guam CEDDERS), in partnership with UMass Boston and the Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education (NERCVE).
NERCVE is affiliated with the Institute for Community Inclusion, a research and training center based at UMass Boston’s School for Global Inclusion and Social Development. NERCVE supports the capacity of the Vision Studies program to expand online training and increase the number of highly qualified vision professionals around the world. This is especially important in areas such as the Pacific islands, where there is a higher incidence of visual impairment and a lack of qualified instructors for children who are blind or have vision loss.
“We were thrilled to see Sigalu get this award,” said NERCVE Director Bob McCulley. “She’s a dynamic person with a big heart, and a very hard worker. This is well deserved.”
“Sigalu is not only enthusiastic, she is also truly dedicated to vision studies as a profession, and to working with children in particular,” said Associate Professor and Director of Vision Studies Laura Bozeman. “Children and youth on American Samoa will benefit from her dedication and passion.”
About UMass Boston
Recognized for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 10 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.