Neurodiversity Initiatives

Neurodiversity Academic and Career Development

Support for neurodivergent students is needed nationwide. It is estimated that only 20% of college graduates with autism are fully employed, and the number of neurodivergent individuals is increasing with individuals at or approaching college age. Additionally, colleges and industry need to prepare to support neurodivergent individuals. Further, neurodivergent individuals have a higher college dropout rate; there is a lack of awareness on how to support neurodivergent students; and accessing services can be hindered due to time-to-diagnosis and not all students disclose.

Vanderbilt University, University of Connecticut, Fisk University, and Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, together with the College Autism Network are working to provide holistic support for neurodiverse engineering students so they are successful in college, on co-op, and in the workforce after graduation.

Each university has unique strengths to leverage to support neurodiverse students as follows:

  • Northeastern University – Cooperative Education
  • Vanderbilt University – Graduate Experience
  • University of Connecticut – Undergraduate Experience
  • Fisk University – Intersectionality

Together, they are developing trainings for faculty and support staff; providing employer education for workplace transformation; developing programs for self-advocacy, leadership, and self-identity; and creating programs for private-sector workforce development.

With its strength in cooperative education, Northeastern is addressing the un/underemployment challenge of neurodivergent students while the students are still in the academic environment. Northeastern is also working with its network of employer partners and building new ones interested in supporting neurodiverse individuals. Employers want neurodivergent as it provides out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and attention to detail skills.

Neurodiversity Support Pillars at Northeastern

  • Create an inclusive environment where everyone can succeed, including pedagogy, campus/ DEI initiatives, and professional development. A medical diagnosis of a neurodiversity condition is not required for support.
  • Enhance student belonging before coming to campus, and continue with student groups, mentoring and coaches for self-advocating skills; and develop intersectionality among groups for collaboration.
  • Partner with employers, and add advisors for soft skills on campus and while on cooperative education.


  • Heightened acceptance and diminished stigmas of concealed disabilities
  • Early identification and support for students for co-op
  • Strengthened sense of belonging
  • Elevated participation in co-op
  • Greater diversity and improved operational agility for employers
  • Enhanced employment prospects, economic independence, and autonomy after graduation
  • Dissemination of neurodiversity best practices for broader adoption
  • Increased retention of neurodivergent students
  • Establishment of a common understanding for creating sustainable and mutually beneficial employment matches

Program Contacts

Erik Brenner
Erik Brenner
Director of Diversity Initiatives & Engagement,  Office of the Dean

Campus banner with NU logo
Richard Harris
Associate Dean, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,  Diversity Programs
Director of NU Program in Multicultural Engineering,  NUPRIME
Affiliated Faculty, Department of Africana Studies,  College of Social Sciences & Humanities

Gregory D. Abowd
Dean of the College of Engineering,  Office of the Dean
Professor,  Electrical and Computer Engineering
Affiliated Faculty,  Health Sciences
Affiliated Faculty,  Khoury College of Computer Sciences

Human-Computer Interaction, Ubiquitous Computing, Software Engineering