The Interdisciplinary Autism Initiative, a cross-college and cross-departmental effort, unites autism research, services, educational training, and community outreach across campus and the community, via faculty, staff, student, and community agency involvement. In training young women and men for and with others, we strive to meet the needs of the Autism Community in greater Milwaukee, especially those who are also marginalized due to ethnicity or poverty.


To meet the needs of autistic people (roughly 1 out of 59) and their families in the Milwaukee area, and to build momentum in establishing Marquette as a leader in this area, the Marquette Interdisciplinary Autism Initiative (AI) has four primary objectives:

  1. to engage in interdisciplinary ASD research and grant-writing, for which we will create a central research registry and data core to share knowledge and prepare joint proposals.
  2. to provide interprofessional services, including programming (in literacy and social communication through Marquette PEERS® program and summer camp), and family navigation, for which we will create a “best practice” protocol with community partners.
  3. to provide best-practice interprofessional education and collaborative practice opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students through supervised provision of ASD screening, and appropriate referral and/or service; development of an undergraduate Autism Scholars program, and applications for interprofessional training grants.
  4. to provide ASD outreach to the Marquette and Milwaukee communities, through collaboration with community agencies, stakeholders, and schools. We will maximize existing and new partnerships to develop evidence-based support programs and developmental screening campaigns to increase access to ASD resources for inner-city, low-income families. We will consult with schools/school districts on request and seek partnerships with area schools to train teachers in best practices concerning ASD and social skills programming, as well as conduct joint research.

Theological Grounding

Our work is grounded in Marquette’s mission as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.  In 2017, Fr. General of the Jesuits, Arturo Sosa, outlined the mission of universities as “work that finds meaning outside of itself; that feels the situation of the world, of so many diverse people;” and “that interacts with other disciplines, views and cultures.” In working for and with the autism community, with a special outreach to children of color and of poverty, we strive to follow the example of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci.  In the 1600’s, Ricci fostered a cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Europe and China. Ricci believed, as do we, that making friends with people who may think differently than one’s self was the first and most important step in understanding people of various cultures, gifts, and world views. He believed, as do we, that working together towards mutual love and understanding would make the world a better place and lead to people’s true happiness and full human flourishing.  Working together with autistic people, our interdisciplinary team believes that we can, as Fr. Sosa said, use our intellectual work here “towards the construction of a world closer to the characteristics of the Kingdom of God.”