New Vanderbilt Center for Autism Underway in Tennessee

The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation will be constructed at Vanderbilt University to connect individuals with autism to employers. The funding for the facility hails from a donation of $10 million from Jennifer Frist and her husband William Frist, who have an autistic son.

Nicholas Zeppos, Vanderbilt’s chancellor stated that there will be a pilot program that will seek to integrate employment, innovation, autism and technology. As such, the positive gesture from the Frist’s will enable the discovery of new concepts revolving around autism. Furthermore, it will help to improve the quality of life of individuals with the disorder. The corporate sector will in turn benefit from the unique sets of talents and skills that these individuals possess.

In March this year, the Frists teamed up with UBS, a renowned global financial company, in an effort to change how diversity is perceived by business leaders in Tennessee. Specifically, their aim was to indicate the numerous advantages local companies could have if they engaged individuals on the autism spectrum. With the disorder being associated with repetition, employees could easily identify patterns in an organizational setting, which in turn can help them to perform better in jobs like data analytics, software development and auditing.

The Frists fondly refer to the group as an “untapped potential workforce.” The goal is to have approximately 500 autistic employees in local industries by 2020.

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