SOCIAL Gators (Student Opportunities for Career, Independent, and Academic Life) is a program for UF degree-seeking students who identify as students on the autism spectrum and want to enhance their skills for a more enriching college experience. A collaborative effort between the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), and the Disability Resource Center (DRC), we focus on developing skills in social interaction, independent living, career seeking, and academics through the provision of four services:

About SOCIAL Gators

Degree-seeking students with autism spectrum disorder are paired with peer mentors in an effort to increase engagement in university life. The peer-mentors provide support in navigating social aspects of university life such as participating in campus life events, interacting with instructors, classmates, and roommates, and networking with research mentors and potential employers. Mentors and student participants meet monthly to set goals and reflect on progress.

Weekly Group Meetings

The weekly meetings are designed to address issues such as health and wellness, social communication, stress management, executive functioning, career seeking, and self advocacy, and more. These meetings will appear on the students class schedule upon enrollment in the SOCIAL Gators course.

Academic Coaching
Participants can receive educational learning and success strategies as well as support in the management of disability impact on academic performance. Weekly meetings with the Disability Resource Center learning specialists can keep students organized on the right track toward completion of goals.

Online Class
SOCIAL Gators is offered through a section of an online course. The course is designed to help students develop skills that support a fulfilling college experience at UF.

Email SOCIAL Gators for more information at: SOCIALgators@ufsa.ufl.edu.

Students who are interested in participating in SOCIAL Gators should click here for the application. Students are admitted into SOCIAL Gators on an ongoing basis and appropriate course placement will be established upon admission. Admission to SOCIAL Gators does not guarantee admission into the University of Florida. The applications to the University and to SOCIAL Gators are separate processes.

Applications to SOCIAL Gators will be considered complete and accepted only if the following are included:

  • Completed Application form
  • Documentation of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
  • Registration with the Disability Resource Center (DRC)
  • Registration with Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD)
The Autism Advisory Board is comprised of faculty, staff, students, and community members who are dedicated in supporting the needs of UF Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This initiative relies on the input of this advisory group to direct the efforts of SOCIAL Gators. The advisory board is committed to fostering the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative to further diversity and inclusion efforts, and to continually improve the campus climate for students and staff.


Gerry Altamirano
DRC Assistant Dean/ Director

Mary Benedict

Regina Bussing
Chair and Professor, Department of Psychiatry

Kathy Chambers
Student Affairs / Parent

Ernesto Escoto, Chair
CWC Director, Clinical Assistant Professor

Ritzy Luque Ettinger
CWC Case Manager

Pam Ginn
Associate Professor, Veterinary Medicine / Parent

Ann-Marie Orlando
CARD Associate Director, Research Assistant Professor

“AJ” Afzal Qureshi

Natasha Maynard-Pemba
CWC Associate Training Director

Sarah McConnell
CWC Psych Intern

Mary Neil

Susan Nittrouer
Chair and Professor, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

Sondra-Lori Smith
Associate Professor, School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

Gregory Valcante
CARD Director

Jennifer Weis
ASD Program Coordinator, College of Medicine

If you have any questions regarding SOCIAL Gators, please contact the DRC at:



The DRC holds SOCIAL Gators walk-in hours on Thursdays from 3 pm – 5 pm at the Disability Resource Center in Reid Hall. Walk-in hours are open to all current SOCIAL Gators students and prospective student inquiries.


The role of SOCIAL Gators at UF is to enhance the college experience for students with autism spectrum disorder.
SOCIAL Gators are comprised of students, mentors, and professionals who are interested in supporting students on the autism spectrum as well as those with related disabilities.
To register for the program, complete the online application form. A representative from SOCIAL Gators will notify you within one week of your completed application submission. Applications are accepted for both Fall and Spring semesters, and should be submitted one month prior to the start of the semester you plan to join.
An autism diagnosis is not required at the time of applying to the program, however you do need to identify as being on the autism spectrum. You can be involved in SOCIAL Gators for one semester as you seek documentation of a formal diagnosis. SOCIAL Gators staff can assist students in this process.
SOCIAL Gators provides mentoring, academic coaching, weekly group meetings, and an online course. The weekly meetings are designed to address issues such as health and wellness, social communication, stress management, executive functioning, career seeking, and self advocacy, and more. Students also meet with a peer mentor who provides support in navigating social aspects of University life. You can find out more information under the ‘Program Components’ tab above.
There is no charge for program services at this time. Students pay tuition for the academic cohort classes that they take each semester. These 1 credit classes cost approximately $221 (for Florida residents) to $960 (for non-Florida residents) each semester. In some cases these classes are transferable and count as elective credits toward the student’s degree program. You should contact your academic advisor regarding your personal situation.
You can find out about informational meetings on our Facebook page. You can also make an appointment with one of the SOCIAL Gators staff by emailing socialgators@ufsa.ufl.edu.
Yes! SOCIAL Gators offers an online component so that online students can access materials and participate in online discussions, academic coaching, and mentorship opportunities.