Four years after graduating with a degree in Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) and earning a masters from Ball State, Kate is back on campus at the McBurney Disability Resource Center as an Accommodations Specialist. Part of her role involves coordinating services for UW-Madison students with disabilities, including ADHD, autism, head injuries, and health, learning, mobility and psychological disabilities. Her position challenges her every day and allows her to use her creativity, resourcefulness and advocacy skills in figuring out the best way for students to obtain the support they need to flourish academically. As her work bio states, she works to “promote equal access to programs, activities, and services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”
How did you arrive at your current position? Did you always have a goal of working in academic services?
When I was an undergrad, I was looking for a way to save some money and meet new people, something I think most undergrads can relate to. As a result, I became a House Fellow in the lakeshore dorm community. At that point in my life I wanted to be a high school guidance counselor, but I quickly changed my mind because I really enjoyed working with college students and the energy of working on a college campus. I was hooked!
So then I went to graduate school. I knew I wanted to work with college students but had no idea what specific area of higher education was right for me. I sort of assumed I would go into Residence Life because that was my background but I found it important to open my mind to other opportunities as well. As part of my graduate school experience, I was able to complete many different practicums and internships in different areas of the collegiate setting (i.e., advising, residence life, multicultural affairs, etc.). After my practicum experience in the Disability Services office, I was hooked again!
I think my story just goes to show students that keeping an open mind about your career path is key in finding the right fit.
How did SoHE prepare you for your career? (please give specific examples if you can!)
SoHE gave me an interdisciplinary education. Aspects of the HDFS curriculum focused on psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, government, and so much more, all while concentrating on participation, discussion, and experiential learning. The most influential parts of my education were the internship experience, research methods course, and the overall participatory nature built into most of the course work. With that lens I have been able to look at so much more than what a student is on paper. I see a student’s personal struggles, a student’s academics, a student’s family life, and many other aspects of their individuality when looking at how to work with a student with a disability. I am forever grateful to SoHE as it has only enhanced my abilities to talk and relate with college students.
What are the services that the McBurney Disability Resource Center provides students?
The McBurney Center works with students who have disabilities, meaning students with a medical or psychological condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The general purpose of McBurney is to help remove the educational barriers students with disabilities face in their academic life. Examples of this may be a student with ADHD who has a substantial limitation in the area of concentration or a student with a chronic health condition that is substantially limited in the area of walking and carrying heavy objects. McBurney may provide testing accommodations for the student with ADHD while providing information about transportation and document conversion so the student with a chronic health condition does not have to worry about carrying a heavy backpack or walking to and from class every day. Because every person is different and every condition impacts a person differently, McBurney operates on a caseby case basis when determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students. For more information, please check out our website: http://mcburney.wisc.edu/.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There is nothing better than talking to a reflective student! Watching students reflect back on past experiences having learned something is an extremely incredible feeling.
As a young alumni donor, what inspires you to give back to SoHE?
I was raised in a very altruistic environment, so giving back is sort of in my nature. To me, giving back to SoHE is the least I can do for all the things they have done for me. Without the education and mentorship I have received as a SoHE student and alum, I probably would be in a very different place. I know that sounds cheesy but hey, it’s true!
SoHE gave me an interdisciplinary education . . . I am forever grateful to SoHE as it has only enhanced my abilities to talk and relate with college students.
Annual gifts provide immediately available discretionary funds that the Dean uses for enhancing the student experience at SoHE and preparing students for their careers. Individual support makes a significant impact in helping today’s Badgers become the alumni leaders of tomorrow.
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