UW-L celebrates 30 years of honoring accessibility advocates

Headshots of three winners.

Three will be honored at UW-L’s 30th annual Most Accessible Awards Ceremony  Monday, Feb. 25.

The event in the Cameron Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall, begins with refreshments at 4 p.m., opening remarks at 4:15 and the award presentation at 4:40. Past presidents of Students Advocating Potential Ability are the guest speakers. SAPA is a student organization committed to promoting disability issues on campus.

Each year students with disabilities who use Disability Resource Services nominate a faculty member, a staff member and a department or unit that has demonstrated willingness to make UW-L accessible to students with a disability. Active members of SAPA and DRS staff vote to determine the recipients of the award. Each nominee receives a certificate and gift. Those with the most votes in each category receive engraved plaques.

For the 2012 calendar year top honorees include:

  • Most Accessible Faculty — Assistant Professor Terry Lilley, Jr., Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Most Accessible Department — Student Support Services, Director Mary Coady
  • Most Accommodating Staff — Director of the Pride Center Will Vanroosenbeek, Senior Student Services Coordinator, Campus Climate and Diversity Director, Pride Center

The free event is sponsored by SAPA, DRS and Student Support Services. To request accommodations due to a disability, contact SAPA adviser Tom Link at 785.8535 or tlink@uwlax.edu.

Here’s what others said about the 2012 winners:

Terry Lilley, Jr. 

  • “He has taken the time to meet with me on several occasions, and he always made sure to see if I needed help with what was going on. He made it very easy to take my tests and was very helpful with homework.”
  • “He was really good about me taking the tests somewhere else. He always emailed me with times that worked for him without me needing to remind him before each test.”
  • “I didn’t feel like an outsider. He goes out of his way to help. He makes you know he thinks it’s important to work with the student and accommodations. He cares. It’s not annoying to him. He’s willing to take as much time as needed to work out whatever it takes to meet the accommodation needs. He explained what he could do and gave options. He went out of his way to find a note taker. He was very concerned about all of the students. He’s invested in students. He didn’t make me feel stupid.”

Student Support Services 

  • “Whenever I call SSS, they are so friendly and are always able to help me. They are great communicators and always respond to my voice mails or emails within 48 hours.”
  • “Their staff and facility is so helpful to have on campus. I have the ability to meet with my adviser, work with tutors, and go on the computers and use their printers, all in one facility. I am so unbelievably thankful that Student Support Services exists.”
  • “The SSS tutors are very accessible to students who have a disability.”
  • SSS has provided moral support, space, staff time, materials, etc., for SAPA’s use. Without the help of SSS, SAPA would not be as effective as it is.
  • Many students with disabilities use the tutoring services, workshops, and other services provided by SSS.

Will Vanroosenbeek

  • “For several years, Will has invited SAPA members and other students with disabilities into his classroom to facilitate panel discussions about issues related to disability, raising awareness of these issues with his students.”
  • “Will co-advises Awareness through Performance and always encourages the students to include issues related to disability.”

Here’s what the winners said:

— Interviews by UW-L student Melissa Moss

Terry Lilley, Jr. 

Why has it been so important for you to make your classes, as well as our campus in a general sense, accessible for those with a disability?
In my Intro classes, I assign my students a reading by Susan Wendell called “The Social Construction of Disability” who lays out the argument that social arrangements intersect with the biological to create or exacerbate disability. In other words, we build assumptions into our society, both in the terms of cultural and professional practices, as well as physical spaces such as buildings, that act as barriers to full inclusion. As a structural sociologist, accessibility means more to me than accounting for these assumptions after the fact, it means rethinking the way we organize our society and not making them in the first place.

It is very clear that your students are important to you. Why is that? Why do you feel you play an important role in their college experience?
One of the reasons I chose to come to UW-L was the emphasis on teaching here. I have been fortunate enough to have had teachers who have changed my life. They have changed my way of looking at and navigating through the world and have inspired in me the passion to try to do the same for others. Accessibility is a big part of that. Professors teach more than the information we disseminate and give exams on. We teach ways of being and doing by how we structure our classes and how we interact with our students and colleagues.
Are you involved with any other campus organizations that support and encourage accessibility and diversity?
I’m relatively new here — hired fall 2012 — so I’m just getting my feet wet but I have already been linked in with some incredible individuals and groups on campus and in the community like the Violence Prevention Office, The Pride Center, Men United Against Sexual Assault and a group of faculty and staff working toward reconstructing less harmful conceptualizations of masculinity.

What do you love most about working with students at UW-L?
Students here are hard workers and are up for being challenged. I love that. I love the fact that I have been fortunate enough to have some great students who are engaged in their education at a deeper level than just “Is this going to be on the test?” My approach to education is that students should be active learners and teachers in the classroom and, so far, I have had students who have been up for that challenge.

What is your greatest accomplishment while teaching at UW-L?
Just last night, I got an email from two students who I had in one of my Intro classes last semester. They told me that I had changed the way they look at the world. Let me tell you, professors live for emails like that and I have been lucky enough to get more than my share so far. But I have to say that this award is such a great honor for me that it is hard to find the words. Anytime that you are recognized by your students and colleagues, it is an honor but this award in particular is one that I will always cherish as it speaks to the heart of why I do what I do.

Mary Coady

It is very clear that your students are important to you. Why is that? Why do you feel you play an important role in their college experience?
Most of the staff have been here for a number of years — we feel very strongly about the vision of the program. Helping students succeed lets them see they are truly making a difference.

Are you involved with any other campus organizations that support and encourages accessibility and diversity?
Campus Climate, Multicultural Student Services, The Pride Center, Student Life.

What do you love most about working with students at UW-L?
I love the interaction, seeing them succeed, the relationships we develop. I always tell students coming into the program that we want them to feel important and welcome. It’s good to know we are providing a place that is very comfortable and open for them.

Why was it so important for you to make Student Support Services an accessible department for all students?
Its always been part of the mission. We work very closely with disability resources to help students feel they have somewhere to go and can get help if they need it. It’s important they feel they have accessibility, that if they have any concerns they can come to us. It’s really important that the needs of students are being met.

What is your greatest accomplishment?
Seeing the program grow and change to fit students needs. Being able to offer more programs. Improving relationships.

Will Vanroosenbeck

You are very involved with Campus Climate and Diversity, the Pride Center, and Student Services. Why is it important for you to be accessible and accommodating for students?
I feel it is important to be accessible to all students and that means making any and all accommodations. It is important to be accessible and meet students where they are at. That is what my job is all about! Several years ago I was diagnosed with a learning disability and for the first time in my life I understood why I struggled so much. If not for my professors and student affairs professionals I would not be here today.

It is very clear that students are important to you. Why is that? Why do you feel you play an important role in their college experience?
College really changed and shaped my world. Professors and Student Affairs professionals really impacted me. Upon graduation I knew that I wanted to return to campus and some day be a Student Affairs professional. So when I got a chance to attend graduate school I did. Graduate school really solidified by interests.

Are you involved with any other campus organizations that support and encourage accessibility and diversity?
I co-advise Awareness through Performance and advise the Diversity Organization Coalition and Rainbow Unity. All of these groups focus on inclusion and accessibility. These are issues that have been ingrained in me since my undergrad.

What do you love most about working with students at UW-L?
Students at UW-L are unique. They are actively involved and willing to step out of their comfort zone to learn and grow. They are politically active and accessibility and inclusion is on many of their radars.

What is your greatest accomplishment while working at UW-L?
My goal in life is to “Love what I do and do what I love.” I can honestly say I have achieved this.