CUNY SPS Faculty Member Reflects Upon Two Decades of Serving Students with Disabilities

CUNY SPS' Disability Studies MS program is a first of its kind.

Part Two in Our Series Spotlighting Faculty and Students From the CUNY SPS Disability Services in Higher Education Program

As the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) continues its month-long celebration of CUNY Disability Awareness Month, some CUNY SPS faculty are continuing the years-long process of making post-secondary education more accessible to students with disabilities.

Raymond Perez, who serves on the faculty of the CUNY SPS’s pioneering online disabilities studies programs, has spent more than two decades in CUNY helping students with diverse learning needs to achieve their dream of a college degree. Today, he brings a tremendous body of knowledge to his newest role as CUNY’s Interim University Director of Disability Programs and Inclusion Initiatives—and to the students doing post-graduate work in the CUNY SPS Disability Services in Higher Education (DSHE) program, where he serves on faculty.

Within the DSHE program, Perez’s specialty course is DSSV 625, Supporting Students with Psychiatric Disabilities in Higher Education, which he created from “years of working with students in a clinical setting and in my numerous roles at CUNY, where Disability Services has always been part of my portfolio.”  

Students in this DSHE class can learn a lot from Perez. Throughout his twenty-plus years at CUNY, he has striven to help students reach their potential by ensuring they received accommodations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—and by empowering them to advocate for their needs and their success. His extensive experience with students, accumulated across multiple campuses including Brooklyn College, Baruch College, Hostos Community College, and now the Central Office, has provided him with a powerful framework for understanding how to transform the systems that too often put limits on disabled people.

In fact, Perez considers himself “an agent of cultural change” who takes pride in helping DSHE students build programs that are “student-centered in their design, implementation, and leadership.”  In his view, cultural change is never one-and-done process; instead, it depends on faculty and staff continually repeating “one student-centered, success-focused action at a time [. . .] thousands of times each semester.” 

At CUNY SPS, he reminds his DSHE students that this “value-centered repetition creates habits that produce and sustain culture,” specifically a culture that supports not only students with disabilities, but also English-language learners, veterans, first-generation Americans, low-income students, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.

As a faculty member, Perez takes pride in working alongside CUNY SPS’ “world-class faculty,” and has developed close relationships with members of the SPS disabilities community as well, especially through his work as Co-Advisor for the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD). This role had a profound impact on him, both professionally and personally. He explained, “It has been an incredible experience working with exceptional student leaders across CUNY…Witnessing and being a part of a student's journey is a humbling experience, and I have had the privilege to witness students achieving great things.”

One CUNY SPS student he mentored, Lennyn Jacob, who currently attends the School’s BA in Disability Studies program, was recognized for two consecutive years as one of the state’s 100 most influential women in higher education. Perez noted that “It is truly rewarding to see students become teachers and know that all the hard work and long hours have paid off.”

Going forward, Perez plans to continue his work at the School and CUNY-wide “to create high impact initiatives based on the principles of universal design and inclusion.” As he reflected on his years at CUNY and at CUNY SPS, he remarked, “It has been a true privilege for me to come to work at a place that is so singularly devoted to the wellness, success, empowerment, and social mobility of our students. If it were not for CUNY, they might not have likely never had the opportunity to attend college. Every day, my colleagues and I challenge our students to believe that they are capable of accomplishing more than they ever imagined possible and are inspired to watch them achieve their newfound goals and dreams.”

This April, Perez is excited to celebrate CUNY Disability Awareness Month by attending and presenting at multiple events throughout the University, including several listed on the CUNY SPS calendar of events.

About the CUNY SPS Disability Studies Programs

Disability Studies is an emerging academic field that explores disability from multiple perspectives, including the social sciences, humanities, science, and the law. The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers groundbreaking, fully accredited programs within Disability Studies. The School’s offerings include a BA, Advanced Certificate, and MA in Disability Studies, and an Advanced Certificate and MS in Disability Services in Higher Education.

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies

As New York's leading online school since 2006, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers the most online bachelor's and master's degree options at the City University of New York and serves as the University's first undergraduate all-transfer college. With 26 degrees and numerous other non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor's degree, progress from an associate's degree, earn a master's degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers. Consistently ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report for its online offerings, CUNY SPS has emerged as a nationwide leader in online education. The School's renowned and affordable online programs ensure that busy working adults may fulfill their educational goals on their own time and schedule.

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