Marilyn Harren

MS in Disability Services in Higher Education

Class of 2019

Marilyn Harren
"Due to my degree, I was able to get a salary increase at my state college and then was offered a new job about nine months after graduation.”

What were some of the most defining aspects of your time at CUNY SPS?

I benefitted so much personally and professionally from the time I spent working on this MS degree and from the people I met in the program. I began the MS in Disability Services in Higher Education in Fall 2016 and met some wonderful classmates and faculty as I worked through the graduate program.

I live in Waco, Texas, and over my time at CUNY SPS, was able to meet about half of the faculty who taught in the program through my attendance at AHEAD (Association of Higher Education and Disability) conferences. Many of the faculty I was able to meet in person are leaders in this field and were speakers at conferences. I was also able to meet other classmates through conferences, which was wonderful.

What is the best piece of advice or most important thing you learned at CUNY SPS?

What I found was that faculty always supported the work we do in the disability services in the higher education field. I still reach out to former classmates and faculty to share and receive feedback about ideas that I have.

Who influenced you the most? Please feel free to include anyone from the CUNY SPS community including faculty, staff, or fellow classmates.

In Fall 2018, I had a very difficult work situation as a disability services director at a state college where I felt unsure in what to do and uncertain of whom to ask for help. I was taking two classes that semester, Universal Design in Higher Education and Assistive Technology, with Professors Burgstahler and Harner, respectively. I reached out to these two professors and received some of the best support I could have ever asked for. Based on their recommendation, I was able to contact an attorney at the Southwest Regional ADA Center for legal assistance and that helped me thread a needle through this difficult situation. I was lucky enough to meet both professors at the Accessing Higher Ground conference in November and was able to thank both of them in person.

In addition to multiple faculty, I was able to connect with a classmate from Connecticut, Kathy Rad! We met in Boston in the summer of 2019 while I was attending and speaking at an AHEAD conference. I was able to meet a few other students at the Boston conference and it was great to put names and faces together.

How has your CUNY SPS influenced your current job, and your career overall?

Due to the coursework in the MS program, I was asked to speak at the AHEAD in Texas conference in Spring 2017. I spoke about a research project completed in my first semester at CUNY SPS. Based on that, I was approached about being on the board of AHEAD in Texas and have served as president during the last year and a half. My coursework at CUNY SPS gave me the confidence to accept an opportunity to speak at the National AHEAD Conference in Boston.

Due to my degree, I was able to get a salary increase at my state college and then was offered a new job about nine months after graduation at Collin College, a community college in Plano, Texas (North of Dallas) with multiple campuses. I am the district director of ACCESS for Collin College and have been in my current job since April 2020.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I enjoy planning and reviewing how to remove barriers to access for college students. My new job does not provide as much one on one with students, but it has allowed me to plan for implementing more universal design in how the college provides education to all students. I have also used information from the CUNY SPS program to build information for helpful apps for students and to develop that information online and in print. This has helped all students, not just those with disabilities.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Retired!


  • What show/s are you currently watching? I like to watch MSNBC at night. Rachel Maddow is my favorite. I also watch some shows that have been around for a while, like Homeland. I never watched it and have enjoyed being able to stream a few episodes during the weekend. Another show I enjoy streaming takes me back in time…Designing Women.
  • What is your favorite meal? I am a woman from Texas so a good chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, and green beans.
  • What is your favorite line in a movie? “Snap out of it!” Moonstruck 1987
  • Favorite or most recent book you read?  The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Z. Muller. This hit many areas of my current and past work-life; metrics in education, in healthcare, and in post-secondary education.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, none, all?  None at all.
  • List 3 things you would bring to a deserted island.  A well-stocked sailboat, salt-water purifier, and satellite phone.

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