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MS in Disability Services in HIgher Education
For those who are not aware, can you explain the field of disability services as it pertains to higher education?
Throughout higher education settings, there is a particular building/office at that college that focuses primarily on assisting students with disabilities. One of the most important functions of these offices is that they provide students with disabilities like me with the essential accommodations so that they are able to fully participate in their academics. Furthermore, this field is also about learning the skills and knowledge necessary to appropriately provide students with disabilities the accommodations that are best suited for them. One of the most important things I’ve learned during my time in this program is that while some students may share or overlap when it comes to the type of disability they have, it doesn’t mean that they will require the same accommodations. That’s why it’s important when meeting a student who is seeking accommodations to understand how their disability affects them so that they can be accommodated properly.
Why do you think there was a need to develop a degree that focuses on this field?
I honestly believe you can never have enough people in disability services in higher education. This field is important because, for many, going to college is a major step in entering the real world and beginning a career. Accommodations are a key aspect for people with disabilities, both in higher education and within the workplace. Having people learn about the ways they can best accommodate students benefits students during their time in school and when they’re ready to enter the workforce.
How does your current work and/or volunteer experiences relate to the field?
A key term that is mentioned throughout this program is advocacy. The ability to advocate for one’s self is a vital skill to have. At Brooklyn College, I became a member of the S.O.F.E.D.U.P club (Student Organization for Every Disability United for Progress) where they advocated on the behalf of students with disabilities throughout Brooklyn College to ensure full accessibility to the resources provided on campus. In addition, for the past three years, I have been a part of C.C.S.D (CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities) an organization in which I proudly serve as their Treasurer and that advocates on behalf of more than 9,000 students with disabilities throughout CUNY. It’s because of organizations such as these that I have learned how to advocate for myself and for others.
When and why did you decide to become involved in the field of disability services?
After I graduated from Brooklyn College, I knew I wanted to pursue a field where I had the ability to help people, but I was unsure at the time of what that field should be.
C.C.S.D has definitely been a positive influence on me. It’s amazing to be a part of an organization that motivates and encourages unity among those with disabilities through means such as attending conferences and events, assisting disability clubs on campus, and volunteering when the opportunity presents itself. Also, looking back at my time as a Brooklyn College student, the Disability Services staff was always helpful to me when needed.
Why did you choose to earn an MS in Disability Services in Higher Education at CUNY SPS? Why did you choose an online program?
When I first heard about this program, I was immediately intrigued. There is no other college that I’m aware of that offers a program like this. Also, because I have experience being a student and have gone through the process of seeking accommodations, I felt that learning more about this field would serve me well. I saw the degree as an opportunity to give back and help other students with disabilities, the same way I was once assisted, so that they can obtain their desired degree.
Did you ever think that you would enroll in an online degree program?
No, I honestly didn’t. I have been so accustomed to learning within the classroom throughout my academic career, which I enjoyed because I learned beside my peers. It was inside the classroom where I made a lot of the friends that I have today. Also, I was unsure of how a fully online program would be for me given that I have little experience with online education. But I have to say, I’m definitely enjoying it a lot. There was an adjustment period in terms of getting used to the idea of not being inside the classroom, however, there are benefits of going to school online. For me, the top two benefits are the flexibility the program presents regarding the time afforded to complete work and the fact that I never have to travel to class. I live in Brooklyn and would have to use Access-A-Ride every week to commute to Manhattan. I now never have to worry about being late, which is truly a load off my mind.
Which courses/aspects of the program have you enjoyed the most so far?
Being that it was my first year in graduate school and that I was out of school for a couple of years prior to applying, I figured that I would ease my way back into it by taking one class in my first year just to get the hang of things. I have taken the intro course Psychosocial, Cultural & Political Aspects of Disability, which taught me how to view Disability from various perspectives and the different model types of Disability that exist. I am currently taking Neurodiverse Students in College, which reviews the different types of learning disabilities, the transition experience from high school to college, and how to support students with learning disabilities with accommodations.
What is your relationship like with other students/professors?
My relationship with students at CUNY SPS has been great. I’ve made friends both online and in person who happen to be in the same program as me. Even though I’m in a fully online program, I decided that I would still visit campus from time to time to familiarize myself with it and its staff. Doing that has definitely served me well; I have made friends that way, especially while spending time in the computer lab. The professors I’ve had so far have been wonderful and helpful. They are always quick to provide feedback on what I could do differently to improve my performance within the class.
Which professional and/or personal goals would you like to achieve prior to graduation? In which ways would you like to see yourself grow as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?
During my first semester of CUNY SPS, I was thrilled when I got elected to the Student Association during its inaugural year. One of my goals is to continue assisting with events that create more opportunities for inclusion and social interactions among the students who have classes both in person and online. In addition, I want to continue to build upon skills such as teamwork and time management.
So far, what advice can you give to someone who is considering returning to school to earn a master’s degree?
It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life post-graduation from Brooklyn College. I would say that if you want to pursue a master’s degree, make sure it’s in something that you’re passionate about. I’ve been taught that if you enjoy what you’re studying and learning about, it’s not going to feel like work. The fact that you love it and are passionate about it makes it that much more enjoyable. I can honestly say that I’m in the right field for me because I truly enjoy and love what I’m doing. My hope is that everyone can feel the same way about what they choose to pursue as a career.
Fun Facts about Leonard
- Place of residence: Brooklyn
- Weirdest place you have studied: I would say while riding on Access-A-Ride. I remember I was once in an acting class and had to rehearse my lines both in my head and out loud at one point. I’m pretty sure the other passengers on the bus at the time thought that I was talking to myself, haha!
- Best thing about the community in which you reside: The people and the food.
- What are you reading right now? At this time, my books for class.
- What are you watching right now? I’m currently enjoying a number of shows at this time. My top three at this time are Speechless, Scorpion, and Scandal.
- What you enjoy doing in your spare time: Listening to music, hanging out with friends, and volunteering.