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MS in Disability Services in Higher Education
For those that aren’t aware, can you explain the field of disability services in higher education?
Since federal legislation passed in the United States with the Rehabilitation Act or Section 504 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is an opportunity for students with disabilities to enroll and receive education in college settings. Every college that receives federal funding is mandated to establish a disability services office to facilitate accommodations for students who qualify. The population of people with disabilities has grown exponentially, and this degree program cultivates and establishes standards for professionals who seek to work with students with disabilities, promote inclusion, ensure opportunities, and elevate accessibilities.
Why did you choose to earn an MS in Disability Services in Higher Education at CUNY SPS? Why did you choose an online program?
I was recommended to consider CUNY SPS by a mentor, and in enrolling in the School, I met colleagues and peers that I will not say that I regret making. I have been a student at CUNY SPS since 2014, initially enrolling in the MA Disability Studies program (a hybrid degree), but transferred to the MS program since its courses are offered fully online.
Both Disability Studies and Disability Services are excellent programs, but in considering my own career expectations, Disability Services seems to be the better program for me. Being in the Disability Studies program, I noticed that a majority of my classmates were already working in the social services and the nonprofit sectors. The introduction of MS Disability Services in Higher Education into the School also welcomed the industry of students already working in the higher education.
How does the degree relate to your career that you have OR the career that you want?
The MS in Disability Services in Higher Education is my second master’s degree; my first master’s being in Library and Information Science. Currently, I work part-time as an academic librarian at two different colleges, and on occasion, as a test proctor for students with disabilities at a third college. People with disabilities use the academic library as much as any other students, so being aware of the needs of all populations is crucial for my role as a librarian. Obviously, many different departments beyond the library exist within a college, so learning about the Disability Services office offers more options and flexibility for me as I go forth in my career path.
Did you ever think that you would enroll in an online degree program?
No, I didn’t. I went for my bachelor’s degree in the early to mid-2000’s. At that point, online education may have been available, but it wasn’t widely publicized. At this point, I can say that online degree programs appear to be the new frontier of exploring and experiencing academic achievement for people who are working professionals.
What was your motivation for returning to school for this master’s degree?
Professional development and advancement. I went straight from my undergraduate degree to my MLS. A librarianship career is a rabbit hole for either staying with one master’s degree or going into a subject-focused master’s degree. I love libraries, but there are so many debates among people in my industry about the pros and cons of having multiple degrees. I knew that the MLS would not be a terminal degree for me; I needed something that would give me the professional development and expertise to pursue other careers. So, earning the Disability Services degree is a professional motivation for me.
Which aspects of the program have you enjoyed most thus far?
An aspect that I really enjoy is the variety of knowledge that I see myself and my other classmates have on our weekly discussion boards. I also really enjoy knowing that the professors in my program bring their own expertise and experience to the courses.
What is your relationship like with your classmates and professors?
I believe my relationship with my classmates and professors is positive. I go into each class with an experiential lens of an academic working librarian and have realized that the experiences I have are not so different from those of others. It amazes me that some of my classmates have the same responses that I do on certain posts. Maybe not in the same words, but the message is very similar.
Since my classes are online, there is a metaphysical disconnect that I feel whenever I take courses. But I do see the same names and faces throughout different semesters on Blackboard, which allows me to reconnect with them online. I am lucky to have met a few online classmates in person and hope to meet even more down the line. The same goes for my disability services professors whom I respect very much.
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?
I believe I achieved several goals already. I am the first librarian to pursue a second master’s degree in Disability Services in Higher Education in the United States. I am going to be the third person in the program to graduate. I have seen the start of the student government at CUNY SPS. I have seen the beginnings of some initiatives like the student published newsletter, The Kiosk. I believe I am in the process of considering just one more semester so that I can also complete my MA in Disability Studies.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve received while at CUNY SPS?
I don’t believe that this is a piece of advice, but rather an attitude change. In Disability Studies and activism, there is the saying, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” That is a very rich piece of advice to be aware of. Because the challenge for people with disabilities is living, but also it is to be included no matter what.
So far, what advice can you give to someone who is interested in pursuing this degree?
I would say that if they want to pursue this degree as I have, then great for them! This degree is still relatively new, but in ensuring that there is inclusion in higher education for a population that has historically been invisible, this is a right step. This is a technical degree to move towards if you want to work with this population, and there is the opportunity to learn and try out new things. This program can stretch a person, but it also ensures that students will learn how to work as a professional in a disability services office or with other departments, with the student in mind.
What do you hope to do after graduating from CUNY SPS? What does your future look like?
After graduation, I plan to seek a better position as an academic librarian or expand my search to Disability Services offices. No one is ever really too sure of their future, but I know that I will be looking forward to graduation once more.
Learn a little more about Linda:
- Place(s) of employment: Berkeley College, CUNY Medgar Evers, CUNY Hunter
- Job title: Public Service/Reference Librarian and Office of AccessAbility Proctor
- Place of residence: Sunset Park, Brooklyn
- Weirdest place you have studied: In a friend’s car en route to Pennsylvania for an origami folding session.
- Best thing about the community in which you reside: What I like about my community is the availability of fresh groceries and ethnic foods.
- What you enjoy doing in your spare time: Origami, reading, watching programs I enjoy.