Access Achievement Awards, 2013

The recipients of the Access Achievement Awards for 2013 were nominated by University of Minnesota students and Disability Resource Center staff. Here is what we had to say about the nominees:

Laura Coffin Koch, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education –

Laura Coffin Koch has served the University for a long time. She was here when there was a general college and served as an Associate Professor in Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. She ushered the remarkably complicated project of changing the curriculum from quarters to semesters.

As Associate Vice Provost in the Office of Undergraduate Education, she led the challenge to improve graduation and retention rates through establishing Welcome Week, the Office of Student Engagement, and in working across colleges and units to develop a new collaborative model of advising housed in the STSS building. She teaches some of the most popular May term international seminars, Galileo on Trial, Great Minds of the Renaissance, and most recently, Leadership and Social Change in Istanbul. 

In each of these areas: Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, Central Administration, and International Education, Dr. Coffin Koch has been and continues to be a model of supporting learning for ALL students, including students with disabilities. She embraces the idea of universal design of her courses and understands that semesters serve all students better, allowing them to accrue meaningful credits more effectively; she has championed the needs of underserved populations in her work with advising and counseling, she makes international programs particularly accessible, and finds the time to be an active participant in the Disability Resource Center’s Faculty Advisory Committee.

Erik Dussault – Assistant Director, Student Activities and Student Unions -

Erik Dussault is a natural born leader. When he began his career at the University, he worked to create a registration system and coordinate resources for more than 700 student groups on campus. In his current role as Assistant Director, Student Activities and Student Unions, Erik is responsible for overseeing the work of the Student Program Board who plan community building events for the entire campus community, including campus films, the Whole Music Club venue, and late-night programs in Coffman and the St. Paul Student Center. When Erik and his team of student workers heard the students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing could not access movie night, they sprang into action! Erik worked with Disability Resource Center to ensure that movies shown on campus are captioned. Because of Erik and his team, people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing can enjoy two captioned films each weekend on the Minneapolis and St. Paul Campuses.

Eric Eklund – Developer, Academic Support Resources

Eric Eklund has always exhibited a desire to better the lives of people with disabilities, starting when he was in high school and served as a counselor at Easter Seals Summer Camps for youth with disabilities. As an undergrad, he continued to be a strong ally of people with disabilities by serving as a leader in the Disabled Student Cultural Center and contributing his problem-solving skills as an Information Technology Professional in Disability Resource Center’s Computer Accommodations Program.

Now with Academic Support Resources, Eric strives to include accessibility in the applications and Web services he creates or modifies and he gets his colleagues to think about access as well! While Eric has moved on, he does not forget his colleagues in Disability Resource Center. Eric may also be found during his lunch hour answering questions from DS staff about Workflow Gen and other technical systems.

Jeanne Higbee, Professor, Postsecondary Teaching and Learning –

Everyone knows that Jeanne Higbee, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Postsecondary Teaching and Learning has a reputation as an exceptional scholar. Twenty-six book chapters (and counting). 17 monographs. And such a plethora of journal articles that I just stopped counting! But what many of you may not know that Dr. Higbee is a real advocate for advancing access for everyone. Jeanne has led the faculty charge on designing courses for ALL students, including students with disabilities. That passion and dedication to Universal Design in Postsecondary Education must come from her early work in student affairs where she learned first-hand about the needs of diverse learners. That work has lead to a meaningfully rich career in which good teaching becomes central to the student experience as well as well-regarded pedagogy among her peers.

Sean Killackey, PhD Candidate/Instructor, French -

Sean Killackey is an amazing teacher! In Summer Session 2013, I was lucky enough to have Sean as my instructor for French 1003. Sean’s creativity and attention to detail made taking his class one of the best experiences I have had at the University of Minnesota! I informed Sean of my visual disability and we set up a plan for accessing the class. Although this was normal for every class that I have taken, he stood above all others in how he met my needs. 

He never once forgot to bring enlarged print materials for me. He posted all slides on Moodle so that I had access to them before each class. In addition, he never made my eyesight an issue; it was never discussed in class. He handed out my tests and papers with the other students’ and never pointed out their difference. For the first time, my disability faded completely into the background and I felt like I could be seen just like everyone else. His support and encouragement made a very difficult class seem fun! He is truly an asset to this institution and a gift to any student who has the privilege to work with him.

Luka Krmpotich, Student, Disabled Student Cultural Center Leader -

When I first met Luka Krmpotich, little did I know that I was meeting such a powerhouse of a leader in such an unassuming young man. Luka has roots on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota and the mountains of Idaho, so I guess that is why you will never hear him brag about his accomplishments. So I will tell you what I know about Luka… When he first transferred to the University of Minnesota, he joined the Disabled Student Cultural Center. Within a year, he served as Programming Co-Director and Board Chair. Luka has been the glue that has kept the DSCC together ever since and is one of the reasons that the once floundering student organization is once again thriving. Luka embodies disability community, culture and pride! While he is not working with the DSCC, Luka may be found engaging others in dialogue about sexuality and people with disabilities in a campus organization called Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education – or SHADE for short, and volunteering with other organizations like Active Minds, Women’s Activist Collective and Peace Jam. Luka is the first student recipient of the Access Achievement Awards and we are happy to call him one of our own!

Graduate Program in Land and Atmospheric Sciences –

As a member of the Deaf Community I unfortunately experience inaccessibility so when the call for nominations arrived for the 2014 Access Achievement Awards I couldn’t pass it up. I am thrilled to tell you why the entire Land and Atmospheric Science Department is worthy of this honor.

In its teaching, administration, and work, the department fosters inclusion and creates access for me through practices that no doubt benefit people other than me. Departmental staff routinely scheduled meetings and events well in advance which gave me time to work with department staff to request sign language interpreters. Instructors and professors were very considerate in how they approached teaching. Instructors posted PowerPoint slides ahead of time so my interpreters and I could know what was coming and they were thoughtful about creating classroom interactions that allowed me to participate more fully.

Working in the USDA-ARS has shown me that this part of LAAS is also committed to inclusion and diversity. My colleagues and I routinely worked together to ensure inclusion and diversity were served in our work. I can’t possibly mention every person or action that has impacted me. Clearly the LAAS Department genuinely wants to create an inclusive environment. Ensuring people with disabilities have access to experiences and opportunities is a terrific example of that. I want the department to know that all of this adds up to me being a more successful student. And I want everyone to know how grateful I am.

Deanne Magnusson, Lecturer, Organizational Leadership, Policy Development -

I am a student who uses services provided by Disability Resource Center here at the U. Dr. Magnusson has pushed me to overcome challenges – both academic and personal. She has a gift for recognizing the differing needs of her students and using that diversity as a basis for her standards of excellence. By seeing me as a whole person – not only as a student – she continually pushed me to achieve more than I thought was possible academically, professionally, and personally.

Dr. Magnusson consistently takes action in her students' best interests. She helped me set expectations and supported me in numerous ways in pursuing them. As a result, I will obtain my doctoral degree this coming May and will apply the lessons I’ve learned from Dr. Magnusson for years to come. I am thrilled that with this Access Achievement Award, the University recognizes something I’ve known for awhile: That Dr. Magnusson is committed to making sure that all students are challenged in ways that foster their growth.

Abby Schraufnagel, Program Associate, Physics and Astronomy - 

Here at Disability Resource Center, we like to creative and concise. Our mission statement is: Advancing Access for Everyone. We have a t-shirt with a word cloud describing what we value. So when it comes to describing Physics Program Associate, Abby Schraufnagel, eight words came to mind … Abby consistently breaks barriers to ensure equal access. 

One might say that Abby is like Superwoman… she is faster than a speeding bullet when it comes to tracking down exam materials, more powerful than a locomotive when professors need to be located to answer questions, able to leap over the tallest obstacle to ensure that all students receive accommodations with ease.

The other thing we would like to say about Abby is that she does all of this with an open heart and a willing mind. Abby is a true super hero to Disability Resource Center and we value her exceptional contribution to advancing access for everyone.

University of Minnesota Police Department – 

We are fortunate to have a police department as forward thinking and person-centered as the University of Minnesota Police Department. For example, when UMPD officers are injured or experience an illness that would otherwise keep them off duty, the UMPD worked with Disability Resource Center to create a light duty program to keep them on the job. Light duty work supports employees through a difficult time and helps maintain their identities as University of Minnesota employees. 

UMPD is also well-known around campus for its professional approach working with folks in the university community who are in crisis. The respectful and helpful way that these situations are handled by our police officers is a testament to their training and their ability to communicate in meaningful ways. 

UMPD is an integral part of the team, whether it is the Provost Committee on Mental Health, the Behavioral Consultation Team, or the Employee Threat Analysis Team, the university can always count on UMPD to give thoughtful feedback that bolsters the safety of everyone on campus including the person in crisis. 

Thank you Chief Hestness and the University of Minnesota Police Department for all you do!

Louis Mendoza, Associate Vice Provost for the Office for Equity and Diversity – Special Recognition –

As part of the Office for Equity and Diversity, Louis Mendoza is not eligible for an Access Achievement Award, however, he is deserving of Special Recognition. Through his leadership with the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy, Dr. Mendoza has been instrumental in the moving the Disability Studies agenda forward at the University of Minnesota. This past weekend, the fourth annual Minnesota Disability Studies Symposium was held on the West Bank drawing more than 50 participants from across the country. Also, the first of the proposed graduate disability studies minor courses were taught last Spring Semester. By shining a light a disability as an aspect of diversity, the campus learns that disability is a human rights issue as well as an equity issue. 

As faculty, Dr. Mendoza knows the importance of culturally responsive evaluation. With this in mind, through his work with the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy, Dr. Mendoza has supported Disability Resource Center’s launch of the Faculty Advisory Committee. The committee’s purpose is to provide guidance and offer their views on the services, programs and activities of Disability Services.  This initiative is now in its second year. Thank you Louis, for helping us think outside of the box on disability issues!