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Fall 2018 event recognizes faculty, staff for service to students with disabilities

The Services for Students with Disabilities office at UW-Eau Claire celebrated Disability Awareness Month on Oct. 23 and honored faculty and staff members for their service to students with disabilities.

Dr. Matthew Meyer, philosophy and religious studies; Josh Engle, Dean of Students Office; and Dr. Mary Beth Tusing, Dr. Michael Axelrod, Dr. Melissa Coolong-Chaffin, Seth Carreno and Matthew Noehring, school psychology graduate program, were recognized as university faculty and staff who demonstrate outstanding commitment to meeting students’ disability-related needs. Student Sofie Johnson read the national proclamation of Disability Awareness Month, and Dr. Tamara Johnson, vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Student Affairs, presented opening remarks. 

Meyer, assistant professor of philosophy, was nominated by a student who shared, “Dr. Meyer has shown a consistent commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities feel welcomed and well accommodated in his classes. When my disability made learning challenging, I always felt comfortable speaking with him about those problems, and he always responded kindly and promptly." Dr. Pamela Forman, interim chair of the philosophy and religious studies department, added, “Dr. Meyer is the consummate teacher who gets his students who have no idea what philosophy is when they begin a course to appreciate it soon afterwards, and one who is very hands on in deepening their understanding of the field in his upper division courses. He is sensitive to his students’ needs, and finds ways to support students with challenges. Dr. Meyer very much deserves this acknowledgment for his commitment to teaching and mentorship.”

Engle, student assistance coordinator and conduct officer in the Dean of Students Office, was nominated by a student who wrote, “Going into my senior year, my anxiety was so bad I was going to take a break from college. I emailed Josh and let him know my plans and asked if he had any ideas for me. He introduced me to the Services for Students with Disabilities office and from there I was able to manage my classes. Without the guidance and helping hand from Josh I would not have graduated.” The Services for Students with Disabilities office was not surprised by the nomination, said director Vicky Thomas. “Our team has frequent interactions with the Dean of Students Office in support of students, and we observe that Josh listens to students’ concerns and is understanding and compassionate,” Thomas said. “He is excellent at managing crisis situations and a wonderful advocate for students with disabilities.”

Tusing, school psychology graduate program director; program faculty Axelrod and Coolong-Chaffin; and graduate assistants Carreno and Noehring also were recognized. “Our partnership with Services for Students with Disabilities started when Dr. Mary Beth Leibham suggested that we talk about potential ways to collaborate, and it has continued because of financial support from Graduate Studies,” Thusing said. “These graduate positions are a great example of the true spirit of assistantships. The students benefit greatly from the professional experiences while contributing to the goals of the university by supporting fellow Blugolds.” Dr. Mike Axelrod added, “This award is an honor for a program that commits itself to supporting individuals with disabilities on campus and within the larger community, helping those with disabilities find success.”

Presentations were made by senior political science major Nathan Altmann, who spoke of his summer internship experience in Washington, D.C., and psychology and sociology alumnus Hans Streckenbach, who reflected on his education at UW-Eau Claire and support from the Services for Students with Disabilities office following a critical accident. Their stories of self-advocacy, determination and success were inspirational.

Dr. Darrell Newton, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies, commended the faculty and staff in attendance for the services they provide to students. Dr. Joe Abhold, dean of students, confirmed these comments with words of appreciation for the support offered by many offices. Vicky Thomas, director of Services for Students with Disabilities, and staff members Tyra Wendt, Katie Strope and Dan Zabel expressed their gratitude to the many faculty and staff who make it possible for students with disabilities to successfully graduate from UW-Eau Claire.

Photo caption: Faculty and staff members were honored Oct. 23 for their outstanding commitment to students with disabilities during UW-Eau Claire's Disability Awareness Month celebration. Pictured with Vicky Thomas, director of Services for Students with Disabilities (fourth from right), are honorees Dr. Michael Axelrod, Dr. Mary Beth Thusing, Seth Carreno, Josh Engle, Dr. Matthew Meyer, Matt Noehring and Dr. Melissa Coolong-Chaffin.