Before my first day of freshman year at my university, I had the opportunity to talk to over three dozen staff members either in person or over the phone to make sure that everything would be set up and ready to go before I arrived on campus. While I am grateful that I had so many people that were able to help me, the average student likely won’t have to talk to that many staff members in their entire college career, let alone before the first day! However, since I strongly believe in being proactive and empowering people with information, today I will be sharing a list of ten staff members to meet before starting college that can help with resolving potential issues before they arise. Please note that students may not need to talk to all ten of these people, but it is helpful to know what resources are available before the first day.
The Disability Services coordinator approves student disability accommodations for the classroom, housing, or other campus services such as transportation. Having access to a Disability Services program at my college that would allow me to set accommodations in advance was extremely important to me, and I met with one of the coordinators before applying to different colleges to ensure that they would be able to help me get the services I needed. My initial Disability Services file was created shortly after I accepted my admissions offer.
The assistive technology specialist (sometimes referred to as an accessibility specialist) provides copies of accessible textbooks, introduces students to different tools they can use in the classroom, and can also assist both students and professors with web accessibility issues. I spent a lot of time talking to the assistive technology specialists at my college as they helped me figure out the best tools to use in each of my classes, as well as resolved accessibility issues as they came up.
The testing coordinator approves and provides testing accommodations for students such as extended time, large print, use of assistive technology, and others. I frequently took exams, quizzes, and other tests in the Disability Services testing center and the coordinator would serve as a proctor as well as set up any technology I might need, such as a laptop or screen magnification. I recommend talking to the testing coordinator before the start of the semester as they may need to proctor placement tests for math, English, foreign language, or other requirements that vary by department.
While their exact job title might vary, the special populations housing coordinator handles disability-related housing accommodations and modifications and can assist approved students with selecting on-campus housing, or handle appeals if accommodations are denied. This person helped a lot during the housing process prior to freshman year and allowed me to keep the same upperclassmen dorm for multiple semesters as well.
The resident director is a paid full-time staff member that typically lives in the same building that they work in- this is different from the resident advisors/assistants, which are typically students. Resident directors can provide additional assistance when dealing with roommate or suitemate conflicts, share emergency building information, call maintenance, or respond to other issues that a resident advisor might not be able to handle on their own. While this is by no means a universal college experience, my resident director also helped me when I had to evacuate my dorm.
Each major has an academic advisor that can provide information about scheduling college classes, help students stay on track for graduation, and provide information about professors and what classes might be a good fit. In one instance, my professor talked me out of taking a class I was considering for a general education requirement and told me about another class that was taught by a professor they thought I would really enjoy, since other students with disabilities had spoken positively of them. This ended up working out really well, and I learned a lot from the course!
Another job title that will vary depending on the college/university, the Student Support specialist can help students that are dealing with situations that may require staff or personal intervention. This is different from Title IX or campus security, though the Student Support specialist may work with one or both of these offices.
Some of the reasons a student might meet with a Student Support specialist include:
Someone I know met with the Student Support specialist after they learned that a student they had a no-contact order against in high school was going to be attending the same college as them, and they worked with the student to ensure that the no-contact order would remain in place and that they were in a dorm building with increased security measures. Since students with disabilities are often at an increased risk for being harassed or targeted, I listed this staff member in case other students had to deal with a similar situation and were wondering who could help.
After getting terribly lost on my first day of living on campus and needing a security escort, I was glad I had put the phone number for campus dispatch in my phone contacts so that I was able to get assistance. Campus security made a note that I use a blindness cane and that I have low vision so that staff members or first responders would be able to assist me more easily- this was especially helpful when I had a medical emergency on campus.
Students with long-term or chronic illnesses may want to have their medical history and insurance card on file with Student Health so that this information is easy for the providers to access, or so the student’s primary care doctor can send records in advance. In my case, there was also a notation that I couldn’t fill out required forms using the kiosk and needed to use a tablet to sign in instead.
The mail services coordinator assigns student mailboxes and manages other mail-related tasks such as package pick-up. I have an entire post about using college mailrooms with low vision, including tasks that the mail services coordinator can assist with, linked below.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated August 2023; original post published June 2017
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