Home to students from all backgrounds, strengths/weaknesses and vulnerabilities, Brandeis celebrates the diversity of its student body through specialized programs and opportunities that aid in supplying a smooth and enriching learning experience for all. Both undergraduate and graduate students with sensory, physical, psychological or even medical learning disabilities are able to access numerous support accommodations that are offered by Student Accessibility Support (SAS). The SAS team has extended their team, introducing several SAS fellows, who can engage in more personable and direct support with students. The fellows are trained by specialists within the department to empower students and promote self-advocacy.
Shoshi Finkel ’20 shared a little bit about her experience as a SAS fellow in an interview, saying, “Students can come to me during office hours to ask questions about accommodations, navigating campus life with a disability/disabilities or to learn about what SAS can do for them.”
Finkel elaborated on her personal role in the program’s creation as well, “I helped to create this program with Beth Rogers-Kay last year because we found that many students feel intimidated to approach SAS staff about their disabilities, since these matters often feel private or sensitive. I wanted to be a part of a team of students who can guide others through life on campus in a way that mitigates fears and reduces stigma.”
The team of specialists and students strive to eliminate stigmas that surround individuals with a disability/disabilities, by encouraging students to embrace their identities and comfortably discuss critical matters. The Fellows provide student-to-student support, collaborative problem-solving and can help their fellow students make additional connections to SAS.
Accessibility Specialist Kaitlyn Rogers discussed a few logistics regarding the SAS fellows training process and designated office hours, “The Fellows were given an eight hour comprehensive workshop over the span of two days before they began to hold office hours. Now, the Fellows have office hours this Fall semester, Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays from 12:30pm-2:30pm in the Student Financial and Academic Services lobby.”
During the workshops that the fellows were required to attend, specialists, such as Rogers, went over several areas of information including: SAS office structure, applicable laws, documentation, FERPA, disability awareness in various cultural contexts, confidentiality versus privacy, ethics of peer support, registering with SAS, effective listening/responding skills, setting up boundaries with peers and more.
Rogers added, “The Fellows also have scheduled weekly development sessions with me, the supervisor. These sessions provide the opportunity for the Fellows to share vital information about student experiences on the Brandeis campus, advocate for potential changes and continue to learn about issues related to disability in higher education.”
The collaborative program, Academic Service’s Roosevelt Fellows, fosters a student-to-student connection, where qualified and dedicated juniors and seniors have the chance to offer meaningful counsel, and work towards making Brandeis’ environment increasingly accepting and respectful of one another’s uniqueness and pro-collaboration.