The learning process, and how that varies for different people, has always fascinated Sherry Hillyard, director of Disability Services. Her career began taking shape in the 1980s, when learning differences and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder gained greater awareness and the theory of multiple intelligences emerged.
“Disability Services in a post-secondary setting remains professionally inspiring and rewarding to me. There is something new to be learned every day, and every day is different,” she said.
Hillyard first joined Ship seven years ago, working part time as a learning specialist in the Learning Center and part time as assistant director of Disability Services. She said that splitting her time between locations provided a great way to learn the mission and values of each department and how they connected to serve the campus community. This past spring, Hillyard was hired as director for Disability Services.
Both the director and assistant director review documentation from a licensed and certified professional to determine how to reasonably and appropriately provide students with equal access to education. “The overall reason for the Office of Disability Services in higher education is to coordinate academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities,” she said. “My responsibilities are many, as are those of the other professional staff.”
What’s the biggest misconception of Disability Services?
The biggest misconception is that students registered with the office are somehow inferior or less capable than the average student population and an accommodation is an advantage to registered students. This myth is painfully outdated. Consider this: If a student is diagnosed with nearsightedness and benefits by the use of corrective lenses to see as clearly as the average student without nearsightedness, shouldn’t he or she have access to those lenses? The same rationale applies to the opportunity for access to reasonable, appropriate academic accommodations, which are based on the impact of the disability on the individual student.
What is the most significant thing you’ve learned about Ship students while working in this role?
The students I continue to meet in my role as director of Disability Services demonstrate consideration, inclusiveness, and a willingness to help others on many levels. First, most student employees who are hired to carry out various fundamental tasks for office continuity are dependable, thoughtful, and respectful. Secondly, Shippensburg boasts a totally volunteer note-taker program with over 100 requests each semester. This presents the need to recruit close to that many classroom note takers. Many volunteers express gratitude for the opportunity to assist a classmate and ask to be considered for future courses. Thirdly, the registered students themselves come to understand their own learning needs, become excellent self-advocates, and ultimately appreciate the positive impact our services make on their academic achievement and opportunities for success. Shippensburg University students are awesome.
Name something that immediately makes you happy, and why?
I am big into musical theatre and choreography— a Broadway showstopper gets me every time. New photos of my two-month-old, first grandchild, too—every time!
How do you wind down at the end of the day?
By watching the evening news and Jeopardy, flipping through art books, checking Facebook, walking, or reading.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
The beach, hands down.
What is your hope or resolution for 2017?
My hope is that my family, friends, and colleagues remain and continue to be happy and healthy. … Oh, and a winning Powerball ticket would be nice.