You might already know Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as the team that helps determine accommodations for students needing them.
But for Spencer Scruggs, director of SAS, this goal extends beyond equity and accessibility. It is also about perspective.
“We all know there is a much more robust conversation in the classroom when students with different backgrounds come to Trinity,” says Scruggs, who’s overseen a burgeoning SAS expansion of new, innovative resources over the past year. “Because of these specific learning needs our students have, we fully believe they belong here at Trinity. And so we are not afraid to get creative with accommodations—and to make sure our faculty are empowered to provide them.”
Tech It Out
This year, SAS has launched several creative initiatives to improve opportunities for the more than 387 students it serves—about 15% of the entire student body.
“The landscape of available technologies is ever-changing, and our SAS staff works hard to remain current on ways to improve students’ access to new tools for participation and learning,” says Betty Curry, director for Academic Support. “Our staff provides valuable, forward-thinking resources that played an integral role for students when remote learning was necessary and continues as we have returned to in-person classes. There is an ongoing dialogue among students, faculty, and SAS staff about what works well for students’ access.”
Scruggs’ team has launched new literacy tools, telepresence robots, captioning solutions, and Glean, a new intuitive note-taking software for use both in digital and physical classrooms. They have implemented a new accommodation management portal called SAS Link, streamlining student requests for accommodation letters, the quick delivery of Faculty Notification Letters, scheduling exams in the Accommodated Testing Center, and more.
“I really enjoy collaborating with the SAS staff,” says engineering science professor Wilson Terrell, Ph.D. “They take the time to meet with me if I have any questions regarding a student in my course who has received accommodations, and they provide suggestions for how best to support the student.”
Terrell shares that the new portal fits into a bigger series of shifts at Trinity for digital transformation. “The SAS Link Instructor Portal allows instructors to have all the information about accommodations, instead of having to search for previous emails. I especially like the listing of all textbooks converted into accessible versions, and that I can complete forms for students to take exams through the Accommodated Testing Center. All of this streamlines transactional processes regarding accommodations, so staff can spend more time supporting students in more transformational ways.”
Rooted in Personalization
SAS’s new learning specialist, Myron Hodge, is a pivotal advocate for many Trinity students with multiple challenges. “At SAS, we do way more than accommodations. We talk about the importance of accessible education and are connected to deeper, bigger issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” he says.
Hodge, as part of his efforts to create individualized plans for the students he works with, has pioneered an initiative called the ROOTS program. Short for “Reset, Organize, Overcome, Transform, and Smile,” this effort combines concepts involving Hodge’s personal mindfulness practices, cognitive behavioral therapies, and self-management techniques into personalized learning strategies for each student who comes through his door.
And the data has been encouraging. The GPA of each student involved in the ROOTS initiative has risen by 23%, on average. “We’re going to keep pushing and moving that needle forward,” Hodge says.
In all our students, we’ve seen a palpable joy to be back, which is a great reminder of the value of engagement in our classes.
A Community of Connections
This fall, there has been a renewed sense of community and connectedness as most classes and services have returned to being in-person. “In all our students, we’ve seen a palpable joy to be back, which is a great reminder of the value of engagement in our classes,” Curry says. “Whether remote or all together on campus, we continue to ask ourselves, ‘How do we create a better learning environment for each student, with or without technology? And how do we foster students’ ability to embrace new challenges and find new solutions?’”
Being back on campus has also helped foster one of Trinity’s best resources, Curry says: its people. SAS has continued to cultivate partnerships with offices across campus, including Information Technology Services, Trinity’s Collaborative for Learning and Teaching (a space for faculty-driven development), and the Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success (CELCS).
A key boost for Student Accessibility Services has been its home in the Tiger Learning Commons (TLC) with the other services of Academic Support. The TLC is a unique space located on the main floor of Coates Library where students can easily find their way to see academic coaches, SAS staff, and peer tutors in the Writing Center, Quantitative Reasoning and Skills Center, and other peer-tutoring initiatives.
Curry adds that SAS will continue to encourage students to find new ways to be successful and to embrace who they are: “We see amazing growth in our students every day and love celebrating the victories they are earning, one challenge at a time.”
STUDENT ACCESSIBILITY SERVICES
By the Numbers
students are registered with SAS (about 15% of the student body)
average increase in GPA for participants in the ROOTS pilot program
increase in students registered in SAS between Fall 2016 and Fall 2021