Working with students to strategize access to learning

Katie Wolf

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Katie Wolf
Accessible Education Center, Accommodations Program Manager

How long have you worked at the UO?

I started in August 2015, so it’s almost been 6 years.

Tell us about your work:

I work at the Accessible Education Center and coordinate academic accommodations for University of Oregon students with disabilities. This involves working closely with students to implement accommodations and other strategies that meet their needs. There’s a lot of coordination with students and instructors over issues that need creative solutions. I help ensure students have access to their courses and are able to engage with them in different ways.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t know if I’ve had a typical day, especially in the past year. I oversee our data management system, so there’s some behind-the-scenes work there. I’m also on various committees and have meetings with colleagues and students. In my one-on-one sessions with students, we talk about the different barriers that come up for them in the academic environment as well as their strengths within those contexts. We then determine together what kind of accommodations or strategies might meet their needs.

All of our offices are student-directed, so it’s up to the student how often they want to or need to meet with advisors in our office. They're certainly welcome to work with us consistently throughout their college experience. Sometimes students only need to meet with us once and then get a plan in place and things are set. Other times, there might be new barriers that come up depending on the different contexts of classes that they’re in. Their experience of disability might be changing or fluctuating, so there might be more of a need to meet with us on an ongoing basis.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I went to UO and worked at the Accessible Education Center as an undergraduate. I majored in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies, and then left to get my master's in social work. There’s obviously something I like about this place because I came back. I love the beautiful campus, and I feel like I work with a ton of passionate colleagues who are excited about the work we’re doing. They care about students and their holistic success as a person in college. I like working in higher education because we’re around so much change and growth all the time. It's an exciting and invigorating environment to be in.

What keeps you motivated?

I think that as challenging as the last year has been, our response to it has opened up new ways of thinking about more inclusive learning environments. I think the increased flexibility we’ve seen in the past year with remote learning has really enhanced access for students by reducing some barriers that came up. Offering students multiple options for course engagement makes me hopeful and excited for the opportunity to keep some of the things that have increased access for a lot of students.

I’m also very excited for one of the initiatives we just started at the Accessible Education Center. The Accessibility Ally Program is modeled after other identity-based allyship programming. Right now, it’s an opportunity for staff and faculty to learn about the conceptualization of disability in society, learning about ableism and ableist language, and microaggressions against people with disabilities. We have an online module that’s available through MyTrack, as well as a live workshop. We offered it for the first time last term, and we’re offering the live workshops again this term.

What is something people may not know about you?

I’m really into backpacking. I find it restorative but also I like the physical challenge. I have a personal goal to section hike all of the Pacific Crest Trail throughout my life. I’ve done a couple hundred miles so far, but there’s still a lot left. I’m excited to do that, but I just love being out in nature and really unplugging.

Katie Wolf is part of the Accessible Education Center.

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