The Other Side of Disabilities

The Office for Students with Disabilities Newsletter
Division of Student Affairs

VolumeIX, Issue 1,  February 2008,  Editor:  James Walborn



There were 19 OSD students interviewed for the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) recently for summer internship opportunities with the Federal Government and private sector employers.  The WRP is an employment project co-sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Dept. of Defense.  Employers seek to fill both temporary and permanent positions in a variety of fields.
The program provides a referral system for the 1800 college students with disabilities across the United States who will be interviewed this spring for summer work opportunities.  While the OSD recommended students for the program, the CDC assisted them in developing their resumes and interviewing skills.


In January the OSD held a workshop in which four students shared their WRP Internship experiences with interested students in order to encourage participation in this valuable program.  “All of the students that have participated have come back extremely enthusiastic.  All four people who were asked to share their experiences took time from their busy day to talk to their fellow students,” assures OSD Counselor, Barbara Bazinsky.  She’s frustrated that more students aren’t taking advantage of this great opportunity. 


Rosemary Pettis has been offering a week of her time each year since 1984 to interview students for the WRP internship program.  The rest of the year she is the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which may be  best known for operating the National Weather Service.   Between the Federal Government and private industry there are usually several hundred internships made available under this program each summer.  For example, agencies within the Department of Commerce (including NOAA, the Census Bureau, the Patent Office, among others) utilized approximately 8 interns last summer. 

“This is a great program,” Rosemary exclaims.  “It’s really critical for students to have internships in areas close to their majors as possible so when they start looking for employment they have a resume that has at least one internship that shows that they have experience and exposure to the real world.  It’s a great educational opportunity for the students, themselves.  They may not have a lot of employment opportunities, so in an internship you get to see what it’s like to work.”  She maintains that the interaction on a professional level is invaluable for the student.  “It’s a win-win situation for both the student and the employer as well.”  Rosemary advises students to “do your homework” when applying for a position.  “It’s important when you start interviewing to have some background for the type of job you’re are applying for.”

Anything unusual in your refrigerator?  “We have leftovers in the fridge which aren’t your typical fare.  I love to make Indian food.  We love Moroccan and Korean food .  Because of where we live, in the Washington DC area, there are tons of great ethnic restaurants so you’ll find all sorts of weird leftovers.”


During a recent Owls Supporting Diversity (OSD) Club meeting, mobility impaired members (those with physical or visual disabilities) expressed a collective concern about the impoliteness of those using skateboards and other forms of transportation on the sidewalks.  While most try to be courteous, those who are not become a danger to all students.  In addition, some FAU staff impede access when parking golf carts near building entrances.  Club members wish for the FAU community to just be more aware for the sake of everyone’s safety.


Although still in it’s first year, the Owls Supporting Diversity Club has been very active in promoting disability awareness.  Recently the Club ran an entry in the Bed Race and provided Valentines goodies.  Two members participated in an educational presentation to a class.  The Club supported volunteerism at the Center for Civic Engagement and Service event in January, and the Club has plans to support similar FAU events in the coming months.  Outside of FAU, the Club plans to visit a Rehabilitation Center and have a representative at the STARS (Start Transition And Realize Success) Conference this March [the conference is attended by high school students with disabilities and their parents to learn about disability services at college].


Dr. Jacqueline (Jackie) Kern, Ph.D. is the new Assistant Director of Diversity Student Services on the Jupiter Campus.  No stranger to FAU, in 1997 she was hired as the Coordinator of Academic Programs.  When she left in 2004 to spend more time with her growing son she was Director of Student Affairs for the Honors College.  Now that her son is attending school she is back with FAU assisting students in three areas: Office for Students with Disabilities, ISSS, and Multicultural Affairs. 
“I come at diversity from a very creative perspective,” Jackie states.  She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Science in Education and Visual Arts, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning.  “I think that this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with people, to help people, to serve people, and to learn from people.” 

Since Jackie has been a teacher, staff member, and administrator she brings a unique understanding to her new position.  “When you are a faculty member you are really thinking about your subject, what you are teaching, and how to best get your subject matter across.  But when you work with students from the other side of the desk you really want your faculty to be aware of the various needs individual learners have.”  She encourages everyone, “try to support one another and complement one another so that we can all work together as a great team and help our students achieve their goals.”

Jackie enjoys reading, walking, bike riding, and spending time with her family.  “We go boating, we travel, we keep busy and have fun.”  She’s an artist who paints and draws.  An art gallery in Palm Beach has shown her work.  She also has co-authored three art activity books for children. 

By now it is probably no surprise that Jackie is a ‘people’ person.  “I enjoy talking to people.  If we take the time to listen to what their story is we can learn a lot about people, the world around us, and ourselves.” 

Anything unusual in your fridge?  “I always keep a big huge tub of greens because I love salads.  I’m never without some kind of greens.”


The Graduate Access To Employment (GATE) program was established by an Able Trust grant to Stand Among Friends, in conjunction with the OSD and CDC, in order to assist students with disabilities in finding employment upon graduation, the ultimate goal being a rewarding and productive career. 
In association with Stand Among Friends, the Job Developer will seek out specific local employers to match the vocational skills of students.  The Job Coach will work with the students on developing interviewing and job skills, then work with both the student and the employer on any problems which may arise during the first 90 days of employment. 

Since the beginning of 2008 Stand Among Friends personnel have met with 11 OSD students and have already placed 1 in a job.  The goal is to successfully place at least 15 students in the first year. 


When should someone disclose to a prospective employer that he/she has a disability?  If a reasonable accommodation is required to perform the essential functions of a job then the applicant should bring it up, explaining the nature of the accommodation needed and how it will enable the person’s ability to perform.  The employer does not have the right to make general medical inquiries of applicants.

If the disability will not impact on the job’s performance, the applicant should not bring it up, as it has no bearing on the job at all.


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This newsletter is available in alternate format upon request from the Office for Students with Disabilities. Boca: SU 133; phone 561.297.3880, TTY 561.297.0358. Davie: MD I, Room 104; phone 954.236.1222, TTY 954.236.1146. Jupiter: SR 117; phone 561.799.8585, TTY 561.799.8565. Treasure Coast: JU 312; phone 772.873.3441.

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