Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Graduate student advocates for accessibility

“My disability is a part of my identity and I want to work in student affairs so I can speak out for my own community,” says Jillian Strong ’20, a student in the U of R School of Education. (Photo by Greta Jursch '21)

Jillian Strong ’20 didn’t realize her disability had an impact on her learning until after she graduated from college. Hard of hearing since infancy, Strong began to think about how disabilities can affect other students’ academic careers. Now, as a graduate student in the University of Redlands School of Education’s Master of Arts in Higher Education program, she is committed to making students’ higher education experiences more inclusive and accessible for everyone.

“My disability is a part of my identity and I want to work in student affairs so I can speak out for my own community,” she says. “There are a lot of little things necessary for students with disabilities to navigate their academic environment.”

One way that Strong is already championing students with disabilities is by contributing her unique perspective to discussions in her classes. She often talks about her experiences and encourages her peers to view accessibility in education through a different lens. Recently, Professor Pauline Reynolds updated her syllabi to include a section on disability, thanks to Strong’s input.  

“Disabilities don’t get talked about enough in higher education,” says Strong. “When we think about education in a classroom setting, a certain image comes to mind of desks in rows facing the front of the room. But learning styles are different for everyone, and the way you can format a classroom can affect someone's learning experience.”

Outside the classroom, Strong works as a graduate assistant in the Office of Leadership and Higher Education, where she assists School of Education faculty, serves on the orientation committee, and welcomes new students. She recently completed 120 hours of graduate fieldwork in the Academic Success and Disability Services department, where she worked to update the department’s website and improve overall accessibility, while also supporting the Office of Admissions. One of her contributions was suggesting that accessible ramps and building entries be marked on the interactive campus map and taking pictures of those locations so they could be added.

Strong’s passions for student affairs and accessibility don’t go unnoticed. In November 2018, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) awarded her the Sharyn Salvin Miller Graduate Scholarship, allowing her to attend the organization’s western regional conference in Sacramento, California. In March, Strong will attend the organization’s national conference and serve as a small group facilitator at the NASPA National Undergraduate Pre-Institute. The conference challenges student affairs professionals to think differently about serving changing student populations.

Upon graduation, Strong hopes to work in a college disability services department. “I want to remind people that education isn’t straight-forward and students don’t all learn the same way,” she says.

Learn more about the University of Redlands School of Education.