Students participate in the CSA Summer Institute, a component of the First-Year Connections Program presented at the AHEAD conference.

This summer, Center for Student for Accessibility (CSA) Director Chris Cruz Cullari presented at the national conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) in New Orleans, LA. AHEAD is the premiere national organization guiding most effective methods for disability service provision in higher education. Many of the Center’s programs are based on standards developed by AHEAD.

Cullari’s two presentations focused on the CSA’s First-Year Connections program for new students with disabilities and also the concept of Instructional Universal Design – the philosophy that learning strategies that work for students with disabilities can work for all students.

During a three-hour preconference session “First-Year Connections: Holistic Student Support Programming for Students with Disabilities,” Cruz Cullari focused on the Center’s First-Year Connections (FYC) Program, which celebrated 90% retention last year. The Connections Program helps students to transition into the college and is guided by four desired learning outcomes. Academic counselors meet with students regularly and report to the Director and Assistant Director on the progress and needs of each student. The Program is highlighted by the CSA Summer Institute, a series of full-day workshops that introduce incoming first-year students to such crucial topics as the differences between high school and college, and choosing a major. The FYC culminates in a campus-wide student panel event, entitled “My Story,” in which a group of students with disabilities describe their challenges and triumphs in high school and college. Panelists also focus on their transitioning experiences into college.

In another session, “Curricular Universal Design: Creating Accessible Writing Assignments for Students with Invisible Disabilities,” participants learned how to prepare a collaborative curriculum project with faculty and staff at their respective institutions in the spirit of Universal Design.  This session also looked specifically at efforts like Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), a collaborative endeavor on which Center staff worked with the English Writing Fellows and Professor Hildegard Hoeller. In particular, the session showcased one of the collaborative WAC publications, a faculty guide for introducing writing assignments.

“It was really a great experience, and I’m pleased that AHEAD gave us the venue to showcase our work,” commented Cruz Cullari, who has been the Director since December 2009.  Assistant CSA Director Sara Paul also played a key role in drafting the conference proposals as well as in the creation and management of these initiatives.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown commented, “The Center for Student Accessibility is a dynamic department within the College of Staten Island providing resources and support to students with disabilities. CSI serves the largest number of students with Asperger Syndrome in the CUNY system. I commend Director Chris Cullari Cruz and his exceptional staff for providing a structured, supportive environment in which students can develop the necessary skills to ensure their future success.”

CSA staff look forward to submitting proposals to present at the 2013 AHEAD Conference next year slated for Baltimore, MD.

The CSA is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.