NIU staff present at higher ed disability summit

Melanie Tucker Thompson
Melanie Tucker Thompson

Melanie Tucker Thompson, acting assistant vice president for Student Services, and Randall Ward, acting director of the Disability Resource Center, address disability issues daily in the Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management.

But their efforts are not limited to NIU alone.

Tucker Thompson and Ward are also involved in the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). AHEAD is a professional membership organization for individuals involved in the development of policy and in the provision of quality services to meet the needs of persons with disabilities involved in all areas of higher education.

AHEAD consists of more than 2,500 members throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Japan and Greece. It is actively involved in all facets of promoting full and equal participation by individuals with disabilities in higher education and supporting the systems, institutions, professions and professionals who attend to the fulfillment of this important mission.

The Challenging and Changing Disability Perspectives: AHEAD 2013 conference was held the week of July 8 in Baltimore.

One of the ways that Ward and Tucker Thompson, a director at large board member for AHEAD, helped fulfill the AHEAD mission was by presenting at an AHEAD pre-conference session with five colleagues from across the country. Tucker Thompson and Ward’s sold-out pre-conference session, titled “OUT OF THE BOX II: A Fresh Focus for the Continuing Professional,” explored the basics of social justice, the social model of disability and disability studies.

Randall Ward
Randall Ward

The session covered models of disability, personal core values and current values of the field, social welfare versus social justice, and other pertinent topics. Tucker Thompson and Ward also discussed topics that higher education professionals should consider, such as office language, office job descriptions and awareness programming.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to be invited to provide progressive professional training for experienced and established disability professionals at a national level,” Ward said. “I believe having two of the seven presenters represent NIU speaks to the positive work that is being done regarding building an inclusive and accessible environment at NIU.”

While at the conference, Ward was appointed to AHEAD’s national Standing Committee on Professional Development.

L. Scott Lissner, president of AHEAD, praised Tucker Thompson’s integral involvement in the organization.

“In the short time Melanie Tucker Thompson has served on AHEAD’s board of directors, she has proven herself to be an invaluable addition,” Lissner said. “Her understanding of student affairs, practical experience and thoughtful analysis have contributed to the clarity of the board’s conversation and its breadth. Her broad perspective, commitment to students and collaborative approach are also apparent in her contributions as a presenter of our premiere pre-conference session at this year’s conference.”

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