Offering help to students with disabilities

Tessa Carroll

Kent State Stark offers services to disabled students

Jake Saylor, senior integrated science major at Kent State Stark, tutors Michelle Etling, freshman middle childhood education major at Kent State Stark, on her algebra homework. LAUREN ANDERSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

There is always a lot going on in the lower level of the campus center on Kent State’s Stark campus. But there’s even more going on in a tiny office in the back of the Academic Success Center that many students are unaware of.

The tiny office is home to Kelly Kulick and Emily Burns, who run the office of Student Accessibility Services, formerly Student Disability Services. The hustle and bustle there is just part of daily life.

“There are days when I come in at 7 a.m. and don’t leave until 7 p.m.,” Kulick, disability counselor, said. “It’s a very tiring job, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Kulick, along with Burns who is an intern in SAS, is in charge of tracking, meeting with and assisting students with disabilities on the Stark campus.

“We have students on this campus with everything from transplants to psychiatric disabilities,” Kulick said. “We also have every medical and physical disability that is legally recognized.”

Kulick and Burns run a tight ship. With 200-plus disabled students filtering through their office on a regular basis, they have to.

“We have over 200 disabled students on this campus. That’s 200 out of 4,000-plus,” Kulick said. “Basically, as far as Student Accessibility’s services are concerned, we’re on pace with the Kent campus, only we don’t have a huge staff to delegate to. We do it all ourselves.”

Doing it all means meeting with students, planning parent programs and a variety of other tasks.

“Because of the rather large number of disabled students on this campus and because of the small number of people who work in this office, we learn something new everyday,” Kulick said. “This is an amazing place to hone the craft of assisting students with disabilities.”

Kulick and Burns are not completely on their own, though. The Academic Success Center on the lower level of the campus center houses almost all of the student assistance programs Kent State offers.

Tutoring, testing and accessibility are all located in one central place. This makes life easier not only for the students, but for the people who work with and for them as well.

“We’re a very small office in an area surrounded by other small offices and we’re all here to help students,” Burns said. “If something comes up during testing where a student needs assistance, we can help them immediately. That’s what’s nice about regional campuses – it’s an intimate environment that makes communication simpler.”

Kulick and Burns also run one of the few SAS offices that hold programs for parents as well as students. During Disability Awareness Week in April, Burns put together a Parent Forum for parents of disabled high school students. The forum, which was held April 27, featured speakers on financial aid and student experiences and everything in between.

“We try to include the parents as much as possible,” Kulick said. “As much as we care for the student, we have a responsibility to the parents as well.”

The Parent Forum was the first of such programs to be organized by SAS, but the hope is for more, similar programs in the future.

Student Accessibility Services on Stark campus is not a walk in the park. The trick to keeping Stark’s SAS program successful is not forgetting the task at hand.

“What we’re here to do is help students,” Kulick said. “And that’s something we’ll do until we can’t do it anymore.”

Contact regional campuses reporter Tessa Carroll at [email protected]