BY ESTHER APPIAH
April 30, 2014
The Office of Student Disability Services at the University of Mississippi has named two professors, Kerri Scott and Jennifer Buford, as recipients of the 2013-2014 Access Award for their relentless support for students with disabilities in their classes.
Stacey Reycraft, SDS director, presented the award April 23 during the celebration of Disability Awareness Month and the SDS office open house.
Receiving an award for doing one’s work gratifying and validating, said Scott, UM instructional assistant professor and associate director of forensic chemistry.
“It is a fantastic honor, as I was just trying to do what I thought I needed to do,” Scott said. “To be recognized for trying to do my best is an incredible feeling.”
Buford, a clinical instructor of social work, agreed.
“It is simply an honor to receive this, students with disabilities bring a new dimension of diversity to the classroom, and we teach diversity,” she said. “It is an opportunity to practice what you teach.”
During the presentation, Reycraft commended the two faculty members for their work.
“I really enjoy this day; I enjoy giving recognition to those who show their support for these under-represented students,” she said. “It is nice that we are supportive and recognize those who help them.”
Scott and Buford were among several faculty members who were nominated by students for the award. The SDS staff reviewed the nominations and chose the recipients. The staff review showed that Scott and Buford provided exceptional service and assistance to students with disabilities, exhibiting an understanding that students with disabilities are as capable as any students to excel academically, Reycraft said.
SDS is charged with ensuring equal access to a quality education for qualified students with disabilities through the provision of reasonable academic accommodations that support university standards and academic integrity.
This is the fifth year for SDS to celebrate Disability Awareness Month. New events were added this year to enhance the observance, including an employment panel that explained the requirements of the corporate world for students with disabilities, and how to meet those requirements. Resource people from UM’s Career Center and Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance office, as well as the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services also gave presentations during April.
Nationally, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of college students identify as having a disability. At UM, more than 750 students, or just 4 percent of the student population, are registered with SDS. This number is likely only a fraction of the total number of students with disabilities at UM, Reycraft said.