Terry Watson is the disability contact liaison for Penn State World Campus students. We caught up with him recently to talk about his background and the challenges and opportunities for World Campus students with disabilities.
Can you tell us about your position as the disability contact liaison for Penn State World Campus?
My position is to help students with disabilities succeed in taking courses online and ultimately graduate from Penn State. Students are either referred to me from their academic advisers or they seek out my help for their particular learning disability. I work with them to make reasonable accommodations so that they can complete their course work. I maintain a close relationship with Penn State’s Office of Disability Services to help make the best accommodations available for our students.
What’s your educational background? What interested you in this field?
I originally attended college at the University of Maine to study wildlife ecology and later mathematics. Over the course of several years and positions in the workforce, I graduated with a master’s degree in Human Development from the University of Maine. I completed my degree as a returning adult student, so I understand the challenges of the work-life balance that Penn State World Campus students face. I worked as a behavioral specialist for autistic students and helped them transition to the community and adulthood. When I learned of an opportunity to work as the first adviser who would focus on and assist students with disabilities at Penn State World Campus, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I wanted this job.
What’s the best part of your job?
I’ve impacted the lives of 459 Penn State World Campus students who have disabilities to help them achieve their educational goals. That’s not only an impactful number, but it’s an impactful position to be in. I come to work excited, and I find myself upset at the end of the work day because I still have so many people that I need to help. For me, this job is personal. I have a disability, and I struggled! Now I have a child with a disability, and my position is helping to pave the way for his future learning opportunities — at Penn State and beyond. It’s very important to me that I continue this work.
Can you provide an example of how Penn State is a leader in helping students with disabilities?
Working to help students with disabilities is quite literally a team effort at Penn State. I work closely with our advising team to determine which students need particular accommodations. I also work with our military advising team to determine who might need extra assistance in that student population. If you haven’t read about Michael Miller, a World Campus graduate and military veteran who needed disability accommodations, you should! His story is incredible and just one out of hundreds of students who are in similar positions. Our accessibility team works tirelessly with faculty members who teach our online courses to look for creative ways for students to learn and complete their course work.
I’m a World Campus student with a disability — what should I do?
If you think you have a disability that may prevent you from completing your course assignments, check out our website with accommodation guidelines and requests. There’s often no checkbox for people who have disabilities, so if you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I’m a pumpkin carver. My interests in carving pumpkins started when I was working with autistic children. One child took an interest in my pumpkins, and it helped spark a relationship between the two of us moving forward. Ever since then, I’ve continued carving pumpkins. I’ve been asked to carve the entrance pumpkins for the annual Pumpkin Festival at the Arboretum at Penn State.
Terry’s Contact Information
AOL IM: PSUWCTerry
Facebook: Profile Page