In 2020, Tower Guard members were introduced to Impact Teams, which serve as smaller focus groups within the larger membership. Each team is dedicated to a specific area of service to the RCPD, giving Tower Guard members the opportunity to understand the depth of disability services in a better light. One team that stood out this year in terms of their accomplishments was the Assistive Technologies Impact Team.
The RCPD’s Braille Technology Advantage Program provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to read and learn with braille on MSU’s campus, with innovative efforts driving the ability for braille to be delivered to students wherever they may be located. Now thanks to the Canute 360, the world’s first multi-line braille e-reader, RCPD students are granted even more educational possibilities.
The Tower Guard Shamrock 5K Run-Walk-Roll is an annual fundraising event that takes place on or around St. Patrick’s Day. Despite pandemic challenges which prevented the Shamrock 5k from being in-person this year, Tower Guard, the second-year student honor society that supports the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD), conducted a successful event in a virtual setting. The proceeds help fund equipment and supplies needed to operate the resource center.
MSU’s Department of Student Life is an office within the University that enhances our educational environment through the promotion of student rights and responsibilities. The annual Department of Student Life Leadership Awards Reception recognizes the outstanding efforts of students, advisors, and programs that provide opportunities for educational growth and self-assessment. This year, in a virtual 20th annual ceremony broadcasted on YouTube Premiere, RCPD Leadership Development Specialist Liz Fuller was recognized with the 2021 New Advisor of the Year award.
The Futures Collection is a novel approach to note-taking and study skills. Comprised of three specialized notebooks, this system is designed to address barriers that students face as a result of their learning or psychiatric disabilities. Leah Ellis, founder of the LeahMonet Philanthropic Foundation, felt that creating an organizational system that focused on habit development, experiential learning, and conceptualization would guide student success. We are pleased to announce that the Futures Collection is now widely available at the MSU Student Book Store (SBS)!
Michigan State University’s mission is to advance knowledge and transform lives. One Spartan, through her participation and dedication, decided to uphold this university mission and take it another step further. From Tower Guard executive board member to co-president of the Council of Students with Disabilities (CSD) to a member of the Honors College and Social Science Scholars program, Jasmine J. has continued to focus on the intersectionality of racism and ableism, fighting for a higher quality of student lives and social environments here at MSU.
Freedom Scientific is the world’s leading assistive technology manufacturer for people who are blind or visually impaired. Home to the renowned JAWS (Job Access with Speech), a robust screen reading software, and the Focus 40 Blue, a compact refreshable braille display, Freedom Scientific empowers independence for people with disabilities around the world. Recently, RCPD Director Michael Hudson was interviewed during a podcast by Freedom Scientific’s Glen Gordon, the architect behind JAWS, discussing the resource center, his experience with being blind, and the Braille Technology Advantage Program.
Liz Fuller, Tower Guard Advisor
April 22, 2021
Tower Guard service involves a variety of diverse activities, and now members also have the ability to join an Impact Team. Functioning as smaller “breakout” groups within the larger membership, these teams are dedicated to a singular purpose, providing participants with a chance to focus and gain expertise on an aspect of disability services.
Tower Guard’s advisors often hear from past members about how sad they are when their service year ends. They miss being a part of the group, working toward a shared vision and purpose. Each year, the outgoing class talks to the incoming class about how they wish they’d had the time to create a way for past and present Tower Guard members to come together. The Tower Guard service year is a big commitment, however – creating alternative format text, tutoring students with disabilities, advancing disability awareness, engaging in service events, organizing fundraisers and much more. The typical year doesn’t leave much time to dream up and organize a big undertaking like connecting with alumni.
The Michigan State University Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives funds ‘Creating Inclusive Excellence Grants’ that support a variety of different programs, including faculty development to research inclusion practices. One recent grant, which involved the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, is supporting a series of workshops, some instructional support and two years of attendance at MSU’s Accessible Learning Conference (ALC) for academic faculty and staff members. It also contributes to the promotion and development of accessible teaching and learning through the Faculty Accessibility Fellows Program for the College of Arts & Letters, College of Natural Science and Eli Broad College of Business.
The Accessible Learning Conference (ALC) at Michigan State University is annual event designed to provide a range of sessions exploring universally accessible courses, websites, and content. What began as a one-day “Making Learning Accessible Conference,” has transformed into a two-day commitment to student involvement and opportunity. With hundreds of attendees from various universities and educational organizations, ALC works to help students, faculty, and community members provide an accessible Spartan education.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, MSU was faced with the difficult decision to transition in-person classes to remote offerings. It was a considerable change, but MSU faculty and staff rose to the challenge to make remote coursework accessible for all. RCPD Assistant Director for Assistive Technology Innovation, Leslie Johnson, was one of the staff members that played an integral part in this project. As the pandemic provided moments of uncertainty, Leslie remained involved in addressing student, staff, and faculty concerns for providing accessible and inclusive content for the Spartan community’s success during this time.
Peer mentor programs can be a crucial component of positive student learning experiences. With an objective of increasing student persistence and academic performance, the RCPD has introduced a resiliency program for freshmen registered with the Center. This program is designed to support the needs of first year MSU undergraduate students and provide them with the tools needed to develop, establish, and maintain healthy habits, and expand connections to the Spartan community.
The RCPD is dedicated to assisting MSU students and employees with disabilities through services, programs, and accommodations that grant equal access to opportunities in higher education. The Building Opportunities for Networking and Discovery (BOND) program is one solution for fostering support and establishing social, academic, and independent living skills for students on the autism spectrum. BOND participants work alongside peer mentors such as recent MSU graduates Anna Bowling and Abby Cortis, to make the connections and gain the skills needed to reach their full potential on campus and beyond. Recently, Anna and Abby shared their stories of how they discovered the BOND program and became involved in assisting Spartans with disabilities.
RCPD AGSR Committee
February 26, 2021
If this month-long focus on Alex’s Great State Race has shown us anything, it is that wonderful things can be done through perseverance. In our final week of the 2021 AGSR Gratitude Campaign, we share stories of the Race's unique "running" over the past couple years and say our final "thank yous" to ALL who make this event possible.
RCPD AGSR Committee
February 19, 2021
Welcome to week three of the 2021 Alex’s Great State Race Gratitude Campaign! Let’s take a step back and remember the rivalry that is celebrated on the day of this wonderful event. Get a recap of the Campaign in our February 1st Ability Blog post.
Michigan State University is an institution devoted to providing educational opportunities and an inclusive environment. For over 48 years, the RCPD has held to these values by advising and supporting persons with disabilities throughout the MSU community. Through Ability Access Specialists, Team RCPD continues to encourage the growth and advancement of students and their abilities. With that, the RCPD is delighted to announce Tesia Freer as our new Blindness/Visual Impairment (B/VI) and Media Access Specialist.
RCPD AGSR Committee
February 1, 2021
The Alex’s Great State Race committee is excited to introduce the month of February as the AGSR Gratitude Campaign month. We are looking forward to sharing stories, videos, and pictures honoring Alex Powell, the history of the race, the MSU U-M rivalry, and more!