New Disability Access Specialist Hired

edited.MaggieHarris_RebeccaKanaskieBy Abby Wargo

Editor-in-Chief

When Maggie Harris heard that there was an opening at Washington College for a new disability access specialist, she knew she wanted to come and work here.

Harris, who previously spent six years working for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools as a special educator, started her new position at the Office of Academic Skills on Monday, Aug. 27.

“It’s a little different from what I’m used to, but I love interacting with college kids,” she said in an interview last week.

While working for QACPS, Harris’ husband, Matt Harris, worked as an assistant coach for the WC swim team. Now, he is the head coach for swimming. Maggie Harris first came to know WC through her husband’s experience here.

“I love the area, and I love to see the relationships here,” she said. “My husband works here, so it’s great to be in the same place.”

Her duties at OAS are similar to what she did at the elementary level, where she did all the assessing of learning disabilities, figuring out accommodations, and working with students, parents, faculty, and staff.

Her primary task at WC is to work with students to figure out what kind of instruction they need and assisting them with being provided equal access in their classes.

Students need to provide documentation to receive help from OAS, which usually entails psychoanalysis by a doctor and/or educational assessments from high school. Then, Maggie Harris looks through those documents and uses them to put together an individualized education program and come up with learning plans for those students.

For her first week on the job, she began those processes.

“[The first week of school,] I was meeting with freshmen who need accommodations and talking to them about what accommodations helped them in high school,” she said.

So far, she said, she has been enjoying her time working in OAS and with the students.

Harris praised the staff of OAS, including Hilary Bateman, director of OAS, Liz Shirk, academic resources coordinator, and Andrea Vassar, assitant dean for first year experience and student success.

“I like feeling like a small part of their education and success,” she said. “I’m in support of everything Hilary [Bateman], Liz [Shirk], and Andrea [Vassar] have done so far. It’s such a nice place.”

In the future, Maggie Harris wants to incorporate more community outreach into the OAS. Her goal is to work with local high schools, like Kent and Queen Anne’s County High Schools, to provide more resources for students.

“The transition to college can be a scary thing,” she said. “Providing professional development for high school teachers and more support for high school students in the area could be helpful.”

Programs like these, she said, could also be good for the College.

While working here, she hopes to help get more student organizations off the ground.

“My dream is to help create a support group for disabled students to get connected with others and to be a place where people meet others like them,” she said.

On the whole, she said, she is looking forward to becoming a part of the WC community — a prospect she finds “exciting,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to helping students, forming relationships with them directly, and meeting other faculty and staff,” she said.

To learn more about the Office of Academic Skills, to make an appointment with a tutor, or to request accommodations, visit washcoll.edu/offices/academic-skills.

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