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Student Stories

Personal stories from W&M students with disabilities

 Brian Allen
Brian Allen
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Brian Allen

Hometown:

Wyomissing, PA

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Mathematics and Economics

Extracurricular Activities:

Captain of Club Soccer Team; Orientation Aide

Career Aspirations:

I want to live in New York City working in consulting, finance, or biostatistics.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes this summer. Type I diabetes is an auto-immune disease; basically my body starting attacking my pancreas so it no longer produces insulin, which distributes blood sugar throughout your body.  I need to constantly make sure that I have regulated blood sugars.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

With Type I diabetes, you can eat whatever you want.  A lot of people think you have to be restricted and not eat sugar, but the only restriction you have is that you need to know the number of carbohydrates you have eaten in order to add the necessary amount of insulin. It is a bit of a blessing in that I know what every piece of food/drink will do to my body.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

The biggest adjustment the college has provided is adding nutrition facts next to each item of food at the cafeterias. They are trained to put the right portions on your plate, so you can read exactly the number of carbohydrates. They have also added an app called the campusdish, which provides the same information. 

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

My highlights have been my extracurricular activities. I love Orientation. I made a bond with my freshman hall-mates that I have continued to this day, and I was so happy to give back and become an Orientation Aide. With soccer, I have met a great group of guys, and it is always fun to go to practice.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Keep in mind that there are a lot of temptations. Always be hyperaware as a diabetic—you need to regulate constantly and know exactly what you’re putting into your body. Also, make sure your friends know everything about the disease so that they can help you at any time in need.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I have a big affinity for jazz music, and for a couple years, I played jazz piano here.

 Mary Allison
Mary Allison

Mary Allison

Hometown

Northern Virginia

Year of Graduation:

2014

Program of Study:

History, Religious Studies

Extracurricular Activities:

Catholic Campus Ministry Coordinator

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have epilepsy, which is a genetic disorder. There are twenty-six different kinds of epilepsy; I experience petit mal seizures. I was diagnosed when I was 19 years old. Seizure activity can be triggered by stress, low blood sugar, flashing lights, sirens, and many other things. Some of my personal triggers are stress, flashing lights, and waking early in the morning because my brain and my body are going at different speeds. I also get frequent migraines due to the disorder.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

About 1 in 100 people have epilepsy. It’s under diagnosed partly because not everyone has the convulsive seizures that most people think of when they think of epilepsy. When I have a seizure I just stare and it looks like I am daydreaming. There are many kinds of epilepsy and it is important to be aware of that fact.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I am approved for campus housing close to medical access. My professors also are given a protocol so they know how to respond if I have a seizure during class. I may be absent on test days if I have a seizure so occasionally I have permission to reschedule.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I have an amazing group of friends at William & Mary. The Blue Talon is a great place to eat and you get free macaroni and cheese on your birthday!

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Be proactive! You know your disability better than anyone else.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I want to be a museum curator one day. I also want to open a coffee shop here in Williamsburg.

 Leeza Beazlie
Leeza Beazlie
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Leeza Beazlie

Hometown:

Poquoson, VA

Year of Graduation:

2012 - Graduate Student, School of Education

Program of Study:

Education Policy, Planning, and Leadership

Extracurricular Activities:

I am a full-time 8th grade physics and chemistry teacher in York County

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder where my joints have excessive range of motion. 

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

I can pretty much do anything, but sometimes I need to find different ways of doing things - it just may take a little longer to accomplish. 

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I receive extended time for written exams because I have arthritis in my hands.  Additionally, the School of Education is fully handicapped accessible, with convenient handicapped parking spots and an automatic door.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I am from this area in Virginia, so I had visited Williamsburg often in the past, but it is fun to experience the William and Mary campus from a student’s perspective. 

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

You must be proactive and be your own advocate.  Know what services and accommodations you need, and ask for them. 

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I am very involved in Odyssey of the Mind, which is a competitive international student program that involves creative problem solving. 

 Heather Beichner
Heather Beichner

Heather Beichner

Hometown:

Raleigh, NC

Year of Graduation:

2012

Program of Study:

History

Extracurricular Activities:

Track and Cross Country Teams

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I was diagnosed with Lupus in September 2010. Lupus is an auto-immune disorder that makes you feel really tired, makes your hair fall out, makes your joints stiff, and causes rashes. The fatigue was the biggest problem for me because I am a runner and my scholarship is dependent upon my ability to participate in my sport.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Lupus has a wide range of effects. I have a fairly mild case so I am still able to compete in my sport, but Lupus can be so severe that it causes internal organ damage. Sometimes I look fine but actually feel terrible. Being sick is not just about how you look.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I was able to change my schedule when I was exhausted at the beginning of the semester. That reduced my stress a lot and helped me feel better.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I ran a race at a big indoor track in New York recently. I am almost back to running like I was before my diagnosis. My best memories are from being on the track and cross country teams. I really missed not being able to race and train during my junior year, so it’s great to be back for my senior year.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

You have to be patient with yourself. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not recovering as fast as you want to or if you can’t do things as well as before. Even now some of my workouts and races aren’t as good as they could be, but I remain patient with myself, realizing how much I’ve gone through and how much better I am now. You still have to push yourself, but be patient with your rate of progress.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I want to be a nutritionist. After running, and especially running with Lupus, I realize how closely nutrition and what you eat is tied to performance and how your body feels.

 James Bieron
James Bieron
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James Bieron

Hometown:

Springfield, VA

Year of Graduation:

2015

Program of Study:

Computer Science and Mathematics

Career Aspirations:

My dream job is working with Walt Disney Imagineering—that’s been my motivation since high school. Really, I would move to Silicon Valley and work for any tech company.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have dysgraphia which seriously limits my ability to handwrite legibly. I cannot take notes in class for example.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Dysgraphia makes writing extremely uncomfortable. I also cannot focus on anything else while I am writing. When I write something down, I have to go back and read what I wrote, because I cannot even remember what I was writing. Taking notes in class becomes unfeasible because I cannot remember the points made by the professor.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

Professors let me take pictures of the blackboard in class, which is key. It functions well as notes, while allowing me to pay attention in lecture.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

Last semester I took 18 credits, plus graded for two sections for multivariable calculus. Just finishing that semester, and being able to do that was fun.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Do not hesitate to ask for creative accommodations. You have to come up with your own idea, because in the end that is what works best—finding exactly what works for you.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I’m a big Washington Capitals fan.

 Aaron Buncher
Aaron Buncher

Aaron Buncher

Hometown:

Richmond, Virginia

Year of Graduation:

2015

Program of Study:

Environmental Science and Policy, Marketing

Extracurricular Activities:

Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Ballroom Dance Club, Student Environmental Action Coalition

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have Tourette’s syndrome which is a neurobiological disorder that causes me to make movements and do things that I can’t control like twitching, making humming noises, and blowing. I have medication that helps me regulate it. I also have dysgraphia, so I have really bad handwriting.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

People think that everyone with Tourette’s syndrome has coprolalia which is uncontrolled cursing. Coprolalia is a very real problem that some people with Tourette’s do have, but not everyone does. There’s more to Tourette’s syndrome than that. I personally do not have coprolalia. 

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I receive special housing considerations so that I don’t feel embarrassed when I am ticcing, and I test in a separate room so that I don’t feel self-conscious about disturbing other people. I also receive permission to use a computer for tests that require extensive handwriting due to my dysgraphia.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I am a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi which has been really fun. Bonding with the people on my hall has also been fun when we do things like making pancakes for Valentine’s Day. Also, I have loved doing ballroom dance, something I never expected to do in my life.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Don’t be afraid to tell people about your disability. Awareness is the first step to acceptance. If people know more about your disability, it’s easier for them to understand a little about what you’re going through and have empathy.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I’m an ambassador for the Tourette’s Syndrome Association of America. I attended a conference when I was in high school and we went to Capitol Hill and lobbied Senators and Representatives. I have also been able to give presentations in different places to spread awareness. I look up to Tim Howard, the goalkeeper for the US national soccer team. He has Tourette’s, and has done a lot of work for the Tourette’s Syndrome Association of America.

 Katie Conley
Katie Conley
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Katie Conley

Hometown:

Stafford, VA

Graduation Year:  

2016

Program of Study:

Business (hopefully), if not then either Economics or Government

Extracurricular Activities:

International Relations Club (Model UN) and Alpha Kappa Psi

Career Aspirations:

I would like to work in Business Law

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability:

I have Type 1 Diabetes, which affects my insulin levels.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

A person with diabetes can still do everything others can, however they just might need to do it differently.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I have air conditioning in my dorm room and register for classes early.  Disability Services contacts my professors so they are aware of the situation.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I love the points during the year when the whole campus community comes together like at the Yule Log Ceremony and Charter Day.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

The people close to you need to know about your condition.  The more comfortable you are with discussing Diabetes and sharing how it affects you, the less stressful your life will be.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I was accepted to the College of William and Mary on my birthday; it was the best birthday present ever!

 Anne Dutilh
Anne Dutilh
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Anne Dutilh

Hometown:

Falls Church, VA

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Psychology

Extracurricular Activities:

AMP-music committee and Pi Beta Phi

Career Aspirations:

I think that I eventually want to work as a clinical psychologist with adolescents.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have Lyme Disease, which manifests itself through muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, arthritis, and neurocognitive decline.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Lyme Disease is serious and can have major effects on one’s life.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I have been granted extensions when necessary.  Disability Services has helped inform my professors, and I have felt so much support from the campus community.  For the time being, this is being treated as a temporary disability.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I loved doing the philanthropy events with my sorority.  I also love the traditions on campus.  I was able to go on two service trips to Honduras through the school through the service program “Students Helping Honduras”.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Be persistent in seeking a diagnosis.  It took a lot of doctors to figure out what my diagnosis was, and now I am able to move forward. Additionally, create a support network and seek out other students in similar situations.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I am a dual citizen with the United States and the Netherlands.  I can also sing “Happy Birthday” in four different languages.

 Steffi Fitter
Steffi Fitter

Steffi Fitter

Hometown:

Middleburg, Virginia

Year of Graduation:

2012

Program of Study:

Masters of Accounting (MAcc)

Extracurricular Activities:

Tennis, equestrian, Philanthropy Chair of the MAcc program

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have dyslexia, so I read really slowly. It wasn’t diagnosed until my sophomore year of high school when my chemistry teacher, who had dyslexia, noticed how I was taking tests and suggested that I be evaluated.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Dyslexia can be hard to deal with sometimes because I have tons of reading. I get frustrated sometimes when people don’t understand my time accommodation. My accommodation is just helping me to compete fairly.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I get more time to complete exams. All of the professors are really nice and accommodating.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I was really involved as an undergraduate student at William & Mary. I went on some really cool service trips to Peru and Romania, and I went to Southeast Asia with the Business School.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Work with Disability Services. They help so much.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I’m a twin. I’ve also been to 6 continents.

 Michael Funk
Michael Funk
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Michael Funk

Hometown:

Madison, Wisconsin

Year in school:

Graduate Student

Program of Study:

I am in the Applied Science Ph.D. program studying Nanotechnology with a focus in researching electrochemical energy storage.

Career Information:

I currently work at NASA Langley Research Center in the research and development of Supercapacitor materials and electrodes. Part of my research is working to make a better battery. Prior to coming to Virginia, I worked and studied at Arizona State University.  I have worked extensively on electron microscopy and semi-conductors.  A highlight of my career was helping to found the Creative Humanics Laboratory, also known as the SISO Smackdown. I love getting my hands dirty and working in the lab.  The rewards that come with it are great, but it is all about the love of inventing and creating.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have a learning disability. This becomes even more prevalent when I get stressed.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

It is my experience that people who have to work to overcome a learning disability tend to work diligently and perhaps work harder than those who don’t have the same struggles.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I receive extra time on exams and use a live scribe pen.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I loved being able to attend the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM.  

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Seek out help because the rewards are great.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I am a patent owner on the process for manufacturing advanced grease.  I was also present for the last shuttle launch of Atlantis.

 Kobie Gordon
Kobie Gordon
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Kobie Gordon

Hometown:

Fairfax Station, VA

Year of Graduation:

2012

Program of Study:

International Public Health with a Minor in Biochemistry

Extracurricular Activities: 

Freshman and Sophomore Class President, Undersecretary of Disabilities for the Student Assembly, member of Phi Sigma Pi (National Honor Fraternity), Vice President of Programming for Sigma Phi Epsilon (Social Fraternity), member of Health Careers Club, assistant soccer coach at Matoaka Elementary School

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I was born with severe and profound hearing loss.  I didn’t get hearing aids until I was three.  For some reason, I was able to say “mom” and “dad” so they thought I was fine, just quiet.  When I got to school, the teachers tried to call my name and I didn’t respond; that’s when they knew I had hearing loss.  The doctors performed a lot of tests and I was fitted for hearing aids.  I was put in special education classes, but was moved to regular classes within a year.  I am on my fourth pair of hearing aids right now.  I rely on reading lips for the most part, but I can still hear people, and I sit in the front of classes all the time.  I enjoy playing music.  I played the saxophone, and I was a drum major for two years.  I think that seeing what people can do makes me want to try new things.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I can request copies of notes from classmates (or professors, if they have them).  

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

Last winter break, I went on a medical and dental service trip to Nicaragua for two weeks, which reinforced my desire to be a dentist.  I really became more interested in public health by going on that trip.  It’s not something you think about every day so it was definitely a life changing experience.  My main goal is to be an orthodontist but at the same time I want to continue to go on dental service trips, maybe a week here and there.  Providing service is something I’m really passionate about, and it’s not something that a lot of dentists do.  I got to extract five teeth on the trip, so it was really exciting.   Another highlight has been joining Phi Sigma Pi.  I made a lot of friends through that and it’s really enhanced my time at William and Mary.  I’ve formed a lot of great relationships. 

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Definitely be an advocate for yourself.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to a professor or an administrator.  A college education is so important that you can’t just sit back and be passive.  You have to take advantage of the education you get here and get the most out of it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it yourself, there are other people out there to help.  Don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself. 

I’m an uncle of seven nephews, five nieces, and one grand-nephew.  I’m going to South Korea to study in Spring, 2011.  I’ve been to Europe before but I kind of wanted something different, a language I didn’t know, to jump into a culture.  I’m really excited about that.   I’m going to try to take two public health classes and a South Korean culture class.  I know a little bit of the Korean alphabet, but hopefully once I’m over there I’ll pick it up.  The campus is an international campus, but off campus should be interesting.  I like to play soccer.  I’ve been playing since I was six years old.  I speak Spanish.  I think my main hobby is travelling.  It’s something I love doing, and I’ve been all over the place.  I like going to different countries and trying the food.  My biggest trip was in high school when I went to Greece, Italy, and France with People to People Student Ambassadors.  There were about forty of us and we were there for three weeks. 

 Jena Gray
Jena Gray
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Jena Gray

Hometown

Ashland, VA

Anticipated Year of Graduation:  

2016

Program of Study:

Environmental Science and Policy paired with either Hispanic Studies or Sociology

Career Aspirations:

I’m very interested in changing the food industry, specifically within the US, but I’d also love to get in on the environmental movement within Latin America.

Extracurricular Activities:

SEAC (Student Environmental Action Coalition), Tribe Fellowship, Bible study

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disorder:

I have a genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s a connective tissue disorder with many different types. I have the hypermobility type which means my joints bend further than they should. This wouldn’t be a big problem but I also have chronic pain within these joints which varies day by day, based on activity, weather, repetitive motions, as well as trivial things. I cannot sit or stand for long periods of time and it is hard for me to handwrite or type long essays. Despite these minor set-backs I have remained positive, active, and determined to not let this disorder get the best of me. I’ve learned the warning signs for my body and know what is best for my body.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your condition?

My pain constantly fluctuates—one moment I could be perfectly fine and the next I could need to sit down immediately. Also, just because someone does not look like they have a disability does not make the disability any less real. I don’t see myself as limited but rather someone who looks for different avenues to express my interests and passions: I'm not held back but rather pushed to expand my options and outlooks.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disorder?

My professors and Disability Services have been so understanding and patient. I’ve been granted priority registration so I can have enough time to get from class to class. I also have housing that is centrally located with wheelchair access. Accommodations like that have changed my experience.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I’ve really enjoyed Tribe Fellowship and getting to know amazing, encouraging people through the club. I also led the first student-led waterway cleanup of the Crim Dell. It was a big success—we retrieved two huge bags each of trash and recyclables as well as random items such as a bike, safety cones, a tarp and many others. I am leading another cleanup co-sponsored by SEAC, James River Association, and W&M Law School’s Environmental Law Society which will encompass the Crim Dell, College Woods and Grim Dell in March.

What advice would you give to students with similar disorders/conditions?

Learn what your body can and can’t handle, and don’t hurt yourself due to pride.  It’s better to risk letting someone know you have a disorder than let your body suffer and pay the consequences. Also, don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. It may be a long detour, but if you stick with it you will end up getting to your destination and achieving your passions and dreams. I believe that each one of us was made exactly how God intended. We can allow our condition to limit us or we can use it to build ourselves into stronger people and examples for others. Remember that “even if this world has a troubled time seeing it, know that God created you wonderful in His sight and perfected through His Son. So dwell on the fact that God made no mistake when He designed you.” [Psalm 139: 13-16]

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I’m a tea fanatic. I love Central America and hope to travel there one day!

 Brock Johnson
Brock Johnson
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Brock Johnson

Hometown:

Christiansburg, VA

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Government and Religious Studies

Extracurricular Activities:

Americans for Informed Democracy, Ruritan (service organization), Oxfam International

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I am blind in my right eye and hearing impaired in my right ear as a result of cancer treatment I received as a child.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

I am not limited in my ability to enjoy life or to engage in activities.  I am just like others, and my disability doesn’t undermine my goals.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I have extended time on exams and readings, and I have access to large print materials.  I can also take reasonable breaks during class activities and in-class exams.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I have really enjoyed meeting new people here because everyone brings new perspectives, life stories, and cultures that allow you to learn and grow.  Some other highlights include William and Mary football games, seeing prominent guest speakers on campus, and attending campus activities like Convocation and Yule Log.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Disability does not mean an inability or that one can’t do something, it simply means one has to adjust and adapt to circumstances.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

The first time I voted was in the historic presidential election for President Barack Obama.

 Jonathon Marioneaux
Jonathon Marioneaux
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Jonathon Marioneaux

Hometown:

Williamsburg, VA

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Biology

Extracurricular Activities:

Co-founder of Vision, the Public Health Club; Biology Club; Ruritan Club

Career Aspirations:

I would like to work in the Department of Defense’s public health field.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I had an arterial venal malformation in the right side part of my cerebral lobe in my brain. In 2004 I had brain surgery to remove a fist-sized chunk of my brain. As a result, I have titanium plates in my skull and have a lot of trouble with foreign language and language-based work.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

This is a very rare condition that required extensive surgery.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I have been permitted to take a five week Spanish course over the summer which is structured to emphasize my strength in speaking rather than writing a foreign language.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I am currently helping draft the College’s emergency response plan in the event of anthrax, pandemic flu, or nuclear disaster. I’m the first student in 320 years to do that. I also do research with Dr. Cristol. I highly recommend that anyone studying science to get involved in research.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Work closely with the appropriate medical professionals and with Disability Services.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I work 3 jobs, take 19 credits, and do research.

 Blakely Mulder
Blakely Mulder

Blakely Mulder

Hometown:

Basking Ridge, NJ

Year of Graduation:

2014

Program of Study:

Psychology and English

Extracurricular Activities:

Ballroom Dance Club, Canterbury  Association

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have a learning disability.  My processing speed is slow, and I have an unusual pencil grip which means that it takes me twice as long to complete certain activities.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

I want people to know that learning disabilities are real.  In order to have a diagnosis of a learning disability, one must be of at least average intelligence, and many are above that. However, just because people with disabilities are at William & Mary, that doesn’t mean that our disabilities are beyond us. Many of my friends are surprised to find out that I have a disability because they know I'm intelligent and they can't tell that anything's "wrong" with me, or they think that they couldn't possibly be friends with someone who has a disability. That just isn't true. Disabilities come in a variety of forms, and some are more noticeable than others, but all types of disabilities exist on this campus and people interact with students who have disabilities on a daily basis whether they realize it or not.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I can type class notes on a laptop, even in classes that don’t normally allow laptops.  I can also use a computer to type responses on tests that require extensive written output, or I can hand write my exams with an extra time allowance.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I really enjoy the conversations I have with friends, professors, and classmates alike. Conversations are always intellectually stimulating, and it's amazing how, even on a weekend night, people are more than willing to discuss philosophy or literature. Most of my favorite moments are those sporadic conversations. I also love dancing with my friends in the Ballroom Dance Club, especially the dancing we do on the Sadler Center terrace in the springtime.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Don’t be afraid to seek out help.  Before I came to college, my mom used to take care of a lot of my disability accommodation issues.  Now that I am here at college I do it myself, so I have learned to become more proactive and self-reliant.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I was in the movie Kinsey, with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.  I played their daughter at age 10, although I am only in the movie for a few seconds, so you have to pay attention!

 Taylor Nickels
Taylor Nickels

Taylor Nickels

Hometown:

Washington, DC

Year of Graduation:  

2014

Program of Study:

History 

Extracurricular Activities:

Sousaphone in the Pep Band, Student Marketing Association

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was about 10 years old. I take medications to help me concentrate and be more attentive. I also have high-functioning autism. I have a hard time communicating and developing relationships. I think it is important to network with people and make connections, but it can be hard.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

The days can seem really long and drawn out. It takes me a long time to do homework and prepare for exams because I get sidetracked.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

Sometimes I get more time for exams and take exams in a separate room.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I like that the campus is its own little niche and not in an overwhelming urban area. Williamsburg is a quaint town.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Prepare for things like exams in advance. Meet with your professors if you are having trouble understanding things in class. Take initiative on assignments and don’t forget about them. For people who have difficulty communicating and networking, the Career Center can be helpful. Student Happenings emails are also a good way to know about social events going on around campus.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I have been to 2 Super Bowls: 2003 Buccaneers v Raiders and 2005 Patriots v Eagles. I saw David Spade in Boston one time. I have been playing the piano since I was 7 years old and the tuba since I was 9 years old.

 Katherine Oliver
Katherine Oliver
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Katherine Oliver

Hometown:

Anchorage, Alaska

Year of Graduation:

2016

Program of Study:

I anticipate majoring in Chinese.

Extracurricular Activities:

I am the director of the Ruritan Club.  I do plays with Shakespeare in the Dark.  I am also a Sharpe Scholar and therefore involved in the Office of Community Engagement and their Sustainability efforts.

Career Aspirations:

Not sure yet.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have a 6cm x 8cm arachnoid cyst in my front brain.  It causes pressure on my brain tissue, and has resulted in some atrophy and slowed processing speed.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Not everybody who has a disability appears as though they have one.  I get frustrated when people assume that I am lazy. I work very hard at my school work, and just because I am not visibly disabled does not mean that I do not have struggles in completing the demanding course load here at William and Mary.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I receive more time on tests, and I use audiobooks.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I love being a part of the Sharpe scholar program; most of us live in the same dorm and we take certain freshman seminars together.  I love how it enables me to be involved in the community.  I also love that I was able to organically discover where my passions lie.  I came to William and Mary thinking that I would study neuroscience, but I fell in love with the Chinese department.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Find out through testing the extent to which your disability manifests itself. Be open with your friends, and try to feel comfortable discussing your disability and what it means.  I have found that as a general rule people are very open and caring if you are just honest.  Keep an open line of communication with your professors.  The professors here at William and Mary are very accommodating, but you must first let them know exactly what struggles you are having.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I like to sing opera, play violin, and ballroom dance.

 Naomi Parr
Naomi Parr
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Naomi Parr

Hometown:

Alexandria, VA

Year of Graduation:

2015

Program of Study:

Biology, with a Public Health minor

Extracurricular Activities:

Ukulele Club, Public Health Club (founder)

Career Aspirations:

To get a Masters in Public Health (MPH) and work in a government public health department.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

My condition mostly affects my nutrition. I have a very restrictive diet. I cannot eat beans, nuts, certain fruits and vegetables and certain oils. I have trouble getting proper nutrition, and when I do not do well with my diet I can get really sick.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

It's an "invisible" illness - a chronic disorder that is not readily apparent to every observer.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?
Disability Services notified my professors when I got sick my first semester to make sure my academics were not affected.  Dining Services introduced me to all the chefs at the various dining locations and they let me know I could ask for anything. There are a lot of options for people with specialty diets. They have also adopted a habit of posting placards that state what is in different foods entrees.
 
Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I love the ukulele club. My friends are wonderful, and we go different on-campus events together like concerts and the petting zoo, which comes once a year. I also have a wonderful and supportive roommate and whenever I am not feeling well she’s there for me.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Take care of yourself. Leave time for yourself to eat and sleep. Don’t let the stress get to you. If you ever get overwhelmed, the Counseling center is amazing, and your friends are also there for you.  Disability Services will do everything they can to work assist you.  Also, always give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know what adversity they face, and if you do, they'll likely do the same for you.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I love squirrels.

 Lucas Pickett
Lucas Pickett

Lucas Pickett

Hometown:

Blacksburg, Virginia

Year of Graduation:

2014

Program of Study:

Hispanic Studies, Linguistics

Extracurricular Activities:

I’m in Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity that does service around the area. I also used to be involved in the Heavy Metal Club and was in a band that’s currently on a hiatus.

Career Aspirations:

I’d ideally like to work in Washington D.C., maybe in foreign service. My lofty career goals include working with the Organization of American States. I also think it would be cool to document a lot of the indigenous languages still spoken.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability:

I have Asperger’s  syndrome, which is a mild form of autism. It includes an inability to read social cues and a desire for a lot of structure so it overlaps with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to a certain degree. I have a hard time making structure for myself. It is difficult to motivate myself, and it feels hard for me to work when no one else is looking or expecting me to work.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

From my own experience, I know that people on the autistic spectrum feel very overwhelmed by the vibrancy and energy of college campuses, and the internet is a very safe place from that chaos. As a result, I have a feeling that other people of my disorder often have addiction-like symptoms of internet usage.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I really have no desire to be accommodated, as my diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome is not something that I wear as a badge of pride any longer. I wish to be a regular member of this college and accommodations, in my current opinion, would be detrimental to achieving normalcy. Accommodations would support my disorder instead of pushing me to adapt and conform to a more effective thought process for productive time at this institution.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

As a freshman, I took a trip over fall break to the Great Smoky Mountains. Additionally, the close friends that I’ve made here have been great and can really lift my mood.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Look for your own internal motivation for what you wish to do. Find people to keep in touch with who will help maintain your balance.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

Despite anxiety I have about doing well in classes and how I compare to other people, I don’t get anxious on stage, and I love doing karaoke.

 Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith

Elizabeth Smith

Hometown:

Charlottesville, VA

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Neuroscience with a Minor in Religion

Extracurricular Activities:

Common Ground Acappella, Pi Beta Phi (sorority), William and Mary Medical Relief,  Greek Intervarsity, and Tribe Fellowship

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

Due to an issue my eyes have with aligning on the same point, my eyes have to work extra hard to take in what I read.  This extra work makes it then difficult to process once it has been read. Often this means reading something over and over before I fully think about what I am reading. In addition, my general rate of processing information from all sources, not just reading, is significantly slower.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

It is important to understand that the extended time accommodation is getting extra free time on exams. When you consider the slower processing speed, the time constraints equal out in the end. Additionally, it is nice for people to recognize that learning disabilities, while accommodated for in testing, are not accommodated for in homework or studying. So, performing well in school is a massive time commitment and I may not be able to take on as many other responsibilities. 

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability? 

I am allowed extended time on exams, but there is no getting around studying!

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I have been able to be involved in a very wide variety of activities here at W&M. From the rowing team to a cappella, my sorority, and the medical service group (WMMR) that I am a part of, I have gotten to experience diverse types of communities here on campus. It now being my senior year, I am especially grateful for a time in my life where I can work with and have fun through so many different activities and outlets. William & Mary is a perfect place to take advantage of being a truly well-rounded individual.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Know when you need to be "different". It took me about half my time here at William and Mary to realize I really needed to accommodate for myself, not just be given the testing accommodations. For me this meant quitting the rowing team, a decision that, while hard to make, turned out to be the best for both my courses and my mentality. It is important to plan ahead for how much time you need to do a task...then add an hour! Also, it is SO important to inform your professors early before exams so that there is no confusion with accomidationis. They will appreciate it and remember you for it!

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

My yearly trip to Nicaragua through William and Mary Medical Relief has been an amazing experience to confirm my desires of becoming a doctor. Through this I have had the opportunity to really play the role of a doctor to hundreds of people--even learning sutures and giving injections! Lastly, my biggest goal (other than medical school...) is to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail. I love all things outdoors and it seems like an amazing thing to accomplish.

 Blaise Springfield
Blaise Springfield
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Blaise Springfield

Hometown:

Gainesville, FL

Year of Graduation:

2013

Program of Study:

Neuroscience

Extracurricular Activities:

President of the Student Ethical Fashion Organization, Sharpe Community Scholar, TA in the Sharpe  Community Scholar freshman seminar class, Phi Sigma Pi (national honor fraternity), National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Eta Sigma, and the Committee on Sustainability

Please tell us a little bit about your disability.

 I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Dyslexia in sixth grade.  I have always been a good student and somehow managed to cope despite this challenge.  However, after I was diagnosed I began LiPS training, which is a program designed to correct dyslexia.  While I didn’t notice much of a difference, my parents noticed a clear improvement in my handwriting.  I was given extended time on exams during middle school and high school, and before I came to William & Mary I was re-evaluated and re-diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

I think ADHD and Dyslexia are sometimes misunderstood.  There can be a tendency for students to be jealous over the extended time that is allotted for students with these disabilities.  It is important for people to realize that these are real disabilities, and that it may take me three times as long as another student to read the same assignment.  I am not resentful, though, and I don’t think there is anything embarrassing about my condition.  It is a part of who I am, and I accept that.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I am allotted extended time on exams, and can take exams in a quiet setting.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

Being a member of the Sharpe Community Scholars program has been extremely rewarding.  One of the reasons for this is that we all live together, so we have formed a very tight-knit community.   It is really nice to have a family away from home, and that is exactly what it feels like being a part of the Sharpe Community Scholars program. 

My involvement in the Sharpe program has allowed me to focus on environmental and labor issues, particularly related to sweatshops.  I have worked to implement a community engagement program where we prepared a research report on university apparel.  This research program was the springboard for the William and Mary Provost’s Committee on Licensing Code of Conduct which set environmental and labor standards for all of the College’s vendors.  To see my work evolve into something that actually impacted the College in such a positive way was extremely rewarding.  

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Become involved in organizations that interest you, and seek the help that is available to you, because it will help you succeed.  Be cognizant of time-management, and don’t get discouraged if you realize you need to do more than others sometimes.  Be sure to stay motivated. 

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I am hyper-organized.  I believe that everything has its place, and will sometimes get out of bed to fix something if it isn’t where it should be.  If things are unorganized, I get anxious!

 Chantelle Tait
Chantelle Tait
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Chantelle Tait

Hometown:

Clifton, VA

Year of Graduation:

2016

Program of Study:

International Relations and Economics

Extracurricular Activities:

I am a senator in the Student Assembly.  I am also in Alpha Phi Omega, Lafayette Kids, and the Student Leadership Foundation.  Additionally, I am both a Sharpe Scholar and Monroe Scholar.

Career Aspirations:

I would love to work in international development, specifically in the social justice field.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your condition.

I am deaf in my right ear, have scoliosis in my neck, and I only have one lung.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your condition?

There are a lot of unseen conditions and disabilities, and that’s true for everyone on many different levels.  Curiosity is okay; it’s okay to ask questions. And it’s always important to remember that there’s a lot more to a person that what you can see.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your condition?

I have been able to get priority housing so I can ensure the dorm room fits my needs, and I have been able to register for classes early.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I was able to have a random two hour conversation with my hallmates in the laundry room about all the hot-button issues of the day, and that’s what I love about this school - nearly everyone I know is comfortable with discussing deep topics, and really wants to.

What advice would you give to students with similar conditions?

Always look for a way to see the positives - it could definitely be much worse. Also, don’t allow your condition to ostracize you. It’s easy to victimize yourself, and to sit back and say, “Well, people sometimes look at me weird and treat me different, so I’m just not going to try.” Be outgoing and let your personality shine through, and you will make friends who like you for who you are.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I am double-jointed in my left shoulder. I just found that out recently.

 Danielle Thomas
Danielle Thomas
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Danielle Thomas

Hometown:

Suffolk, VA

Year of Graduation:

2014

Program of Study:

Psychology

Extracurricular Activities:

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, (hospitality team and creative worship team), Neurodiversity Working Group

Career Aspirations:

I want to study autism and Asperger’s Disorder.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have ADHD and Asperger’s.  ADHD makes focusing difficult and makes me very fidgety.  The Asperger’s can make transitions difficult; I like structure and stability.  It also means that I take a little longer to process things and sarcasm is hard to pick up.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

ADHD is a real diagnosis.  People with Asperger’s are one of the world’s greatest resources.  Many of the great minds in math and science have had Asperger’s.   

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I am able to have extra time on tests.  Having letters from Disability Services has helped give me an excuse to talk to my professors about needed accommodations.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I love being a part of Intervarsity Fellowship.  I joined the first week I was on campus, and immediately felt as though I found a group I fit with.  I also enjoy the Neurodiversity working group that I am a part of because it involves both faculty and students. Additionally, I love the tribe pride on campus and how you will always see someone you know when walking on campus.  I also went to a basketball game here, and discovered that I love watching the sport. 

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Don’t be afraid to talk about it: talk to your friends and professors openly.  Get involved right away when you come to campus so that you find a place where you fit.  Also, make sure you find a space on campus where you can go to relax.  Find ways to make yourself accountable for your school work. 

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I enjoy William and Mary because it is definitely the best school for Harry Potter fans!

 Charles Trachta
Charles Trachta
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Charles Trachta

Hometown:

Charlottesville, VA

Graduation Year:

2013

Program of Study:

Psychology, studying Behavioral Ecology

Career Aspirations:

I want to work in either field research or education outreach in marine science.

Extracurricular Activities:

Co-president of SCUBA, Swim Club, and Tae-Kwon Do club member

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

I have ADHD in addition to a writing-related Learning Disability. The ADHD can make me focus on too many things at once or make it difficult to focus on any one thing. I have been learning to step back and deal with the sensory overload ADHD can cause. The writing learning disability means that it takes longer to get my thoughts out on paper; things can get bottlenecked inside my head. I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking software while writing papers because I find it easier to communicate verbally.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

ADHD is part of a spectrum, so not everybody with this diagnosis is the same. I have found ways to use ADHD to my advantage. When I am coaching a swim team or working with animals, my ADHD helps me keep track of a lot of things at once. I will not get bogged down by focusing on one swimmer or animal, so I am constantly aware of everything that is going on around me. I would not say that ADHD is a disability as much as it is just a part of who I am.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

I receive more time on exams that require extensive writing.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I met my amazing girlfriend freshman year and we have been dating ever since. Also, I have met other great people here.

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Do not be afraid to talk to your professors because most are really understanding. Talking about your disability or condition is important because when things aren’t talked about they can become misunderstood and stigmatized. Additionally, William and Mary can be a tough school: accept the challenges and learn to grow from them. Learn how you study by experimenting with different study strategies and locations.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I once was almost attacked by a sea lion! Additionally, I love coaching swimming. I have coached young kids for the past five year and have worked with swimmers for the Special Olympics.

 Ryan Walters
Ryan Walters
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Ryan Walters

Hometown:

Rye, New Hampshire

Year of Graduation:

2015

Program of Study:

Business

Extracurricular Activities:

Sigma Pi, Student Marketing Association

Career Aspirations:

Maybe business administration.

To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us a little bit about your disability.

After an injury 10 months ago, I lost my hearing and am classified as a T-10 paraplegic which is a complete injury (no function below the level of injury). I have bilateral cochlear implants to help with the hearing loss, and the paraplegia confines me to a wheelchair.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your disability?

Spinal cord injury is not just what it seems. It is not just about immobility; there are a lot of other tasks that come along with it that make the day a little bit harder.  People with spinal cord injuries are amazing people and have great stories to share. There is a lot more beyond just what you see when you look at a person in a wheelchair—lots of stories, lots of hardships, lots of adventures and good times, too.

What adjustments does the College make to help diminish the effects of your disability?

The College has helped me find accessible housing, determining the best paths to get around campus, and where to sit during classes for my hearing.

Describe some of the highlights of your time here at William & Mary.

I enjoyed bonding with my pledge class during freshman year. One of my most memorable times was showing up at President Revely’s office and getting a picture with my whole pledge class and him.  Other good times include studying in Swem Library (It’s a social spot on campus), my first class in the Business School, meetings with guest speakers, like a CBS spokesperson talking about sports marketing, and a Third Eye Blind concert freshman year. 

What advice would you give to students with similar disabilities?

Meet with Disability Services.  Go around campus as much as possible to determine how to coordinate your daily activities.  Do not be afraid to speak up to a professor and meet with them outside of class; they are definitely willing to help.

Tell us some interesting/fun facts about yourself.

I have gone skydiving, and I have lived within 5 minutes of the ocean my entire life, in 3 different states. I was Student Body President of my High School and class president both my Sophomore and Junior years.