SRU names new Office of Disability Services director
Slippery Rock University’s Office of Disability Services is under new leadership with the hiring of Natalie Burick as director. The ODS provides services to nearly 700 SRU students who are registered as having a disability.
March 8, 2018
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When Natalie Burick moved into her new job as Slippery Rock University's director of disability services, she didn't have to travel far. The Office of Disability Services is located in the University Union, directly across a parking lot from Watson Hall, where Burick previously served as the University's assistant director for housing and accommodations in the Office of Housing and Residence Life.
But the same route to work is not the only familiar path for Burick. She's spent her entire career helping people with disabilities find their way.
"Throughout my career I've always worked in some way, shape or form with individuals with disabilities," said Burick, who started her new role March 5. "It's nice to be able to see students with disabilities be successful on this campus because there was probably a time in their lives when they thought, 'Maybe I wouldn't be able to go to college because (of a disability).' It's nice to be able to help continue their success at the University."
Burick earned her bachelor's degree from SRU in 2009, majoring in special education with a concentration in community programming for Americans with disabilities. She also earned a master's of education in school counseling from SRU in 2011.
She has experience as a counselor and an outpatient therapist, but for the last six years worked in residence life at SRU where, among other responsibilities, she made student housing assignments, ensuring that they were placed according to their needs.
Burick will continue to connect students with appropriate accommodations in her new role. The ODS advocates for nearly 700 students, about 7 percent of the student population, who are registered as having a disability, whether it is a developmental disability, such as autism; a physical disability, like a visual impairment; or a mental disability, including post-traumatic stress disorders.
The ODS staff consists of three full-time professionals, two graduate assistants and nine student workers. Examples of services include providing workspaces, assistive technologies, extended test-taking time and one-on-one coaching for students on the autism spectrum.
"Natalie brings knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm to the position," said David Wilmes, associate provost for student success. "We were specifically looking for someone who is going to take the office to the next level. In the past year, we have seen the office grow from one that simply provides classroom accommodations into one that provides a wide range of services for our students with disabilities."
SRU recently received a $5,000 grant from Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education through the Pennsylvania Department of Education to pilot to a program to support SRU students on the autism spectrum. Five SRU students on the autism spectrum are enrolled in the program, which is modeled after the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Project AACHIEVE, a transition program offered for high school and college students on the autism spectrum to improve their retention and successful completion of the higher education experience.
"There are far more students on the autism spectrum attending the University than ever before," said Burick, noting that students in the K-12 schools are required to have individualized education programs, which spell out the services public schools provide and how progress is measured, but colleges rely only on self-reporting and self-referrals.
Colleges are required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide necessary adjustments in order to provide the same quality of education as received by students who are not disabled.
"We certainly want to help our students with disabilities succeed in the classroom, but we also want them to succeed in life," Wilmes said. "The plan is to add more comprehensive services that will prepare our students for professional life after graduation. Natalie was the perfect person to lead those efforts."
Burick's immediate goals as she assumes the leadership of the ODS are to communicate with faculty how the office functions to support students with disabilities, to remove any stigmas associated with students being registered with a disability and to learn Accommodate, the new software used to streamline the office's referrals and services.
For more information about the ODS, contact 724.738.4877 or visit http://www.sru.edu/academics/academic-services/services-for-students-with-disabilities.
MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | firstname.lastname@example.org