BY MOLLY ADAMSON
In recent years, Drake University has seen an up tick in the number of students coming to the school who have disabilities. Michelle Laughlin is the Student Disability Services Coordinator, whose job is to help out those with disabilities. Laughlin is the only coordinator, but that is about to change.
“I’m looking forward to having someone on the same team,” Laughlin said. “I’ve been doing this on my own for a long time, and while everything was getting done, there’s been some extra things that I’ve wanted to do. So now, to have someone else who can share that vision is exciting for me.”
Leah Berte will be taking on the new position of Coordinator for Student Support Case Management.
“With the new position, I am most excited to help out students who may have fallen through the cracks or need extra resources to be successful here at Drake,” Berte said.
Berte previously worked in the Disability Services Office and as an academic advisor at Iowa State University so she is experienced.
“I really enjoyed working in those roles … being able to help students and to get them to the right resources,” Berte said. “This job was a great combination of getting to work with the disabilities office again and also with other students who might not have an affiliation with any other office on campus. I was excited to come to a smaller campus and have a bigger impact.”
Berte and Laughlin will be splitting the responsibility of taking care of the students with disabilities.
Berte will work with returning students. Laughlin will take the new students who will be coming to campus.
Berte will also be in charge of alternative testing, making sure all students are comfortable with their testing environments and making accommodations for them in that area.
Along with her work with students with disabilities, Berte will be in charge of case management. This means that she will often be coordinating outside resources for students who may need them.
Melissa Sturm-Smith, the Associate Provost for Academic Excellence and Student Success, helped in the search for someone to fill the new role.
“When you start referring a student to multiple resources, it’s important to have a touch point for all of those resources so that they’re talking to one another,” Sturm-Smith said.
The university hopes that having Berte in this role will make things smoother for students. Before, professors and deans of the colleges would often step in to help students. This will ease that burden.
Laughlin has given Berte advice on how to handle her new role since it encompasses so many things.
“I’ve already talked to her about how, even though this is an important role in making sure students get the best, we’re still human too,” Laughlin said. “Just enjoy it, enjoy getting to meet the students and getting to know them. My advice to her would be to enjoy Drake for what it is.”