The Opportunity

With more than 30,000 students, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) is the largest public University in New England, a land grant institution, and the flagship of the Massachusetts public higher education system, ranked among the top 30 public universities in the nation and offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The University sits on nearly 1,450-acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts and offers a rich cultural environment in a bucolic setting close to major urban centers. In addition, the University is part of the Five Colleges (including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College), which adds to the intellectual energy of the region.

 

The Position

Position Description

The director of disability services serves as an important advocate in promoting student success. In this capacity, the director has overall responsibility for determining and ensuring campus support services and accommodations required by students with documented disabilities that qualify under federal guidelines. Focus areas of this position include providing advocacy, inclusion, and support for students with disabilities; expertise in the application of and adherence to related compliance requirements and relevant law; assessing impacts of provided services on student learning and overall student success; providing faculty and staff training and educational outreach programs promoting effective best practices for access and inclusion for students with disabilities; and data-informed strategic planning. Undergraduate and graduate students comprise the great majority of clients this department serves; however, the department also supports the coordination of authorized accommodations for university employees in conjunction with the Accessible Workplace unit of Human Resources. The director provides guidance and expertise to campus leadership around disability-related issues, oversees comprehensive accommodation support for about 3,000 students annually, manages a dynamic professional team of 17 professional staff, and oversees a budget of almost $1.3 million.

Reporting to the assistant vice chancellor for advocacy, inclusion, and support programs in Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL), the director will do the following.

  • The director will provide leadership and strategic oversight of Disability Services; assure priorities are clearly articulated, monitored, and assessed; ensure staff function as strong, positive, and collaborative teams; and ensure staff members have the resources and training required to succeed in their work, including management and response to significant campus climate incidents.
  • The director will promote an inclusionary vision to raise campus awareness by reducing systemic barriers to improve disability inclusion and the adoption of universal design as a framework and provide guidance and expertise to campus leadership around disability-related issues.
  • The director will supervise assigned staff and position them to be as successful as possible in their work; complete the timely assessments of job performance; ensure all department staff is trained and kept current with prevailing laws, guidelines, policies, and procedures; and develop and implement competency-informed training and professional development programs for department staff in a highly unionized environment.
  • The director will serve as the senior disability officer for the University who integrates research and evidence-based practice to guide, develop, enhance, and implement a foundational framework for compliance with the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and other related federal and state accessibility regulations.
  • The director will understand responsibilities with respect to Title IX, Clery, and other compliance requirements.
  • The director will work collaboratively with other campus stakeholders to expand inclusionary best disability practices, including intersections of identities (race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc.).
  • The director will oversee the development and implementation of services and programs for students with disabilities and campus stakeholders designed to ensure inclusion and access to education and related opportunities intrinsic to the student experience and to which they are entitled by law; ensure effective coordination of accommodations authorized for students; respond to requests for accommodation, including Deaf Services; and include primary oversight of department services and compliance with all related federal laws and other mandated requirements.
  • The director will collect and utilize appropriate data to inform department operating priorities and implement related action plans consistent with university strategic plans; assess department performance against established goals and objectives; ensure proper documentation, use, and management of associated student records, services, and related matters; and prepare and submit associated reports, as required.
  • The director will allocate assigned financial, human, and space resources to their best and most effective use; monitor service usage and trending needs/data to inform the operational direction and (re)allocation of resources; identify and leverage synergies, collaborative opportunities, and efficiencies to maximize resources; prepare annual budgets informed by compliance requirements and trends; assess the impact and effectiveness of department programs and services; and use results to inform future decisions.
  • The director will provide leadership and support to campus committees such as Architectural Access Board, Thompson Auditoria Study, Digital Accessibility, Information Technology with IDEAS Team, Five College Director’s Meeting, UMass Amherst (system) Disability Services, and Commencement; and create a standing Disability Services advisory board with key stakeholders.

History of the Position

Disability Services has endured several organizational realignments in the last five years. The retirement of a longtime Director of Disability Services shortly preceded a move from the Chancellor’s reporting area to SACL. In 2020, Disability Services shifted from the Campus Life and Wellbeing Collaborative within SACL to the Advocacy Inclusion and Support Programs Collaborative (AISP). AISP emphasizes inclusion and support for students, enhancing services for underrepresented students and creating intersectional partnerships among support programs. In addition, Disability Services has recently engaged in a thoughtful external review and a service blueprinting project in support of a director being named following a national search.

Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Challenges of the Position

The new director will encounter the opportunities and challenges listed below.

  • The new director will work with campus stakeholders to broaden campus understanding of best practices for supporting students with disabilities and related compliance requirements and related resources and serve as campus knowledge expert and liaison on matters related to supporting students with disabilities.
  • The new director will establish a vision and direction for the department with goals, expectations, and priorities that align with the vision and mission of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life and the university’s strategic plan.
  • The new director will educate the UMass Amherst community about the office, its mission, services, and functions, and encourage authentic engagement with faculty, staff, students, and the community.
  • The new director will build an outstanding team through a thorough understanding of each staff member’s position and responsibilities, enhance staff evaluations and professional development opportunities, and create a culture of honest information sharing and solicitation of others’ input.
  • The new director will serve as a campus leader and advocate for diversity and social justice issues, leading with disability as a human characteristic and an intentional effort of intersectionality of other social identities (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation).
  • The new director will work to empower students, helping them to better understand their disabilities and learn how to effectively self-advocate while simultaneously working with campus leadership to address systemic inequities for students with disabilities.
  • The new director will orient Disability Services utilizing the social model of disability while remaining compliant.
  • The new director will effectively collaborate with others in the division and within the broader campus community.
  • The new director will earn the respect of the campus community through accessibility, visibility, transparency, and healthy partnerships.
  • The new director will champion universal design principles and disability identity development.
  • The new director will build and maintain positive working relationships with other programs, offices, student organizations, and departments to support students’ intersecting identities and maximize resources.
  • The new director will create a strong and vibrant data-driven, outcomes-focused, decision-making culture. The staff in Disability Services should be able to speak eloquently and confidently about contributions made to, and the assessment of, university persistence and retention goals, and departmental services and programs.
  • The new director will bring expertise to the design and implementation of policies and procedures in partnership with divisional leadership, impacting students with learning differences. The director will identify gaps in services and work with programs and departments to address the identified gaps to create a more consistently welcoming and inclusive climate.
  • The new director will bring innovative thinking and creative solutions at a challenging time for higher education. The director will evaluate the current mix of services, initiatives, and activities and make recommendations for enrichment or improvement.

Qualifications

Qualifications

The successful candidate will possess a master’s degree in special education, educational psychology, higher education administration, or a related field, along with progressively responsible leadership within a college or university disability services office. Candidates possessing a terminal degree, seven or more years with demonstrated progressive responsibility for serving college students with documented disabilities on a residential campus are highly preferred. Highly developed knowledge of legal frameworks pertaining to accommodations for students with disabilities through prevailing laws and regulations; demonstrated ability to determine reasonable accommodations across the disabilities spectrum; comprehensive knowledge of assessment, accommodation, and intervention techniques involved in working with students with disabilities; and superior oral and written communication skills, coupled with high ability to work effectively with diverse clients, staff and faculty will also be required.

In addition to the above-stated qualifications and characteristics, UMass Amherst stakeholders identified the following characteristics as important for the position (in no particular order).

  • demonstrated commitment to a strong collaborative style and capacity to build bridges between departments, faculty, students, and the community to facilitate open discussions and joint ventures that advance Disability Services initiatives supporting services for students with disabilities;
  • strong personal investment in and passion for students’ well-being and success;
  • an understanding and deep commitment to social justice and demonstrated cultural competence, with a strong belief in the value of diversity in enriching the learning experience and the quality of life on campus;
  • demonstrated experience developing and leading campus-wide dialogue on disability support services, universal design, disability culture, and policy development;
  • ability to effectively review and revamp current policies, procedures, and protocols and create with an equity and inclusion in mind;
  • demonstrated experience educating faculty, students, and the university community on the scope and functions of Disability Services and Universal Design;
  • comfortable with data collection, analysis, data-driven decision making, and the systems and assessment measures that support these processes;
  • experience assessing culture and environments to strategically formulate a new vision and goals for Disability Services;
  • poised, professional, and excited demeanor as the face of Disability Services and to the local community;
  • demonstrated experience effectively supervising, advocating, coaching, and mentoring professional staff and providing staff with meaningful professional development and recognition opportunities to further expand their learning and growth;
  • extensive experience in team building, innovation, budget management, employee development, and strategic planning;
  • a champion of intersectionality and the role students’ many identities play in their development and how they may engage with Disability Services, ensuring staff understands intersectionality and how it is woven throughout the work of the office;
  • an active thought partner engaged with the other Advocacy Inclusion and Support Programs Collaborative (AISP) offices and centers;
  • strong future-thinker and collaborator committed to advancing disability services throughout the AISP collaborative, student affairs, campus life, and the entire campus community;
  • compassionate, accessible, transparent, and ethical leader with excellent communication skills to articulate vision, direction, and purpose and earn respect and confidence of the faculty, staff, and students;
  • superior oral and written communication skills, coupled with a high ability to work effectively with diverse clients, staff, and faculty;
  • excellent problem-solving skills and superb judgment;
  • possess a goal-oriented, data-driven approach to generating measurable outcomes and assessments of services;
  • flexible to adapt to changing circumstances and committed to continuous assessment and process improvement;
  • strong interpersonal skills and executive presence to build and cultivate influential and credible relationships across the organization;
  • ability to translate laws and regulations into practical terms and applications; experience leading change processes in a complex, decentralized environment;
  • strong entrepreneurial spirit with the ability to generate new ideas and see the concept through to implementation;
  • strong background in student development and understanding its importance in disability services and identity development within students’ collegiate experience and student success.
  • appreciation for and knowledge of technological advances and best practices and their utilization at UMass Amherst to further assist students;
  • commitment to integrity, respect, transparency, and honesty in all endeavors; and
  • highly energetic individual with a strong sense of self and ability to appropriately infuse humor and enthusiasm into the workplace and campus community.

Institution & Location

Overview of Disability Services

Disability Services is committed to full access for all persons at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and embraces the philosophy of social justice. The office promotes the empowerment of people with disabilities and their full integration into campus life and the community. Direct services are provided for all types of disability. Disability Services also provides information and referrals on issues of accessibility, coordinates guest accommodations, and provides training and staff development to the university community.

Disability Services is charged with providing equal access. Institutions of higher education must ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same benefits and services within the same time-frames as their non-disabled peers and with substantially equivalent ease of use.

 

Overview of the Division of Student Life

Our Vision

Student Affairs and Campus Life is a nationally recognized team of student affairs educators dedicated to excellence, innovation, and social justice. In partnership with campus colleagues, we contribute to students’ successful educational experience, support an actively engaged and diverse student body, and challenge them to become leaders in their community and the world.

Our Mission

Student Affairs and Campus Life advance the University’s mission by facilitating student learning and development for maximizing academic and personal success. We create a positive, inclusive, and challenging learning environment that encourages self-motivation and fosters leadership development and life skills. Through engagement with our essential services and programs that promote intellectual, physical, and emotional well-being, our students transform their potential to match their highest aspirations.

Our Values

We value a student-centered community where

  • collaboration exists in the spirit of teamwork, learning, and creativity;
  • communication is respectful, open, and continuous;
  • integrity guides our sense of honesty, fairness, and compassion;
  • diversity and inclusion are embedded in our work;
  • innovative processes bring about the advancement of knowledge, personal growth, and sustainable change; and
  • excellence is achieved through best practices, knowledge, and demonstrated expertise.

The Advocacy Inclusion and Support Programs Collaborative

The Advocacy Inclusion and Support Programs Collaborative of Student Affairs and Campus Life is comprised of 11 offices and centers that share the common goals of cultivating community, creating a  sense of belonging, fostering inclusion, and addressing the unique ways in which students’ identities inform their experience at UMASS Amherst. The AISP Collaborative provides a range of services (referrals, resources, support, and advocacy), educational awareness programs, and student development opportunities to affirm identities, build community and cultivate leadership.

Leadership of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life

Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life

Dr. Hephner LaBanc serves as the vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With over 25 years of experience in higher education, LaBanc has served as vice chancellor for student affairs and professor of higher education at the University of Mississippi and held multiple administrative roles at Northern Illinois University, Arizona State University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Baldwin-Wallace College, and The University of Akron. She pursued an accounting degree from The University of Akron prior to graduate study in Higher Education Administration at Kent State University. LaBanc earned her EdD from Northern Illinois University (NIU) as a first-generation professional. She is a NASPA Pillar of the Profession and has been recognized by her graduate institutions for her leadership in higher education.

Dr. Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Advocacy, Inclusion and Support

Dr. Shelly A. Perdomo serves as assistant vice chancellor for the advocacy, inclusion, and support cluster for the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For 19 years, Dr. Perdomo-Ahmed has provided leadership to diversify and enrich students’ university curriculum and co-curricular programming. She has led strategic planning efforts and has effectively translated plans into operational priorities. As an authentic, compassionate leader and educator, Dr. Perdomo-Ahmed has been a catalyst in establishing sustainable collaborative partnerships across the University to support the needs and interests of underrepresented cultural and identity groups.

Perdomo-Ahmed received her Doctorate and Masters degrees in Educational Policy, Research and Administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her Bachelors in Latin American Studies and Cultural Anthropology from Mount Holyoke College.

Institutional Background

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system. With 6,397 faculty and staff members and more than 30,000 students, UMass Amherst is the largest public University in New England and is ranked among the top 30 public universities in the nation.

The University offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in 90 undergraduate and 72 graduate areas of study. UMass Amherst is ranked 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

Other recent accolades include:

  • Rated the 25th most efficient among top-rated national universities in a new U.S. News & World Report ranking category.
  • UMass Amherst is among the 100 Best Values in Public Colleges compiled by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine for a ninth consecutive year.
  • The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the highest-ranking public undergraduate business school in the Northeast, according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2016 Undergraduate Business School Rankings. Climbing three places since the 2014 ranking, Isenberg now ranks 11th among public undergraduate business school programs in the United States.
  • Money magazine ranks UMass Amherst among the nation’s best colleges based on “most bang for the tuition buck.”
  • The University is ranked among the top 200 programs worldwide in 21 academic disciplines, according to the 2017 QS World University Subject Ratings.
  • UMass Amherst is ranked among the top research universities nationwide for its commitment to leadership in sustainability by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

UMass Amherst faculty and staff are top performers in terms of the number of awards and recognitions they receive. UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship public research university, is one of the nation’s top universities for research as measured by national and international rankings, academic citations, and research funding. The campus spends more than $200 million on research each year, demonstrating its contribution to the nation’s position as a technological and economic leader. The University has consistently been named a top producer of Fulbright award winners. Additionally, UMass Amherst engages the community with 359 programs, partnering with 499 organizations in 21 states and involving 86 different campus units. Other notable accomplishments include recognition as a leader in social justice and being one of the first campuses to announce a policy to divest investments in South Africa. UMass Amherst is ranked among the top 10 research universities nationwide for its commitment to leadership in sustainability. The University is also distinguished by its W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies; the Stonewall Center, one of the longest established centers supporting the LGBTQIA community (over 40 years); the Center for Women and Community, supporting victims of violence; and the Office of Disability Services, supporting students with disabilities in maximizing the quality of their university experience.

Institutional Leadership

Kumble R. Subbaswamy, PhD, Chancellor

Kumble R. Subbaswamy became the 30th leader of UMass Amherst on July 1, 2012. He has emerged as a popular and well-regarded chancellor for his pursuit of academic excellence, promotion of research and outreach, and initiatives addressing campus climate, diversity, and culture.

Subbaswamy has overseen the opening of new cutting-edge academic and athletic facilities, including Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, the Integrative Learning Center, the Life Science Laboratories, and the Football Performance Center. He has made sustainability a campus priority and focuses on strengthening community relationships, supporting area communities, and increasing access to the University’s rich academic and research resources.

Championing an open and transparent leadership style, Subbaswamy enacted a comprehensive campus-wide strategic planning process to continue to build on the successes of UMass Amherst in the coming years. As part of fortifying the future, Subbaswamy has played a key role in UMass Rising, a $300 million fundraising campaign, and the most significant in campus history.

Subbaswamy has instituted plans to improve the UMass Amherst educational experience by introducing more opportunities for undergraduate research experiences and integrative and team-based learning and to increase enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds.

Before coming to UMass Amherst, Subbaswamy served since 2006 as provost at the University of Kentucky. A physicist, he joined Kentucky’s faculty in 1978 after serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine. During his first 18 years at the University of Kentucky, he served as associate dean of arts and sciences and as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In other administrative positions, Subbaswamy was dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Miami from 1997 to 2000. Then he left to become dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, serving until 2006, when he moved to Kentucky. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Bangalore University, a Master of Physics from Delhi University, and a PhD in physics from Indiana University. He was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989. His primary research area is the optical properties of novel materials and nonlinear excitations. He has published more than 60 articles and co-authored a book on the local density theory of polarizability.

Benefits Overview

Application & Nomination

Application and Nomination

Review of applications will begin February 4, 2022, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Anne-Marie Kenney at amk@spelmanjohnson.com.  Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the UMass Amherst website at www.umass.edu.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities, protected veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected group members.