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New director of SSD appointed

Mills College Weekly

Jess Miller has been appointed program director of Services for Students with Disabilities after a 9-month-long period without a director.

Miller brings a slew of skills, assets and experiences to the program, according to Dean of Students Joanna Iwata.

Iwata, who was on the search committee for a new program director, said that due to a greater need for services for disabled students, the position was “upgraded” from a part-time job of 10-months to a 12-month, full-time job. Iwata said that the need for these services has grown 50 percent this year.

Miller said her primary goal is to “raise visibility of the program on campus so that every student who may need our services knows of our program.”

She said that she would achieve this goal through the accomplishment of smaller supporting goals, “This includes helping faculty to become aware of how we function and how to assist students.”

Another step Miller plans to take is to create a solid presence for SSD during orientation, so that new students will be familiar with disability services the college offers early in their college career.

She said she also wants to create an online newsletter and user-friendly brochures in conjunction with SSD. In addition to this, Miller will organize and bring in speakers for the annual Disability Awareness Day.

“We’re here to help make students as successful as possible,” Miller said.

Kennedy Golden, in addition to her full-time responsibilities as Assistant Dean of Students, served as the interim Program Director for SSD during the nine months prior to Miller’s appointment on Oct. 24.

Golden said that her juggling act in keeping up with the duties of two full-time jobs wasn’t fair to students or faculty.

She was also on the search committee for a new program director. She said that in addition to the ideal candidate meeting the necessary experience and educational requirements for the job, that individual needed to be “someone who wants to do it – and that was Jess.”

Iwata said that Miller’s skills aren’t limited to working with students with disabilities and she has a lot to contribute to Mills’ entire student body.

This includes study skills workshops that Miller said she hopes to start this year. She plans to hold three sessions during the spring 2006 semester and in each following semester.

Miller says that her interest in theater is what initiated her interest in aiding those with disabilities. Her first job included leading theater at an adult day care center.

“I realized how satisfying it was for me to help people through theater arts,” she said.

Since then, she has held a number of positions in her field, including Crisis Counselor, Coordinator of the Human Services Program, Program Director of the Workability III Program and Assistant Professor.

“I realized that working with people with disabilities was interesting and compelling to me,” she said.

While walking to her car from her office about a week ago-focused on the excitement of her new job-Miller sprained her ankle. She said that it was a good wake-up call for her.

“In one split second I went from being perfectly fine and abled to suddenly having to cope and manage repercussions of the fall,” she said. “It reminded me in such a basic way of what people with disabilities go through.”