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Hawthorne takes over as AAC Director

Stephen Hawthorne has stepped into his new position as Interim Director of Accessibility Services and the Academic Achievement Center (AAC). Hawthorne is taking over for Dolores Radlo who left this year after accepting a position as Dean of Advising at Wheaton College.

Stephen Hawthorne in his office in the Academic Achievement Center. Photo by Alexandra White

Hawthorne started working at the AAC in 2020 as a Learning Specialist. In that role, he helped students individually to achieve their academic goals through tutoring and AAC courses.

Dean of Student Success Michelle Niestepski was a part of the hiring process for Hawthorne’s new position. “He had been the Assistant Director for Accessibility Services and had been doing a wonderful job in that role,” Niestepski said. “So it was just our logical top choice to move in as the Interim Director of Accessibility Services.”

Hawthorne is helping alter the name of “Disability Services” to “Accessibility Services.” He said the name change helps eliminate the stigma around intellectual and physical disabilities.

“If we're thinking about Disability Services, that sort of puts more of a focus on the individual and what they can't do and what their sort of diagnosis is,” Hawthorne said.

The AAC and Accessibility Services team has been working for several years to create an inclusive environment that benefits students that have a disability or need extra help in courses. “We're not suddenly doing work that we have never done before,” said Hawthorne. “We want to sort of take a bigger perspective and think about ‘Okay, what are some issues we want to deal with now?”

Niestepski said that Hawthorne will continue Radlo’s work of increasing visibility to Accessibility Services and the AAC. “Stephen will continue to build on the great work Dolores did to make it clear that we're here to help support every student,” Niestepski said. “So just trying to make sure everybody knows that we want you to come in here, we want to help you get accommodations in place or we will help set you up with tutoring and other support services so that you can be successful.”

Senior event management major Sophia Oliveras works as an Excel Peer Tutor in the AAC. Oliveras took part in a “sit-in” at the Symposium in the Spring of 2022 for Accessibility Services and the AAC with Hawthorne. The “sit-in” blocked doors that were not accessible for students with physical disabilities in Valentine Dining Hall.

“Stephen merged the AAC and Accessibility Services for that event which was great,” Oliveras said. “Accessibility Services are important because everyone should feel like Lasell is home, and having accessibility should be the norm for everyone.”

Hawthorne said he hopes he can continue to develop overall accessibility on campus in his new role as Interim Director of Accessibility and the AAC. “I am really looking forward to sort of developing this whole initiative that we think about making ourselves accessible before a specific need arises,” Hawthorne said. “We have a sort of moral and ethical responsibility, but also a legal one, to make sure that students enrolled in the school are able to access everything that they need.”

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