With classes set to begin today, Melissa Simmons is excited to welcome students back to Marietta College.
Simmons joined the college in June as its disabilities specialist/504 coordinator, and she wants to make sure everyone gets to know her.
"I plan to make myself seen and heard. I am very passionate about disability awareness and I am excited to work with faculty, staff and the student body to educate them on disability related needs and the needs of our particular students," she said. "I've already attended parent sessions of the incoming freshman and I plan on attending meetings and really getting out on the campus and teaching people what I do and how students can benefit from the services that we offer. The faculty and staff here have already been very supportive and I look forward to what the coming school year will bring."
When classes begin today, the college anticipates as many as 450 new students and an overall student enrollment around 1,450. Among that group are those who need advice and counseling from Simmons.
"Sometimes students with disabilities aren't prepared for the transition to college. They aren't aware they now have to self-disclose their disability and they have to become their strongest advocates," Simmons said. "In high school they are identified and given accommodations, and at the college level they have to maintain accommodations and seek them out on their own. In my prior experiences working with students - and not only students with disabilities - college can come as a big shock as far as workload and reading requirements. I want to do my best to 'market' disability services and be a firm advocate for students and their disability related needs."
The disability coordinator is also part of the college's Academic Resource Center, which is headed by Amanda Haney-Cech.
"We are thrilled to welcome Melissa to the Academic Resource Center. Her experience and enthusiasm to support students makes her a great fit in the department," Haney-Cech said. "Melissa is able to help students as they make a challenging transition into higher education in relationship to disability services. What was once a process primarily handled by parents/guardians and school personnel is now the responsibility of the student. This self-advocacy of needs and understanding of how appropriate accommodations are used can be difficult, but Melissa's supportive and welcoming demeanor help make it a less daunting process."
Prior to joining Marietta, Simmons worked three years as a graduate assistant at the Disability Services Offices at the University of Cincinnati. After graduating she worked at a mental health agency in Cincinnati counseling high school students.
Simmons earned a Master of Education in Counseling from the University of Cincinnati in 2012. She also earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Students from Kent State in 2009.
She is excited about the opportunity at the college.
"I was very attracted to how tight knit the Marietta community is. A very good friend of mine attended Marietta College and spoke nothing but great things about the community, support of faculty and staff, and wonderful opportunities and relationships she formed," Simmons said. "When I came for an interview it solidified my previous positive thoughts on Marietta College. People here are very warm and welcoming and collaborative ... that is a key piece in a job for me. I also came from a larger university and while I enjoyed it, I really appreciate the one-on-one meetings and connections I can establish with students at a college like Marietta. I think it is very important to not only be an advocate for the student but to also maintain a strong interpersonal relationship, at a larger university it can sometimes be difficult to do."
Simmons is living in Marietta with her boyfriend, Matt Kress, who is a program director at the Marietta Family YMCA.