Five Things I Learned During My First Three Months at Think College
The last week of April, 2022, I officially joined the Think College team as a Knowledge Translation (KT) Associate. I mostly work on Think College’s Inclusive Higher Education Network. My role involves working with the KT team creating and distributing resources and information, connecting on social media, and helping with our new public awareness campaign. Here are five things I learned during my first three months at Think College.
1. Think College Gets Stuff Done!
Despite only being at Think College for a few short months, I have already seen the Think College team balance and beautifully carry out an incredible variety and volume of product development, conference presentations, research, technical assistance, and program support. I have truly enjoyed becoming a part of the Think College team, because it was immediately clear that everyone on the team plays a critical role to move this important work forward. Being able to rely on such a strong team of great people really elevates the quality and quantity of work being done and it really feels good to know that my own role on our team is also important.
2. Advocacy is Everywhere
Prior to working at Think College I really thought I had a good grasp of current disability-related policies and legislation in the US. In my short time at Think College, however, I discovered there is far more advocacy and policy work happening at both the state and federal levels that I was not aware of until now. I have learned so much about policy initiatives at the state and federal level from the folks at Think College, and in particular the Think College partners at Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). I’ve also loved using the Think College interactive “What’s Happening Your State” map to learn about different state-level legislation. On a federal level, I have learned more about the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act of 2021 in Congress. One piece of the RISE Act that really resonated with me was that, if passed, the act would require colleges and universities to accept a student’s IEP, 504 plan, or prior evaluation as proof of disability. As someone who has worked in higher education for a long time and is also Disabled myself, I know personally that this is really critical for students who may not have access to other types of documentation to receive accommodations.
3. Tools of the Trade
Being a fully-remote employee and working on the KT team means using a lot of online tools and programs. We use online tools to design resources, collaborate on projects, communicate as a team, and manage information dissemination. Some of the tools that we use on the KT team were familiar to me from previous roles, but it really has been exciting to learn some different ways of using them as well as learning how to use some new tools. Using online project management tools such as Teamwork are really critical for the Think College team, and I’ve really appreciated how the Think College team utilize programs and tools to work together effectively and communicate with a remote team. Thanks to the great suggestion of Clare Papay, I recently even learned some great new tricks on PowerPoint to make our presentations pop!
4. Room to Grow
One of the biggest takeaways from my time working at Think College the last three months is that I still have a lot to learn, and room to grow into this field and work. I have learned a lot about inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) and about the needs of college students with intellectual disability, but I am excited to continue to learn more each day. I am also working to improve my accessibility practices both professionally and personally in new ways. For example, I am learning more about using plain language and making sure I am thinking about plain language in my work. I am also eager to meet more students from IPSE programs across the country and to learn from their stories, ideas, and experiences.
5. Buc-ee’s Isn’t Just a Gas Station in Texas!
One of the best parts of working at Think College remotely means that I get to work with folks living all across the United States with completely different experiences, backgrounds, and identities. I have been grateful for the opportunities provided to connect with other Think College staff as well as other ICI staff both remotely and in person. It has been exciting to get to know more about where my coworkers are from, and I have been able to learn so much about different regions of the country through our conversations. For example, while our team was in Cleveland, OH for the Annual TPSID Project Directors Meeting last month, I was able to get a 45 minute crash-course lesson about the magical wonderland/gas station called Buc-ee’s from my colleagues Susanna Miller-Raines and Sara Pound. Not only were we able to bond over Susanna’s Buc-ee’s memorabilia collection, but I was also able to add something to my bucket list … because Buc-ee’s is so much more than just a gas station. :)
About the blog author: Arin Rook (they/them/theirs) is a Knowledge Translation Associate for the Think College Inclusive Higher Education Network. They have been working in higher education for the last 10 years, supporting campus and community initiatives and programs. Arin is passionate about digital accessibility, Disability Justice, and helping to build a culture of belonging and inclusion for everyone in higher education.