Andrea Courtney Spring 2020 Disability Graduation Award

About

Andrea has been an exemplary advocate for disabled students in her time at the University of Iowa.

After graduating with her bachelor’s from Iowa in 2016, Andrea spearheaded the initiative to relocate the Student Disability Services office out of the basement of Burge Residence Hall. She saw a problem with the office's location and decided to do something about it even though she was no longer a student at the time. Andrea began having conversations with University of Iowa Student Government, Facilities Management, and the Office of the Vice President for Student Life about the need for the office to be relocated, all while working full-time in Iowa City. These meetings continued off and on for two years before Andrea was admitted to the College of Education’s Master’s Program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Fall 2018.

At that time, Andrea was selected to become the 2018-2019 President of the Student Disability Org, a disability-focused student organization whose name later changed to UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness (UISDAA). As President of UISDAA, Andrea helped to facilitate the hosting of numerous Disability Awareness Month events in October 2018, including a Stress Management Workshop for disabled students, a Students with Disabilities Panel, a Service & Assistance Dog information session, the #DisabledAndProud multi-day online conference for students, and a large-scale speaking event featuring advocate and Deaf YouTuber Rikki Poynter. Through these events Andrea was not only able to educate the larger university community about disability issues, but she was also able to foster a supportive community for students with disabilities who would otherwise have no way of connecting with one another.

At the end of October 2018, Andrea worked with other UISDAA members and officers to launch a petition to relocate the SDS office. She assisted in researching information on the office, editing the petition, disseminating the petition, and tabling for signatures. As a result of Andrea’s advocacy efforts, the petition garnered over 3,000 graduate and undergraduate signatures, and hundreds more from staff and alumni.

Following the close of the petition in December 2018, Andrea began participating in hundreds of hours of strategic planning meetings with other students, staff, and administrators across campus to address a host of disability-related concerns on campus. Under Andrea’s leadership, UISDAA held a disability injustice rally on the Pentacrest in May 2019 to draw attention to the myriad of issues facing disabled students beyond the location of SDS. She continued to engage in meetings throughout Summer 2019 with offices and departments across campus, including Facilities Management, the Center for Diversity & Enrichment, the College of Education, UISG, GPSG, the Office of the Vice President for Student Life, and much more.

In Fall 2019, Andrea transitioned from President to Treasurer of UISDAA. She has continued working to help facilitate meetings and events for the organization in addition to participating in meetings to advocate for students with disabilities on matters such as staff trainings, accessibility, and the potential for a disability cultural center.

As a direct result of Andrea’s leadership, it was announced in January 2020 that the Student Disability Services office will be relocating from Burge Hall into a new and improved temporary space on the first floor of the University Capitol Center in Fall 2020. There is absolutely no question that were it not for Andrea’s initiative and drive to see the office moved out of the basement and into a space that is accessible and welcoming for disabled students, the pending move would not be happening, and students would continue to be served in a basement for many more years to come.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the faculty and staff in the RCE department for teaching, supporting and encouraging me, but especially to Dr. Barnes and Dr. Johnson! Thank you to my clinical supervisors during my graduate experience, Adam Robison, Katryn Duarte, Dr. Jacob Priest, Dr. Armeda Wojciak, and Aiden Rohwer-Nutter. Finally, thank you to my partner Kaydee Ecker, my friends, and my cohort, for keeping me going throughout these last two years!