DRC Director Sue Kroeger Receives Vision Award
Sue Kroeger's career path hasn't always been the most straight or narrow. The director of The University of Arizona's Disability Resource Center studied history, worked on political campaigns in Washington, D.C., and even joined a convent before taking her current position at the University in 1999. But ask Kroeger today and she'll say she's found her calling at the DRC.
Kroeger's work on campus was recognized last week with a Vision Award during a luncheon at the Commission on the Status of Women's Intersections 2008 professional development conference.
The CSW Vision Awards program recognizes individuals who have promoted diversity goals in three areas: campus climate, professional development, and compensation and equity.
Kroeger received three nominations for her ongoing work with UA students and employees with varying forms of disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric and learning disabilities.
"Sue has redefined what disabilty is on a campus," said Lynette Cook-Francis, assistant vice president for student affairs and one of Kroeger's nominators. "I have learned from her that there are better ways to do things for everyone that are more inclusive. It's about not making people with disability 'others,' it's about making everything accessible to everybody."
Kroeger said she tries to encourage ongoing discussion of the socio-political aspects of disability as director of a center that provides resources to approximately 2,000 students as well as to UA employees.
"I continue to be passionate about how disability gets conceptualized. For me it's about reframing disabilities. How do we take it from being viewed as a deficit to being viewed as a difference?" she said.
Kroeger often talks about the concept of "universal design" - the idea that certain environmental and social changes can be made that will universally benefit those with and without disabilities. For example, she notes that curb cuts on sidewalks are not only enjoyed by individuals in wheelchairs but allow everyone the same type of convenient access.
As a result of a birth defect, Kroeger has limited mobility in her legs and gets around using a wheelchair or crutches. Although she's always been politically-minded, she said it didn't occur to her until later in life to focus on the politics of disabilities.
As a college undergraduate, Kroeger worked on congressional campaigns in Iowa and Washington, D.C., and was active in the women's movement. After graduating in 1973 she briefly joined a convent to be a part of what she saw as a group of strong and independent women.
When she realized it wasn't the right fit for her, she went on to earn her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from the UA in 1976 and her doctorate in the same field in 1984. At the time, she thought she'd set out to reinvent the rehabilitation field, but it wasn't long before she realized she was more interested in the social aspects of disabilities and shifted her focus to a career in higher education.
Kroger worked in an administrative position with the University of Minnesota's Disability Services program before coming to the UA.
In addition to her role as director of the UA's DRC, she is an adjunct professor in the College of Education and acts as the University's Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer, ensuring the campus meets ADA regulations.