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Page 1

1Pedagogy and Student ServiceS for inStitutional tranSformation

Pedagogy and Student
Services for institutional
Universal Design in
Higher Education

Jeanne L. Higbee and Emily Goff

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238 Pedagogy and Student ServiceS for inStitutional tranSformation

Applying UD Principles for Specific Student Populations
UD principles in advising benefit students with disabilities, and also other student popu-
lations experiencing unique educational challenges. One such population with unique
needs is the immigrant students served in the University of Minnesota’s Commanding
English program. Advising practices that benefit these students and can benefit other
students as well include thoughtful attention to the advisor’s communication with
students. Author Amy Kampsen, working with this population of students, suggests the
following approaches:

1. Speak clearly and without using slang or idioms.
2. Give instructions both verbally and in a different format for the student to take with

them, or have students take notes and then summarize the notes with the advisor to make
sure students have understood what was said. If available, use self-duplicating forms when
writing down planned courses for upcoming semesters as well as referrals, expectations
for the next appointment, or other advisement tasks for the student such as meeting with
faculty or accessing a campus resource. This will allow the advisor to follow up on these
referrals with the student.

3. Provide visual and verbal illustrations when appropriate.
4. Engage in discussion about cultural implications to better understand the students’

needs or expectations.
5. Follow up shortly thereafter with an e-mail message that thanks the student for

coming, summarizes advising session content, and confirms future appointments and
other obligations on the part of both the student and the advisor.

Another student population that has unique needs is student-athletes. The most pressing
consideration for student-athletes, which is shared by students with family responsibili-
ties or unavoidable work obligations, is finding the time to be successful academically.
Athletes also have unique pressures related to expectations placed by team members or
coaches, travel responsibilities, and registration requirements related to national standards.
Some approaches to use in working with this student population include considering
time management strategies and a good balance of all responsibilities. It is important to
work with the student on creating a schedule that is realistic and flexible to change as
needed. It is also imperative to provide a safe place for the student to discuss pressures and
expectations related to athletic involvement, ensuring confidentiality.

A third group with unique challenges is students who are low-income and the first
generation in their families to attend college. These students have challenges with paying
for their education, but also challenges learning how to navigate the university and under-
stand typical college policies and procedures, including the terminology and acronyms
used by the institution to describe degree requirements. Like students with disabilities, it
is important for these students to develop self-advocacy skills. Some approaches in work-
ing with this group of students include these:

1. Take time to assist students in interpreting financial aid packages, or locate other
financial resources such as scholarships. Advisors can provide recommendations for
students who apply for scholarships and coaching in the monitoring of deadlines, writing


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of personal statements, and filling out forms.
2. Discuss the pros and cons of working more hours and taking fewer credits versus

incurring debt but graduating sooner. Assist students in determining what is a reasonable
workload to balance academics and employment. Make students aware of the part-time
job opportunities on campus.

3. Assume nothing about the student’s knowledge about the institution or about how
things work in higher education.

4. Discuss housing and transportation needs or issues. There may be students who do
not understand that housing and transportation support is available to them.

5. At the student’s request, Be open to communicating with parents or others in the
student’s extended community about university life, finances, and the like.

Practicing these approaches of exploring what students know and do not know about
university life and institutional expectations, and assisting them in learning to negotiate
the institution and manage their time and resources will benefit many students beyond
the groups identified above, as many “mainstream” students can also benefit from discus-
sion about finances, housing, transportation, and college policies and procedures.

Finally, UD principles in advising benefit students with disabilities, whether or not the
students have sought out disability support services in the institution. Some approaches
recommended in advising students with disabilities include these:

1. Be purposeful when planning courses or creating educational and career goals to
consider the type of disability the student has.

2. Explain confidentiality expectations and norms at the institution, as well as federal
laws protecting privacy.

3. Help the student develop and practice self-advocacy skills.
4. Facilitate the process of the student teaching the advisor about the specific disability.

Similarly, applying these approaches universally to all students, advisors should be purpose-
ful in educational and goal planning with all students, focusing on particular strengths of
the student, rather than disability. All students need to be aware of confidentiality rules,
should be coached in advocating for their own educational needs, and should be facili-
tated in teaching advisors and faculty about their strengths.

Advisor and Student Responsibilities in Universal Design
Advisors should receive ongoing training, mentoring, and professional development
in areas of multicultural and diversity theory, disability awareness, campus resources,
colleague connections, student development theory, and counseling skills. Professional
development opportunities need to include both academic and experiential forms to
support the holistic integration of the material. This said, it is important that advisors
are given the time and support to pursue this professional development, including
reasonable student caseloads and adequate allocation of financial resources. Priority may
be given in the hiring process as well to those candidates who can demonstrate knowl-
edge or expertise in these areas. Creating advisor position descriptions and interview


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pass it seeks to address a compelling need in higher education by devel-

oping a corps of trainers to facilitate professional development workshops

in the implementation of universal design (ud) and universal instructional

design (uid) in higher education. uid, an adaptation of the architectural

concept of universal design, is a relatively new model for providing access

to higher education for students with disabilities. through ud and uid, staff

and faculty create more welcoming spaces for all students by rethinking

professional practices to develop curricula and programs that are inclusive

for all learners. When faculty and staff implement ud and uid as they begin

planning for a course, program, or activity by taking into consideration the

strengths and challenges of all students, they reduce or eliminate the need

to provide last-minute accommodations or to segregate students on the

basis of individual needs.

ISBN: 978-0-615-19596-4

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