By Kate Blankinship
Katherine “Kappy” Fahey and Danielle Garvey recently joined UChicago’s Student Disabilities Services (SDS) as the new Deputy Director and Associate Director, respectively.
Fahey, who grew up in Ohio and went to Ohio University, majored in education and went on to become a special education teacher. It was also during this period that special education was becoming mandated across the United States.
Initially, college students who benefitted from the ADA were individuals with physical and sensory disabilities. Beginning in the late 1990’s many students with non-obvious disabilities, such as learning disabilities and ADHD, understood that they were also eligible for disability services and accommodations. “The largest population of students with disabilities coming into college were students with learning disabilities,” Fahey said.
Given her prior experience as a special education teacher and an informal advocate to many parents navigating the system of 504 and Individualized Education Plans, Fahey naturally stepped into the role of Assistant Director and later Director of Disability Services at Ohio University.
“I just sort of fell into this job,” Fahey said. “I was transitioning, going back to work full time, and thinking about how I could use my training as a teacher outside of the classroom.”
Fahey remained in this role for nine years before she moved to Cornell University, where she spent twelve years as the Director of Student Disability Services. She’s excited to now live in Chicago—where her son and grandchildren reside—and to continue the work she’s passionate about.
“I have developed a real interest and commitment to this type of work, and Universities are wonderful places. There’s all these other things going on and to have opportunities to learn while you’re working is an opportunity and a privilege, as far as I’m concerned,” Fahey said.
Garvey hails from California, where she went to San Diego State University and majored in political science. Following graduation, Garvey worked in admissions at San Diego State for a year before going to graduate school. Garvey merged her interest in political structures and power dynamics with social justice when she earned her master’s in social work (MSW) from Loyola University Chicago.
Through her MSW program, Garvey learned how a variety of disabilities affect individuals in different spaces, such as in the classroom or in the workplace. After graduating, she searched for positions that enabled her to combine her experience in social work with her experience in higher education—she found this in UChicago’s SDS program.
“I think a lot of folks are familiar with the University’s reputation and commitment to a rigorous, intensive environment which is interesting. And I think helping students navigate that is something that I was particularly interested in,” Garvey said.
Garvey and Fahey are only at the start of their UChicago journey. Fahey started at the University October 29, 2018, and Garvey began on January 2 of this year.
“It’s an exciting time for both of us as we get to know the University and get to know the students and our colleagues,” Fahey said.
For Fahey in particular, the move from Cornell comes with some additional adjustments.
“When you’ve been some place for a long time—twelve years is a long time—you have your go-to people. You could get things done really fast because you knew everybody. I’m eager to have my go-to people here…and that will come,” Fahey said.
Garvey is similarly looking forward to falling into a rhythm at UChicago. “It’s a transition as far as learning different University norms and also learning about the students and the culture here,” she said.
“Everyone has different structures—Universities are complicated. You just have to know the pathways there and that’s what we’re trying to do right now,” Fahey added.
As both Fahey and Garvey get to know better the University and students, they also hope to remove the stigma surrounding disabilities.
“All of us have the potential to be disabled, and we move into that state as we get older,” Fahey said. “It’s part of the human experience.”
Garvey also said that they hope to move the University closer to a universal design, creating learning environments that reaches the broadest range of students.
“When everyone is committed to accessibility, students will feel welcome and included,” Fahey said. “We look forward to contributing to this work.”
Learn more about SDS.