Reports from Panel Discussions

Image of participants collaborating at the 2014 AccessSTEM CBI

Panelists included current college students and recent graduates:

  • Jeremy Caci, Western Washington University
  • Erica Chavez, University of Washington
  • Sean Marihugh, University of Washington
  • Macy Westrick, University of Washington

In this highly-rated activity on the second day of the CBI, four STEM students with disabilities shared their stories and experiences in a panel presentation.

What was your biggest surprise when entering college?

Erica: I never thought I would be doing research and presenting about it. Because of programs aimed at increasing diversity in the field, I was exposed to experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Macy: In high school, teachers try to scare you and make you afraid of going to college. My biggest surprise was how much I loved college and how difficult high school was for me.

Jeremy: My biggest surprise about college was how much studying I had to do outside of class. I also enjoyed practicing self-directed learning and got to create my own curriculum during my last year of college.

Erica: My biggest surprise in college was how big my campus was! I grew up in a small town and I felt like my dorm was bigger than my town!

What advice would you give to your 8th grade self?

Macy: I had a one-on-one [personal care attendant]  in high school, but in preparation for college I started being more independent. I wish I had done that sooner.

Jeremy: I wish I knew how to ask for help. I had an ego, so when I struggled I should have asked for help.  I also wasn’t diagnosed until high school, so maybe it would have been sooner had I asked for help.

Erica: Love yourself and be optimistic.

When did you decide that college was your postsecondary option?

Erica: Very early on. I knew in high school.

Jeremy: When I realized that life is always going to be a challenge, so college is just another layer of that.

Macy: My parents always expected it of me, but I would have went anyways.

Is there anything you would have changed about your college experience?

Macy: I wish I wasn’t one of the only people in a wheelchairs on campus. I also wish that classrooms were flagged as being accessible.

Jeremy: I wish there had been more information about classes so I could make a more informed decision about what my classes would be.

Erica: Being more connected to resources and programs who have helped me beyond graduation.

How do you use technology in the classroom?

Macy: A  large part of me becoming independent was technology I was given where I could control my computer with my voice. It truly changed my life.

Jeremy: I utilized the fact that my library at school offered books in PDF format, and it helped me greatly.