July 26, 2013

Sam Goodin passionate about student success

Our university is one destination for every journey. Students come to SIU from every conceivable background, from all 50 states, and from more than 100 countries.

We also are proud to be the choice of so many students with disabilities, which has been true since the 1950s. That is a legacy that Sam Goodin and the staff of our Disability Support Services office build on every day.

Sam returned “home” as director of that office a year ago. He grew up in Carbondale, graduating from Carbondale Community High School and subsequently earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SIU.

"My SIU affiliation began long before I was a student here,” he said, noting both of his parents were members of the faculty. “I volunteered in the museum in the eighth grade when it was located in Old Main. As a kid, I skateboarded down the hills near Pulliam Hall. This was my playground.”

His passion for working with people with disabilities dates to high school. He volunteered and then worked as a counselor and program coordinator for camps for disabled individuals at our Touch of Nature Environmental Center. As an SIU student, he worked in the office he now leads, even driving a van and repairing wheelchairs.

Sam has been student-centered throughout his career. He served as director of Disabled Student Services and Veterans Affairs at Indiana University; director of the Office for Students with Disabilities at California State, Los Angeles; and director of Services for Students with Disabilities at the University of Michigan, where he also served as assistant dean of students.

He is well respected throughout his profession for his commitment. He recently was selected to serve on the 12-member board of directors of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, an international professional organization.

"What motivates me is that we are taking a person who has some aspect that doesn’t work the way it does for other people and improving their mind so they can have the same basic quality of life as everybody else,” he said. “Research bears this out: Higher education is a great equalizer.”

Disability Support Services assists about 500 students who have a variety of permanent and temporary disabilities, including a growing number with autism spectrum disorder. He also wants students with mental health disabilities to take advantage of the office’s services.

"The age for the onset of things like bipolar disorder and depression is college-age,” Sam said. “I want students who have mental health disorders that develop after they are on campus to find us. They are trying to work through the stigma of having disabilities. They experience denial when they get that diagnosis, and we would rather see them when that first happens rather than after things take a bad turn.”

I appreciate the staff’s commitment to helping students succeed.

"The joy of my job has to do with seeing students on the other end of all of this, not when they are in my office every day,” Sam said. “I appreciate seeing them on campus after not seeing them in the office for a while.”

With their compassion and expertise, Sam and his staff are an important part of the life-changing experience we offer our students.