Missouri State University
Adam Crawford

Adam Crawford

  • Counselor in Disability Services at Ohio State University
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Student affairs in higher education

Studying the past to make a better present

Sometimes history is recorded years or even decades after it has occurred. This is the challenge graduate Adam Crawford faced.

Sometimes history is recorded years or even decades after it has occurred. This was the challenge faced by Missouri State University graduate Adam Crawford. In order to help improve campus, he researched the history of disability services and culture and presented his research at a national education conference.

“Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it,” said Crawford, who graduated in 2014 with a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education. “Understanding the paths that disability activism and services have taken at MSU is helpful in analyzing current struggles and planning for the future.”

Crawford conducted interviews with current and former Disability Resource Center staff and alumni with disabilities and held a roundtable for current students with disabilities. He also scoured the digital archives of The Standard, MSU’s student paper, from Special Collections and Archives to find disability-related articles.

“The whole project came about as I, a graduate assistant at the time, started asking questions about the office’s history,” said Crawford. “This history hasn’t been systemically catalogued for future use. The Disability Resource Center values disability as an integral part of the diversity framework at MSU, and thus worthy of our collective understanding of the institution’s history.”

Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, director of the Disability Resource Center and Crawford’s mentor, suggested that he submit his research to the annual Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) conference. Crawford submitted his project and presented his findings with Staeger-Wilson in May.

“To go from working as her graduate assistant in the office to presenting with her, as colleagues, at our field’s professional conference was a fantastic feeling,” said Crawford. “We presented together as one of the 90-minute concurrent sessions. We discussed the design of the project, shared some audio samples of the interviews, and discussed ways in which archival and oral history research can be implemented into disability services work.”

Crawford, who is currently a counselor in disability services at Ohio State University, credits this experience with improving his understanding of the influences on disability services.

“This experience has improved the way I approach disability services by giving me a better understanding of the impact of both micro and macro influences,” said Crawford. “While national events, such as the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, can have a huge impact on a university, so too can one activist or one staff member with a clear vision and the patience and dedication to persevere.”

A Springfield native, Crawford looks forward to continuing to work with students at Ohio State and improving disability services on campus.