Inclusion is a core value in the Broad College and at Michigan State University. We are constantly striving to foster an environment that is welcoming and accessible for faculty and students alike. Jeremy Van Hof, director of learning technologies and development, is leading Broad’s inclusion efforts, spearheading initiatives to foster a culture of accessibility through technology enhancements. This work includes video captioning and transcribing course materials, offering consulting for designing online and hybrid courses, creating a college-wide accessible syllabus template and participating in strategic planning for undergraduate and graduate programs.
Van Hof’s work has just been extended further. The Broad College, in partnership with the College of Arts & Letters and the College of Natural Resources, has secured a $32,000 grant from MSU’s Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives to strengthen inclusion training for each college’s faculty.
“The funding from MSU will support the inaugural year of the Faculty Accessibility Fellows program,” Van Hof said. “This program is designed to train faculty and academic staff about the intricacies of creating a learning environment that is as accessible as possible to all students.”
Specifically, the grant will fund a series of workshops, some instructional support and two years of attendance at MSU’s Accessible Learning Conference for five academic faculty and staff members from each college. According to its website, the conference is an annual event “designed to explore a range of topics including universally accessible courses, websites and content,” welcoming hundreds of attendees from various universities and educational organizations.
The inaugural Broad fellows are Antoinette Tessmer, professor of practice of finance; Severin Grabski, associate professor of accounting; Allison Dellapelle, professor of practice of accounting; Teagan Dixon, professor of practice of accounting; and Sarah Wellman, learning design specialist.
Tessmer teaches a course on Excel modeling and noted that Excel accessibility specifically is “uncharted territory.” She said, “I see a great opportunity for scholarly contribution to the field by testing and proposing accessibility methods and standards for Excel models.”
Wellman shared how the program will help her learn more about accessibility, which will in turn help her assist faculty in making learning environments more inclusive. “A big part of my job is working with faculty to design and create accessible learning content,” she said. “The Faculty Accessibility Fellowship is a great opportunity to learn more about accessibility from and with faculty from across the university.”
Under Van Hof’s leadership since 2017, the Broad College has remediated 88 courses and more than 6,500 course documents to meet global accessibility standards. In addition, we have offered dozens of consultations, workshops, seminars and trainings to more than 100 faculty across MSU’s campus.
This work benefits all students in the college, not only those with documented disabilities. According to Van Hof, disability can take many forms, including hearing, vision, mobility, cognitive, and psychological.
“Disability is not otherness,” he said. “It affects us all. Some disabilities are permanent, but others are temporary or situational. At some point, 100% of us will face situations in which our environments, our minds or our bodies will limit the way that we can interact with course content. When we make courses accessible, we make those courses more equitable for all students, regardless of their disability. The Faculty Accessibility Fellowship is helping to spread that message across the Broad College.”