President's Service Award - Spring 2002
A mention of Heather Kuttai’s name across the University of Saskatchewan campus quickly shows why the Director of Disability Services for Students is being honoured with the President’s Service Award at Spring Convocation 2002.
In their support of her nomination for the award, students, staff and faculty came forward with glowing descriptions of the qualities Heather has brought to the U of S since she became the first occupant of her position in 1994. They unreservedly praise her as dedicated, understanding, com-passionate, responsive, insightful, creative, practical, fair, enthusiastic, and showing great leadership and warmth.
One co-worker said, “Heather’s dedication and commitment are boundless. She leads through inspiration, support and respect for others, which has earned her national acknowledgement for the service and initiatives she has provided.”
All who have worked with Heather note she continually goes the extra mile to help students succeed in their programs, and to help faculty and staff appreciate how a bit of accommodation on their part can provide an equal opportunity to higher education for a student with a disability.
Heather has firsthand experience of the challenges faced by students with disabilities. A wheelchair user since the age of 6, when an injury damaged her spinal cord, Heather graduated from the U of S in 1994 with a BA in Sociology.
In the eight years since joining the U of S staff, she has developed a staff of one full-time, two part-time and about 35 casual employees, and the number of students being helped has shot up from 50 in 1994 to about 750 today. The list of initiatives she has developed since 1994 is long, and includes: an exam accommodation program, a note-taking program, library assistance, academic support groups for students with learning disabilities, an accessibility inventory of campus, Disability Awareness Week at the U of S, and a mentoring program. Heather also works to integrate students with disabilities into larger campus programs, such as the annual fall Orientation. One highlight of her U of S career was the Board of Governors’ adoption in 1997 of a University policy for students with disabilities. And in 1999 and 2000 she produced two videos, “Teaching Students With Disabilities” and “Faces of Diversity”, which have become invaluable tools for raising awareness, and which she has shown at talks across North America and as far away as Austria. Last year she won the “Excellence in Service to Students with Disabilities” award from the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education.
Not stopping at that, Heather has been a world-class member of Canada’s wheelchair target-shooting team. At the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea she won two silver medals and at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics she won a bronze. She is well on her way to competing in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.
Heather’s real target at the U of S, is helping students succeed in their University experience. And they say she’s hitting the mark. As one student put it: “She has made it possible for me to flourish in my academic career ... I can safely say I would not be where I am today without her assistance, guidance and support.”
The President’s Service Award recognizes exceptional contributions by non-academic U of S staff.