Creating accessibility for those with disabilities
Fresno Pacific University prides itself on creating accessibility for members of the community who have disabilities. Although a campus can advertise their policies and the department where disability services are provided, students may not feel welcome unless the person they face is welcoming themselves, and that is the case here with Melinda Gunning.
Melinda Gunning is the director of disability access and education. She has been working at Fresno Pacific University for over 25 years and has lived in the Central Valley her entire life.
Gunning attended Fresno State University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in English literature. Gunning began working at FPU as part of the adjunct English faculty. After some time, she was in charge of disability services and made the suggestion for a writing center, and thus a quest began.
“I also told them, well, you don’t have a writing center/tutoring center and you need one and I’ll make one for you,” Gunning said.
Gunning worked with faculty and staff in order to work with what FPU already had in regard to a writing center and tutorial services, and used that as a foundation for what is now the Academic Success Center, or ASC. Up until last summer Gunning was handling both the ASC and disability services, but she handed off the program to the group who had been working there since the start so she could focus solely on disabilities services.
“But what I loved about tutoring, and what I love about my job now, is getting to interact with students one-on-one; it’s really where my heart is,” Gunning said.
Gunning’s passion is helping students, and by being appointed director for disability services, she is able to serve students and faculty in a way that helps them achieve their goals and know that they are not alone. Gunning believes that empathy is the key to success in helping others.
“And when you’re working with disabilities, you absolutely have to have empathy. Right?” Gunning said.
Gunning’s role within the ASC and disability services benefit from her creativity, empathy, and drive to help others. Gunning is excited to take on disabilities services alone and be a safe space for students and faculty alike to share their struggles.
The disabilities office is located in Marpeck 114 and the ASC is located in Marpeck 112.