Five Questions for Anita Hayes-Birt, Director of Student Disability Services

Anita Hayes-Birt is the Director of Student Disability Services at William Woods, where she serves as the campus liaison between students with documented disabilities and university staff and faculty. The Woods Today’s Veronica Townsend sat down with Hayes-Birt to discuss her role on campus.

Q: How does your past experience and education help you in your current job? 

Anita: Serving in the role of school psychologist and counselor in the cities of St. Louis and Columbia for over 20 years, I was fortunate to receive a plethora of training over a variety of disciplines – mental health, education, medical and legal disability facets – to provide optimal assistance to students with disabilities.  And I remain committed to lifelong education to remain current on best practices in education and mental health.  I have two master’s degrees, in counseling and educational leadership, and hope to complete my doctorate in education from William Woods.

Q: What would you say is the best part of your job?

Anita: I enjoy meeting with students and listening to their personal stories, empathizing with their struggles, and motivating them to succeed despite obstacles.  Over time, I have come to realize that the human condition is delicate but paradoxically strong at the same time.

Q: If you had one thing that you wanted students to know about your position, what would it be?

Anita: Accommodations simply grant students equal access to opportunity – I encourage every student to come visit and learn how to advocate for disability rights. Did you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public?

Q: Why is your role important to the university?

Anita: I strive to provide diverse, inclusive and equitable services for students with disabilities. I also advocate for and inform the William Woods University community about disability rights, consistent with the University’s mission statement to be student-centered and committed to ethical, self-liberating and lifelong education values.

Q: What is it like working at an institution like WWU?

Anita: The university is a creative, accepting environment.  The faculty members have very impressive credentials and experiences, and I encourage students to ask about their professional careers and education. The campus is beautiful – I love the landscape and lakes – and I get free hot chocolate!  The academic programs are relevant, in fact, I am currently completing my own doctorate in education at WWU.