Bridget Smith’s greatest passion and career objective is “seeing individuals with disabilities succeed to their full potential,” and, as of June 2019, she brings that passion to Harding, serving as the director of Disability Services and Educational Access at Harding.
Before being named the director of the office of disability services in June 2019, her background was in special education. Since receiving a bachelor of arts in early childhood and special education (Pre K-12) from Harding in 2001, she has been teaching at the Sunshine School in Searcy. She not only managed classrooms with students ranging from preschool to adults with intellectual disabilities, but she also created curriculum advocating for their specific needs and provided a safe and nurturing environment that allowed her students to excel and gain confidence to pursue their goals.
“I'm passionate about helping people with disabilities because I know that I can use my voice and talents to be one's advocate and make a difference,” Smith said. “I know that I'm blessed to have been given the desire to help those with disabilities.”
Smith chose to major in special education at Harding because of her interactions with a family she babysat for and their child with cerebral palsy. Smith is proud to bring her 11 years of experience interacting, coaching and teaching individuals with disabilities to Harding to help our students with disabilities.
“I know the students at HU have goals and dreams, and having a disability should not get in the way of achieving these,” Smith said. “Providing reasonable accommodations to help students succeed is why I'm here.”
Briana Byers, the administrative assistant in the Office of Disability Services who earned her undergraduate degree in marketing and will complete her MBA from Harding in May 2019, emphasized the significance of the job and wants students to leave the office feeling encouraged and empowered to reach their full potential and advocate for themselves on campus.
“This job is significant because it serves a high-risk population and levels the playing field, so students have the same opportunities at the collegiate level,” Byers said. “Every day brings new challenges, lessons and insights, but what I value most is the connections and friendships I form with students, staff and faculty.”
Byers also recognizes the importance of these services to Harding’s student community because it connects people around campus.
“The services we provide are important to Harding'because it helps bridge gaps in diversity on campus and provides a level playing field for students with documented disabilities,” Byers said. “We all come from different walks of life and have formed unique perspectives. How we express ourselves, channel our energy and measure success is heavily influenced by forces outside our control. The Office of Disability Services provides accommodations to help students overcome boundaries that would otherwise impede their progress and success.”
In the process of providing accommodations to students with documented learning, physical or psychological disability, Smith hopes to bring value and confidence to their lives.
“My hope is that I can help lessen the stigma of having a disability,” Smith said. “We as individuals have our own strengths and weaknesses. And scripture tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I want the Office of Disability Services to be a place where students feel at ease and encouraged. I want to help HU students feel empowered and to realize that they have what it takes to meet their full potential. It is my mission to serve students with disabilities and ensure they have equal access to academics and campus life at Harding University.”