With a passion for standing up for those who often go unseen, Liv Rafferty ’22 refuses to settle when it comes to inequity in the classroom. Students who live with ADHD and other neurodivergencies have access to support services through Capital, but those services are not often utilized.
“I’ve found that a lot of students either don’t have or don’t use the accommodations they’ve been granted because of the stigma that exists within academia,” said Rafferty. “Students are worried when pursuing higher education that stigma will follow them, and they will not be on a level playing field.”
A sociology major, Rafferty wanted to expand what she had learned in the classroom and apply it to a real problem she saw in the community.
What started out as a class assignment turned into a research project once Rafferty was awarded the prestigious Summer Scholars research fellowship. The project, “Promoting Services for Students with Disabilities on Campus,” has already made a direct impact on the students and Accessibility Services office at Capital.
Rafferty designed a survey using Qualtrics software to assess student satisfaction with Accessibility Services. She also conducted interviews with faculty to assess attitudes and teaching practices related to students with disabilities.
“Almost all of the forms that were being used in Accessibility Services have been changed from the original state to be easier to understand,” said Rafferty. “The survey showed that students found that the process for acquiring accommodations was difficult to understand or inaccessible to them, so we proactively made those changes.”
Rafferty’s dive into research was by guided by Richard Ashbrook, Ph.D., professor of Psychology, and interim director of Accessibility Services, who served as Rafferty’s research mentor through the Summer Scholars Program.
“The program evaluation research helped inform a major review of operations and policies that have improved Accessibility Services,” said Ashbrook. “Liv’s promise as a scholar is a reflection of empathy to understand how others experience their world and the commitment to the scientific method to find evidence informed solutions to important societal problems.”
A transfer student, Rafferty’s move to Capital allowed for exploration in new fields, including sociology.
“I wanted to be a public defender,” said Rafferty. “I realized that perhaps law wasn’t necessarily the field that I wanted to be in, but I did care about people and wanted to be able to find a way to help them in some way.”
She soon “fell in love with the idea of mental health counseling” and will be looking to earn a master’s degree after graduation.
“Working with Accessibility Services has really confirmed that this is the profession I’m supposed to be in,” said Rafferty.
To read more about Capital University’s Summer Scholar Program, go to https://www.capital.edu/academics/services-and-programs/undergraduate-research/summer-scholars-program/