Matt is Mastering Independence

Photo of Matt in his office at MU

Matt in his office at the University of Missouri Disability Center

Matt is a Student Service Coordinator II at the MU Disability Center where he’s worked for a little more than 10 years. Through his role, he assists with connecting students with disabilities to services and resources. He says he always wanted to work in a disability services office because he felt like he could make a difference. “I had a past experience with an office of disability services that was not very pleasant.”

And make a difference he does. His day-to-day responsibilities mostly involve working with MU students and setting up any accommodations they may need in order to meet their academic goals. Since every student is unique, Matt begins the process by conducting an introductory interview with the students and then builds a plan from there. “Believe it or not, most of our students who are working with us have invisible disabilities. Oftentimes people think that we just work with people with visible disabilities. We do that, too, but a lot of our time is spent working with people with invisible disabilities.” Matt says the most requested accommodation is exam accommodations. Students can come to the MU Disability Center to take exams in a designated room in the Center, but more often than not, they are sent out to other locations on campus. Other accommodations available include classroom accommodations, on-campus transportation, housing accommodations, and accommodations for service animals.

Matt is originally from St. Louis and grew up with his seven siblings in a large home in University City. His parents, both retired, still live in St. Louis and, with the exception of one brother who lives in Minnesota, his siblings all live in Missouri, too. Matt’s twin sister also works in an academic setting at Washington University. “It’s nice to be able to visit with my family, but I’m also enjoying my independence.” Matt lives in a condo here in Columbia and although he receives case management services from Boone County Family Resources since late 2005, he mostly only relies on BCFR to assist with problem solving as needed and to assist with listing advertisements for hiring personal care assistants. “I manage most of my own service coordination,” says Matt. “Matt is a very resilient individual, who has independently been able to achieve personal and professional success. It is a pleasure to work with him,” says Amanda Gillig, Support Coordinator.

Matt came to Columbia in 2002 for his graduate degree – counseling psychology with an emphasis in rehabilitation counseling and he never looked back. “I like it here in Columbia. It’s accessible. It doesn’t take long to get somewhere across town.” In his free time, Matt enjoys listening to music and dining out. His favorite restaurant is Les Bourgeois. “I don’t get to go there very often, but it’s pretty good.”

When asked what career or employment advice he would give a young person with a disability, Matt had this to say, “Be persistent. There is something out there for you. It may take some time for you to find it, but don’t give up.”