College of the Desert’s Vice President of Instruction’s Dr. Annebelle Nery has been named the 2021 Administrator of the Year by the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability (CAPED). She was recognized for her work in championing students with disabilities, safeguarding equal learning opportunities for them.
CAPED is the “preeminent association advocating for and with students with disabilities in postsecondary education,” annually recognizing an outstanding administrator who honors and supports the disability services office and its importance in student success. “I was completely surprised and humbled by the honor,” Dr. Nery said. “I was grateful for the recognition and thankful to those of you who believe in my leadership.”
Nery credits Amanda Phillips, Dean of Counseling Services, Leslie Quinones, Director of the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) and “the incredible faculty and staff who work daily with students with disabilities, they are constant advocates for their students and the resources needed to serve them effectively.” “Once I understand the needs of the program and students, my role is to find the resources (fiscal, facilities, equipment, supplies, etc.) and to provide my full support so that we can continue to provide excellent services to our students,” she said.
Nery noted the importance of the disability services office in the success of students. “Part of our reputation at College of the Desert is providing the best student services in our system, and our Disabled Students Programs and Services is no exception,” she said. “This office provides our students with disabilities multiple resources, including accommodations, counseling and access to cutting edge technology to ensure they have everything they need to be successful in their coursework and at the college.”
Nery also spoke to the positive impacts to her work with students with disabilities at College of the Desert. “With the services received at DSPS and our other exceptional student and academic support services, our students have completed certificates, degrees and many of them have transferred to four-year institutions,” she said. “In addition, many of our students have built relationships with our exceptional faculty and staff and with other students, which helped them build confidence and strengthen their life skills.”
She shared what drives her work in equity for students with disabilities and how her background has impacted her work in social justice. “Coming into college as a low-income first-generation student of color drives my work and passion for social justice,” Nery said. “Many of the reasons I entered the field of education is to advocate and remove barriers for all students, especially those who are disproportionately impacted.”
“California Community Colleges are intended to serve 100% of all students, and I consider our system an equitizing force for underrepresented populations,” she said. “In terms of equity for students with disabilities, it is personal for me because my son is on the spectrum of autism, so I am passionate about championing and advocating for all our students with disabilities.”
Dr. Nery has transitioned from her former role as Vice President of Student Success into her current role as Vice President of Instruction; she spoke to the similarities and influences of both roles. “I like to think that both roles are integrated and have provided me the ability to lead in a direction that is innovative with real change because when we are effective in our roles we can change the lives of our students, their families and our local communities,” she said.
Despite the change in her position, Dr. Nery remains committed to equity advocacy. “Today, I am now the leadership tri-chair of the Diversity Committee, and we are now working on establishing a Diversity and Equity Action Council to make issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a college priority that is salient throughout our culture and a model for the goals of the State Chancellor’s Office Call to Action,” she said.
For more information on the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability, visit caped.co.
Information on the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) at College of the Desert is available here.