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Steele named TU Director of Student Disability Support Services

Dr. Katrina Steele was recently named the new Director of Student Disability Support Services at Thomas University. She is also an Assistant Professor in the Division of Counseling and Psychology, where she teaches undergraduate psychology classes and graduate level counseling classes.

“Dr. Katrina Steele puts students’ needs first,” said Dr. Pauline Patrick, Chair of the TU Division of Counseling and Psychology. “She is well-versed in meeting the needs of students with disabilities, whether visible or invisible, and understands how students’ disabilities impact their access to education. She is knowledgeable about the ways to accommodate students with disabilities and can assist faculty as they implement the various academic accommodations.  I know students will find Dr. Steele to be very approachable. As a faculty member, I look forward to working with her in this new role.”

Dr. Steele doesn’t look at “disabilities” the way many others do. 

“With Disability Support Services, you really have to take away the disability part of that,” she explained. “It’s really a different ability. We each have a different way of learning or interacting with the world. It’s about equity, not equality. My job is to provide students what they need to have an experience equal to other students so we can help them reach their goals.”

In her classes, Steele uses a variety of methods to appeal to all types of learners, but students must also advocate for themselves when they need assistance. Steele reminds parents that university students must sign FERPA waiver forms before university personnel can legally discuss students’ issues with their parents.

“I’m a firm believer in allowing people to learn the way they learn,” she said. “We have to even the playing field so that everyone can play ball.” 

Part of a military family, Steele was born in Germany and moved around before her family settled in the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a master’s degree in counseling, both from what is now Longwood University. Steele went on to earn a Ph.D. in Counselor Education with a specialization in School Counseling from Old Dominion University.

Steele said she grew up around other children with different abilities. Her mother was a learning therapist who focused on working with children to bring them up to the same educational level as their peers.

When Steele was trying to decide on a career path, her mother recommended school counseling. She spent 14 years in the field and even became a certified specialist on dealing with bullying in high schools. She was often called on to speak on the subject at meeting of the Virginia School Counseling Association.

Steele began at TU in January 2018 as an adjunct faculty member teaching online counseling courses while completing her school counselor career. In July she and her husband moved to the area. Steele became a full-time TU faculty member in August.

Steele now lives in Tallahassee with her husband, Brian, and their dog, Merlin.

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