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April 25, 2024

Student view: Advancing web accessibility at MSU

Hannah Kindree is pursuing a master’s degree in cybercrime and digital investigations. She currently works as a student employee within the MSU Information Technology office and is president of the Accessibility Professionals of MSU

March 2020 was a very scary time in my life. From getting laid off from my on-campus job to having to go back to my hometown, I was unsure of what the next couple of months would look like for me, until I got an offer that would change my life. Receiving an email that offered a job as a crowdsource captioner eventually led to the position I have today as lead accessibility assistant with MSUIT Educational Technology and Development. In this role, I have the privilege of working with multiple different teams at MSU to advance the institutional knowledge of accessibility within the university.

Three people pose in front of a nighttime skyline.
Hannah Kindree, center, and participants at the Educause Annual Conference. Courtesy photo.

This position has led to many different opportunities, including the chance to attend the Educause Annual Conference through the Pipeline Scholar program. When my supervisor reached out asking if I would like to apply for the scholarship, I genuinely did not think that I was going to be a recipient, but after multiple interviews and preparation, I soon found myself on a train bound for Chicago to attend the conference.

While it was overwhelming at first, the group of scholar recipients became fast friends. We were able to get a tour of the venue the day before the conference officially started, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer amount of people that would be attending. Luckily, I was paired with a mentor, Adaline Tatum, who was able to help me come up with a plan for the conference and assist with networking with other professionals within higher education, and gave me useful tips and tricks for not getting overwhelmed at the conference.

There were many different sessions that I attended that had a lasting impact on me, especially the ones that were focused on accessibility. At the conference, I was able to meet the leaders of the Educause IT Accessibility Community Group, which allowed me to have valuable conversations about the state of accessibility within differing higher education institutions.

Being a woman in IT at any scale is daunting, but I saw myself represented in the keynote speakers of the conference. All three of the keynote speakers were women, each with such a unique perspective on issues and challenges they face while working in and with higher education. I really appreciated seeing women on that stage, as it gave me hope for the future of higher education IT.

Being able to connect with professionals from other institutions was one of the most fulfilling parts of attending this conference for me. As a student employee, I often feel a bit of imposter syndrome while interacting with other professionals, but every single person I met welcomed me with open arms and was excited to hear about what I do as a part of MSUIT, and I have made lasting connections from my time at the conference.

I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that I have gotten as a part of my job, and I feel so lucky to be able to attend this historic conference and learn all that I did during those four days.

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