Associate Dean Helps Students Succeed Through Wesleyan’s Multiple Academic Resources

Sarah Lazare, associate dean of Student Academic Resources, coordinates Wesleyan’s  Disabilities Services, the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN) and SARN Peer Advisors and the First Year Matters Program.
Posted 01/15/08
When a student encounters academic woes at Wesleyan, Sarah Lazare will find a pathway that may lead the student to success.

“There are so many academic resources available to our students,” says Lazare, associate dean of Student Academic Resources. “When students find themselves stumbling, all they have to do is ask. We will help them find a solution.”

Dean Lazare works with students from all areas of campus and all class years. She administers Disabilities Services, oversees the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN) and SARN Peer Advisors, and coordinates the First Year Matters Program.

As part of the Office for Diversity and Academic Achievement, Lazare oversees reasonable accommodations for almost 200 undergraduates with a diagnosed disability. “Disability” could mean something as simple as a problem sleeping, social anxiety or trouble with visually processing information, to chronic illnesses and diseases. What makes it a disability is if it substantially limits or impairs a major life activity.

“Sometimes I get to be a creative problem solver,” says Lazare. “Whether it is a student who has a reading disorder, or a student with arthritis or even a chronic illness that prevents a student from getting to class on a regular basis, I try to work with the student, professors, or residential life to come up with a reasonable accommodation.”

Lazare helps some students with reading disabilities gain access to their course readings through the use of Kurzweil 3000, a screen reading software that converts images to text and then speaks material to them. This allows students who have processing and executive function disorders or other visual reading disorders to hear the text while reading it.

She also educates students and their professors on how a disability might substantially limit a student’s learning. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to obtain the most appropriate access to education for a student, she explains.

“The students I work with, regardless of learning disabilities, are some of the most brilliant students on this campus,” she says.

She encourages anyone who has questions about disabilities or what a “reasonable accommodation” means, to ask.

In addition to helping students with disabilities, Lazare oversees the development of the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN), and trains 14 juniors and seniors to be SARN peer advisors. These advisors meet with first year or transfer students to offer advice on curricula, course registration and strategies on ways of studying and managing time. They also provide referrals related to academic support services. Some of these services include writing and math workshops, life sciences study groups, services for non-native speakers, the Quantitative Analysis Center for teaching and research needs, the Office of International Studies, the Career Resource Center, the Health Professionals Partnership Initiative, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program and one-on-one tutoring.

Lazare also coordinates the First Year Matters program, which provides information and events on academic and community life at Wesleyan. The program introduces first-year students to a campus where community members interact daily with the complexities and responsibilities of living in an inclusive and multicultural world. It entails meetings, guest speakers, exhibitions, discussions and a frequent e-newsletter.

Lazare started working at Wesleyan in December 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Smith College; a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and a law degree from CUNY School of Law.

At Smith College, Lazare served as the coordinator of Tutorial Services, interim coordinator of Disability Services, assistant director of the Peer Mentoring Program for Underrepresented Students in the Sciences and resident director of the Community Colleges Connections Summer Program. At CUNY School of Law, she served as the coordinator of Student Activities and Events.

As for practicing law, Lazare says “the best part of it” was the research and advising.

“I didn’t like courtroom trial work and I missed working with students,” she says. “I really love the opportunities my job here at Wesleyan provides. I love helping students attain their dreams.”

Lazare, a resident of Middletown, spends her free time with her two border collie mixes, Cole and Dudley Roy Gates Lazare. She also enjoys playing pool and singing.

“If you see me on campus with my dogs, please come and introduce yourself. We’d love to meet you,” she says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor