From Left to Right: Julie Loppacher, University of Southern California, Morgan Strimel, AHEAD in Virginia Executive Committee, Krista Miller, AHEAD in Virginia Executive Committee, Naomi Martinez-Jones, AHEAD in Virginia Executive Committee, Beth Ann Dickie, AHEAD in Virginia Executive Committee, Beth Callahan, AHEAD in Virginia Executive Committee
Julie Loppacher, M. Ed. is the Director of the Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity (KCLC) at the University of Southern California (USC). She is an advocate for students with disabilities and approaches her work with a diversity, equity, and inclusion mindscape. Throughout her career, but most notably with in the last 12 months, Julie has worked tirelessly to improve the on-campus experience for students with disabilities. As USC returned to in-person classes in the fall of 2021, Julie noticed that there was a drastic increase in the number of students in need of psychoeducational assessments to diagnosis Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Prior to this year, KCLC would receive approximately 20 inquires annually, however for the 2021-2022 academic year they have already received almost 100. While KCLC can conduct a limited number of Psychoeducational assessments each year, they certainly did not have the capacity to meet the growing demands. Julie immediately began working to address the issue which included: convening all the departments on campus that have the capability to conduct these assessments and created a comprehensive list of options where students could access them; developing an additional Supervision structure within KCLC to expand KCLC's capacity to test students; and working with USC's Advancement Office to develop a philanthropic gift option, which has secured $100,000 in gifts for testing alone, and is currently working on a matched gift of $375,000. In addition to her work on assessments, Julie was an active contributor to the USC Provost's initiative on Inclusive Learning Environments (ILE). This work focused around assessing the current learning climate for students at USC and proposing strategies for addressing disparities. For the ILE initiative, Julie was a huge proponent of: inclusive language; Universal Design for Learning; Trauma Informed Pedagogy; and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. All these contributions are in addition to the day-to-day work that Julie is responsible for through KCLC.
Starting in July 2018 the executive committee of AHEAD in Virginia began discussing and planning how to address the constant revolving door of people leaving disability services in VA. Under the leadership of then president-elect Christa Miller, the first cohort of the peer mentoring program ran from September 2019 to April 2020. The group met over Zoom monthly and included guest speakers and topic discussions chosen by the group. Feedback from the group indicated that many of them had sought out advice from one another or the mentors outside of the meetings. They further reported that many of them sought advice from the mentors, but would not have felt comfortable doing so before the program. Given the tremendously positive feedback from participants, past president Beth Ann Dickie of Old Dominion University and immediate past president Beth Callahan led the next year's cohort. After two successful years of running the program and continued positive feedback, the executive committee agreed to make it a standing offering. After 3 years, the program has become a much sought after opportunity. Membership has most recently asked us to consider expanding the program to also offer a shortened version during the summer to allow people who have joined more recently to participate.