2024 AHEAD Management Institutes

Sponsored by

February 1- 3, 2024

DoubleTree by Hilton, San Diego Mission Valley
7450 Hazard Center Drive
San Diego, CA 92108

Continuing its tradition of in-depth professional development programming each winter, AHEAD is excited to announce its 18th annual Management Institutes!  This year’s four in-depth, 14-hour Institutes cover a range of topics for disability service professionals, ADA coordinators, student affairs staff and administrators, and anyone working toward equity in higher education. AHEAD’s Management Institutes are facilitated by nationally-recognized faculty and offer opportunities for networking and individual support.

AHEAD’s Management Institutes offer an intimate setting, hands-on learning, networking opportunities, and experienced faculty that bring attendees back year after year. Each attendee chooses ONE two-day Institute for an in-depth focus on a specific topic, and all attendees are included in the 2-hour Saturday morning workshop: Responding to Self-Injurious Students: Respecting Civil Rights while Acting with Compassion and Equity. We hope you can join us!

All registrations include a complimentary full breakfast buffet each morning.

The following four in-depth sessions will be offered this year (choose ONE):

Institute #1: Leadership Boot Camp: Preparing for a Leadership Role in the Disability Field

Institute #2: Autism Cultural Responsiveness: Access, Inclusion, and Growth

Institute #3: Introduction to Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA/504 Officers

Institute #4: An Introduction to Managing Accommodations for Students in Health Science Education Programs

Saturday Morning Workshop: All attendees will come together for a final  session applicable to students on any campus 

Responding to Self-Injurious Students: Respecting Civil Rights while Acting with Compassion and Equity

Saturday, February 3, 9-11am

Paul Grossman, J.D., Executive Counsel of AHEAD, and OCR and Hastings College of Law, retired
Jamie Axelrod, M.S., Northern Arizona University 
Jon McGough, M.S., University of California, San Francisco

When a student attempts self-harm or expresses suicidal ideation, how can campus officials ensure that the student remains safe and receives appropriate supports and services? What have previous mistakes at other campuses taught us about what NOT to do? This two-hour morning session will provide an overview of the legal mandates regarding self-injurious students, as well as a discussion about the best approaches to caring for students in this sensitive situation. The role of the disability office as well as other campus supports will be discussed, including how to work jointly with other offices to support vulnerable students. 

overview of San Diego coastline with bright blue sky, palm trees, dark ocean waves and tall buildings in the distance, with text that reads "2024 Management Institutes. February 1-3, San Diego CA

Sponsored by...

readspeaker logo
For over 25 years ReadSpeaker has helped more than 10,000 organizations worldwide support learners and educators by providing text to speech to make content more accessible and inclusive. Easy-to-integrate and easy-to-use, ReadSpeaker learning tools empower educators to cater to a diverse student population, promoting engagement and comprehension, and improving learning outcomes. 

Institute Descriptions

Institute #1: Leadership Boot Camp: Preparing for a Leadership Role in the Disability Field 

Jennifer Murchison, California State University, Sacramento
Samra Ward Smith, San Jacinto College

This training is intended for those who are looking to solidify the skills and knowledge necessary for leading a disability office or ADA Coordinator position/office. Whether you are an established staff member looking to move up within the office or a newly minted Assistant Director, Director, or ADA Coordinator, this management institute is for you! 

Led by two long-time professionals with experience in 4-year and 2-year institutions, the presenters will discuss aspects of disability services work that you must know as a leader in your office and in the field. The presenters will discuss ways in which you can grow as a leader and will include tips for leading your team, as well as how those approaches may differ in a community college, 4-year, or graduate/professional school environment. You’ll learn from our experience (including mistakes) and expertise in community college settings, research institutes, graduate programs, and professional schools. We will discuss what we discovered leaders need to know and try to provide you with the support we wish we’d had when we were coming up in the field.  We’ll also spend a little time discussing how you can begin to prepare yourself now for future job interviews and discussions about promotion within your department or institution.

Throughout the three days, we will work through case studies, engage in discussions about issues we are facing in our work, and discuss trends and best practices in the field. We’ll also talk about getting the most out of your AHEAD leadership experiences, opportunities, and engagement with fellow accessibility professionals. As leaders, we rely on each other for support and guidance. This session will help you grow your confidence and competency as a leader in disability services.

Topics to be covered include:

Part 1: Leading Within Your Office

  • Strategic/long term planning
  • Setting departmental culture (approaches to accommodations, setting common expectations regarding difficult parents or faculty)
  • Budgeting
  • Supervisory skills (managing burnout, mentoring staff, providing feedback and setting expectations for underperforming staff members)
  • Moving the office from reactive to proactive (moving toward universal design, building institutional awareness of disability)
  • Conflict resolution

Part 2: Intra-Campus Relationship Building

  • Building your network of campus partners
  • Cultivating effective and collegial faculty relationships
  • Effective communication to the campus community about your office and disability
  • Managing “up” (within the office, and to the “higher-ups” in the university)
  • Managing the student grievance process
  • Participating in campuswide committees, programs, etc. (from Behavioral Intervention Teams to curriculum committees to hiring committees and everything in between)

Part 3: Positioning Yourself to Move Up 

  • What do schools look for in institutional leaders?
  • What can you do now to prepare yourself as a future leader? (either within your current office/institution or at another institution)
  • Gaining leadership experience now through AHEAD and other opportunities to build your resume
  • Creating tangible steps/goals to take home and work toward

Cost for Institute #1:

  • On or before December 21, 2023: $595 member rate; $725 non-members
  • After December 21, 2023: $695 member rate; $825 non-members

Institute #2: Autism Cultural Responsiveness: Access, Inclusion, and Growth

Sara Sanders Gardner, Autistic at Work LLC

With increasing numbers of students with autism attending colleges and universities each year, staff and faculty may wonder how to provide true inclusion for these students while supporting their growth and the overall campus community. Although the DSM-IV first referred to Autism as a spectrum disorder in 1994, and the DSM-5 attempted to further clarify the breadth and depth of that spectrum in 2013, the diagnostic criteria doesn’t begin to go far enough to describe what’s really going on for many, if not most, of our autistic students. Indeed, the limited criteria can lead to misunderstandings and dead ends when trying to support student access, success, and growth. This Institute brings together research and information from the autistic community, as well as the wisdom of attendees’ experience, led by Sara Sanders Gardner, with personal lived experience as an autistic person and parent, along with twenty years of professional experience. Topics to be covered include:

  • Autistic Culture and Communication
  • Accommodating Co-occurring Conditions
  • Pedagogical Practices for Inclusion to Share with Faculty
  • Codes of Conduct and the Students with Autism
  • Problem-Solving Strategies for Autistic Students
  • Navigating Dorm Life

Attendees will receive practical tools to support implementation and bring training back to their campuses.

Cost for Institute #2:

  • On or before December 21, 2023: $595 member rate; $725 non-members
  • After December 21, 2023: $695 member rate; $825 non-members

Institute #3: Introduction to Disability Law for DSS Directors, Staff, and ADA/504 Officers   

Paul Grossman, J.D., Executive Counsel of AHEAD, and OCR and Hastings College of Law, retired
Jamie Axelrod, M.S., Northern Arizona University
Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D., California State University. Sacramento

Back by popular demand, this updated session will give disability resource, ADA, disability law, and compliance professionals a comprehensive introduction to postsecondary student disability law, including the requirements of the Americans Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act. There is no way to anticipate every question or scenario that will arise in implementing these laws. Consequently, our mission is to provide each participant with a series of comprehensive frameworks, “analytical paradigms,” and procedural tools for addressing the broad range of legal questions they are likely to encounter. The courts and the Office for Civil Rights often devote more scrutiny to the processes colleges and universities use to reach their decisions than to the decisions themselves. Accordingly, this course will present the procedures most likely to receive agency approval and deference.

This course will begin by placing the responsibilities of disability services into its civil rights context with a review of the history of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and the emergence of the intersectional disability rights movement. Participants will learn the seminal legal concepts common to all antidiscrimination laws and what is unique to disability law. With this broad foundation under our feet, we will take a quick walk through the applicable regulations and tie these concepts and regulations to a comprehensive overview of potential claims and defenses under disability discrimination law including denial of accommodation, fundamental alteration, and undue burden.

Next, we will learn to look at our daily questions as if they had been set before a judge to scrutinize. The issue underlying about 80% of all post-secondary student disability cases is whether the student complainant is “a qualified student with a disability” (QSD).   This includes focusing on who is “an individual with a disability” under the ADA as amended and what the courts and DOJ tell us about documentation of disability. We will then proceed to the second element of the QSD paradigm: whether a student with a disability can meet the essential academic and technical requirements of the institution, with or without reasonable accommodation (“academic adjustments and auxiliary aids”). This will include discussion of accommodations that are “necessary” and “reasonable” and those that are not because they either entail a “fundamental alteration” or an “undue burden.”

Finally, will devote significant time analyzing recent court decisions and OCR letters, whose discernible theme is that colleges and universities should never deny an accommodation to students with disabilities without first engaging in a case-by-case (individualized) and “interactive” consideration process, even if implementing the accommodation would require making an exception or modification to a long-existing rule, practice, policy, or assumption. Particularly at this stage, we will apply these foundational concepts to cutting-edge legal developments in some of the most challenging and complex issues that face disability resource offices. Opportunities to apply concepts will be provided through discussion of recent cases.

Cost for Institute #3:

Note: Registration for Institute #3 includes a copy of the manual: Laws, Policies, and Processes: Tools for Postsecondary Student Accommodation, edited by Vance and Thompson.

  • On or before December 21, 2023: $645 AHEAD Members; $775 Non-Members
  • After December 21, 2023: $745 AHEAD Members; $875 Non-Members

Institute # 4: An Introduction to Managing Accommodations for Students in Health Science Programs

Jon McGough, M.Ed., University of California, San Francisco
Mary Gerard, M.Ed., Bellingham Technical College

Schools that offer health science programs, including Nursing, Dental, Pharmacy, Speech/Language, Physical or Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, Veterinary, Medical, Podiatry, or other programs, face unique challenges in creating accessible programs and developing effective accommodations for students with disabilities. This introduction to disability accommodations in health science education is intended for clinical program administrators and disability resource professionals at 2-year, 4-year or graduate institutions, to provide an overview of how to address complex accommodation requests in classroom, lab, and clinical environments. Common challenges in health science education—whether a certificate program, associate degree, or professional school— include the lock-step nature of most programs, determining appropriate accommodations in patient care settings, meeting technical standards, planning proactively to anticipate accommodation needs in clinical environments, and guiding students applying for testing accommodations in licensing exams.

The presenters, one from a community college and one with experience at a four-year university with a medical school, will cover the basic tenets of practicing in this specialization, including the most relevant OCR decisions and court cases. Participants will have opportunities to work through basic scenarios. Throughout the Institute, participants will gain:

  • a practical overview of disability laws and how they apply to the health sciences, with attention to how disability laws relate to health science clinical settings;
  • an understanding of the interactive process that occurs between disability professionals, faculty, staff, and the student when determining reasonable accommodations in clinical and lab environments (such as fieldwork, internships, clerkships,
  • preceptorships, etc., as well as OSCEs, sim labs, cadaver labs, etc.);
  • information on how to identify when a potential accommodation may affect the integrity of the learning outcomes, compromise patient safety, or challenge technical standards;
  • an appreciation of the importance of giving prospective, recently admitted, and enrolled students clear, written policies and procedures;
  • tips for developing clear processes for faculty and staff;
  • ideas for working with students and faculty to improve communication around disability-related needs and implementing accommodations;
  • skills for training faculty, including addressing common concerns about patient safety, essential requirements, and technical standards; and advising faculty and administrators who may instinctively slip from the role of faculty into their roles as health care providers when working with students with disabilities.

Participants will leave this training with tools to aid in decision-making, policy development, and leading faculty/staff development trainings.

Cost for Institute #4:

  • On or before December 21, 2023: $595 member rate; $725 non-members
  • After December 21, 2023: $695 member rate; $825 non-members

Back to Top

Institute Faculty

Jamie Axelrod, a person with light skin, short brown hair, wearing a blue collared shirt and smiling

Jamie Axelrod, M.S. is the Director of Disability Resources at Northern Arizona University and a past-president of AHEAD. Jamie presents regularly on topics related to disability access and higher education, having expertise in disability law and policy, communication and information technology (ICT) access, and the reasonable accommodation process. Jamie is a respected contributor to professional listservs, having received the Fink-Ryan Award for the quality of his guidance, and a go-to consultant for complex issues. He has worked for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s athletic department, as a mental health therapist, and for Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc., a disability rights advocacy law firm where he served as an advocate for individuals with disabilities who were claiming that their civil rights had been violated. Jamie has served as co-chair of Northern Arizona University’s Commission on Disability Access and Design and on AHEAD’s Board of Directors.

Mary Gerard, a person with light skin, white shoulder-length hair, wearing dark rimmed glasses and an orange sweater, smiling

Mary Gerard, M.Ed. is the Director of Accessibility Resources at Bellingham Technical College. Mary is a Past-President of both the Washington State Disability Support Services Council (DSSC) and the Washington Association on Postsecondary Education and Disability (WAPED). She has fifteen years’ experience in higher education, disability education, and accommodation provision and served for three years on the WA State Governor’s Task Force for the Transition to College for Students with Disabilities. Mary’s practice intentionally creates an environment where students with disabilities engage in their disability identity development, enhancing students’ self-efficacy and self-advocacy. She pioneered the BTC Accessibility Team in 2012, a cross-campus constituency of those committed to the work of disability allyship. This work has paved the way at her college for a greater focus on accessibility and an institution-wide commitment to supporting students with disabilities.

Sara Gardner, a person with light skin and short brown hair, wearing black rimmed glasses and grinning

Sara Sanders Gardner’s work in the disability field began in 2001, when as a newly diagnosed autistic, they served as a parent advocate for IEP meetings, taught parenting classes at United Cerebral Palsy, and were president of a 600-family autism support group in Orange County, CA. In 2011, Sara designed and developed the nationally recognized Neurodiversity Navigators at Bellevue College in Washington State, which has grown to serve over 300 students in tiered services. As director of the program, Sara leads a team of staff, faculty, and peer mentors, designs curriculum, serves as faculty in cohort classes, and works to support disability inclusion and accessibility across campus. Sara serves as co-chair of the College’s Council for Inclusion and Diversity, sits on the CARE Team, and is a Title IX Investigator. Through their Autistic at Work LLC, Sara also provides workshops and e-Learning in Neurodiversity Cultural Responsiveness for Microsoft Corporation, Amazon Web Services, and other organizations. Sara has a 33- year-old neurodivergent son, and a 14-year-old dachshund. Sara’s pronouns are they/them/theirs.

Paul Grossman, a black and white image of a person with a grey/white beard wearing a suit jacket, smiling

Paul Grossman, J.D. is the Executive Counsel of AHEAD with over 40 years of service at OCR in Washington and San Francisco, most of them as a Chief Regional Attorney. Paul also taught disability law for over 20 years at Hastings College of Law, UC. Paul remains a frequent guest lecturer for AHEAD, CAPED, Hastings, UC Berkeley, the California Community College System and the National Association of ADA Coordinators. Paul served multiple terms on AHEAD’s Board of Directors and remains a member of the AHEAD Public Policy Committee as well as the Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) Expert Advisory Board. Through investigation, decision writing, and negotiations, Paul has addressed every form of discrimination in education including race, national origin, sex and disability, often developing new approaches for protecting the civil rights of students. Paul is the author of AHEAD’s publication, The Law of Disability Discrimination for Higher Education Professionals. Paul joins Jamie Axelrod, M.S. and Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D. in two book chapters on analytical tools and procedures for DSS officers when they face their most complex and challenging questions, planned for publication by AHEAD in late 2022.


Jon McGough, a black and white image of a person with light skin, shaved head and a beard, wearing glasses and smiling

Jon McGough, M.Ed. is currently the Student Disability Specialist at University of California - San Francisco and has more than 15 years of ADA and accommodations related experience in higher education and for-profit business.  He served on the Board of the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education and is a past President of the Washington Association on Postsecondary Education and Disability. His list of clients and previous employers includes Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, the University of Washington, and Amazon, among others.


Jennifer Murchison, a person with light skin, dark brown medium-length hair, wearing a yellow blouse and smiling

Jennifer Murchison is the Executive Director of Universal Access and Inclusion and ADA Coordinator in the Office for Disability Justice at California State University, Sacramento (Sac State). Jennifer's work is grounded in the principles of social justice and civil rights as integral foundations of administration and institutional work. In her 23+ years as a professional in higher education and disability services, Jennifer has forged friendships and mentorships up and down the ladder. Jennifer is leading efforts at Sac State to be more intentional with inclusionary practices on campus, with employment searches, during events, and in general. She is working with colleagues to ensure disability is seen as a valued aspect of diversity, addressing ableism across identities, and highlighting that ableism is systemic - something we all should acknowledge, address, and correct. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys falling down a rabbit hole of pre-Code Hollywood films (made 1928-1934) starring Kay Francis, Jean Harlow, and George Brent.


Samra Ward, a person with light skin, light brown long straight hair, wearing a pink blazer and a pearl necklace, smiling

Samra Ward Smith is the Director of Student Accessibility Services for San Jacinto College's five campuses across Houston, Texas.  A graduate of the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Samra has spent her career advocating for disability access and equity. Throughout her career, Samra has created viable change in the way her organizations approach classroom and field accommodations, accessible social media, universally designed event planning, and commencement exercises. Samra’s professional experiences within higher education, disability services, and local nonprofit organizations have affirmed to her that equitable change only comes from a willingness to create partnerships. In her current role, Samra is leading efforts to ensure universally designed environments so that students with barriers to obtaining a diagnosis also have appropriate supports. When Samra is not working, she enjoys creating new recipes (that she shares in accessible social media posts on Instagram!), reading, traveling, and collecting vintage Fiestaware dishes.

Mary Lee Vance, a person with tan skin, long wavy grey/brown hair, wearing a pink collared shirt and smiling

Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D. is the Director of the Disability Access Center at California State University, Sacramento. She has directed multiple university student services including academic advising, career services, TRIO (McNair and Student Services), minority recruitment and retention, enrollment management, student teaching and certification as well as served as interim Director for the Office of Equal Opportunity, Title IX and DHR. Disability services she has directed include University of California Berkeley, University of Montana, George Mason University, University of Wisconsin Superior and Orange Coast College. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses, including disability studies and has successfully written federal grants, as well as published in refereed journals, books and periodicals. She was the lead editor for five books: DISABLED Faculty and Staff in a Disabling Society: Multiple Perspectives in Higher Education; Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act: Proactively Planning for Accessible Post-Secondary Educational Offerings Now and into the Future; Advising Students with Disabilities: Developing Universal Success; Laws, Policies and Procedures: Tools for Postsecondary Student Accommodation; and DISABLED Faculty and Staff: Intersecting Identities in Higher Education, Volume 2. She is currently the Equity Officer on the AHEAD Board of Directors, a reviewer for two refereed journals—AHEAD’s JPED and NACADA journal—and a Fellow with Complete College America. Among other honors, Mary Lee was presented AHEAD’s Professional Recognition Award in 2012, Duraese Hall Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2020 and the Blosser in 2023.

Back to Top


Thursday and Friday, Feb 1 and 2, 2024 

  • Breakfast buffet (included) - 8 am - 9 am
  • Session - 9 am - 10:30 am
  • Break - 10:30 am - 11 am
  • Session - 11 am -12:30 pm
  • Lunch - 12:30 pm - 2 pm
  • Session -  2 pm - 3:30 pm
  • Break – 3:30 pm - 4 pm
  • Session - 4 pm - 5:30 pm

Saturday, February 3, 2024 

  • Breakfast buffet (included) - 8 am - 9 am 
  • Session - 9 am -11 am

Back to Top

Costs & Registration Information

On or before December 21, 2023:

  • Institutes 1, 2 & 4: $595 AHEAD Members; $725 Non-Members
  • Institute 3 (only): $645 AHEAD Members; $775 Non-Members (includes a copy of the book “Laws, Policies, and Processes: Tools for Postsecondary Student Accommodation” at the start of the first day of the session)

After December 21, 2023:

  • Institutes 1, 2 & 4: $695 AHEAD Members; $825 Non-Members
  • Institute 3 (only): $745 AHEAD Members; $875 Non-Members (includes a copy of the book “Laws, Policies, and Processes: Tools for Postsecondary Student Accommodation” at the start of the first day of the session)

Refunds can only be provided for cancellations received in writing on or before December 21, 2023. A $75.00 administrative fee will be charged for all cancellations. We regret that no refunds can be issued after December 21, 2023 for any reason, but can be transferred to another attendee from the same institution.

Accommodation requests, including CART and interpreting, should be made during the registration process online by December 21, 2023.

Back to Top

Host Hotel

Wooden chairs surrounding 2 large fire pits, with a bright blue pool and palm trees behind it under a dark night sky

All events and housing for the 2024 AHEAD Management Institutes will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton, San Diego Mission Valley, centrally located just minutes from world-class shopping, sparkling beaches, must-visit attractions, exceptional restaurants, and the airport.

To receive the AHEAD discounted rate for hotel rooms, you must make your reservation by January 08, 2024. Reservations made after that date will be accepted on a rate and space availability basis only. To get the AHEAD rate, use this link to book or call (800) 222-TREE and provide the Group Code “WMI.”

Back to Top


Obtaining CEUs

To support your professional development goals, AHEAD has arranged Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). Additionally, if you maintain certification or licensure from another agency that requires continuing education, AHEAD can document your attendance at the conference to support your application for independent CEUs from your organization. Instructions for each are below.


To obtain CEU's CRC license holders must:

  1. Print and bring the Certificate Request form, or pick one up on site.
  2. Check which workshop you attended, total the hours attended (maximum 14) and have the instructor or AHEAD Staff sign and date it.
  3. Complete the form and bring to the CEU Table at Registration
  4. CEU Table staff will give you a Verification form for you to upload to your account in CRCCConnect online. Use your phone to scan or take a photo of the form as a backup. AHEAD does not keep a copy of your Verification form.
If you forget, or if AHEAD staff are not available, you may scan and email your completed Certificate Request form to profdev@ahead.org and we will send you a Verification Form.

Other CEU's or Certificates of Attendance

If you maintain certification or licensure from an employer or agency that requires continuing education, AHEAD can document your attendance at the conference to support your own application for CEU's from your organization or proof of attendance for your institution.
  1. Print and bring the Certificate Request form, or pick one up on site.
  2. Check which workshop you attended, total the hours attended (maximum 14) and have the instructor or AHEAD Staff sign and date it.
  3. Keep your completed and signed Certificate Request form and submit it to your employer or licensing body as needed. (If they are a rare entity that requires a formal 'Certificate of Attendance' in addition to the signed form indicating your attendance, bring the completed Certificate Request form back to the AHEAD registration desk to request one. If you forget, or if AHEAD staff are not available, you may scan and email your completed Certificate Request form to profdev@ahead.org and we will send you a certificate.)
If you forget, or if AHEAD staff are not available, you may scan and email your completed Certificate Request form to profdev@ahead.org and we will send you a certificate.

Back to Top