It’s not about overcoming challenges. It’s about identifying and strengthening talents.
Nance Longworth has worked at Davidson College since 1991, in both full and part-time capacities, and she says her current job as part of the John Crosland Jr. Center for Teaching and Learning is to help people with “diversabilities” find their full potential and celebrate their successes.

“Little things can change the trajectory of someone’s life,” said Longworth. “I have worked with students who are struggling, but once students have access to the most effective tools to help them, they are able to create incredible outcomes. If students aren’t successful at Davidson, other students won’t be interested in attending, and it’s our job to make sure students have equal access to the opportunities that allow them to do their best.”

The center, centrally located in the E. H. Little Library, serves hundreds of Davidson students in need of accommodations, academic coaching and skill-building each year, and Longworth is the director of the office of academic access and disability resources. She sees herself as an advocate, and she takes a coaching or “concierge” approach to her work, pointing out that each student’s situation is personal and unique. Throughout the year, students who seek assistance through the center may have challenges with mobility or learning disorders or ADHD. They may be hearing impaired or have a chronic medical illness. “Any skill or talent a student brought to Davidson is only amplified through our time together,” she said. “We work to identify their strengths, which is the most important step in identifying strategies for continued or increased success.”

Although Longworth forms close relationships with many students on campus, she says a good day is actually a day when a student is better able to navigate their college experience individually.

“The whole idea is that I offer tools they can use, and they are able to model what we’ve learned together,” she said. “Then, they are able to continue without needing the same level of support.”

Looking ahead, Longworth and colleagues are interested in improved accommodations—both with respect to assisted technology and space—to better serve Davidson students. They would also like to continue collaborations with faculty members in an effort to promote universal design of courses and classrooms so fewer accommodations would be needed.

“The sky is the limit,” said Longworth. “Students walk away with amazing skills and talents, both in the academic and personal areas of their lives. We’re about developing and enhancing the whole person, and each person defines that differently.”

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