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Inspire Leadership: Lori Smith

Lori Smith has a goal—to write and publish a book—a goal she shares with her husband. Lori figured out one of the best ways to get her name out there would be publishing smaller works for others to see. And it paid off.

Lori Smith, assistant director of Student Disability Services

A piece she wrote for the parenting blog “Grown and Flown” titled “6 Things You Should Never Do as the Parent of a College Kid” was the second most read article on the site in 2017. That popularity and interest earned Lori’s piece a place in the website’s new book GROWN AND FLOWN: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults, going on sale in September.

“The article really ended up resonating with people, which is cool” says Smith. “[The company] is actually publishing the book and asked me a few months ago if they could include the article, which is exciting!”

This isn’t the first time Lori has written for “Grown and Flown,” in fact it’s the third time her work has been featured. She’s also written for “ADDitude Magazine,” a publication that focuses on important news, expert advice, and judgment-free understanding for families and adults living with attention deficit disorder. She is also in the process of writing a piece for edutopia.org, a George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas) Educational Foundation recipient.

“The piece I’m writing for edutopia.org is about getting accommodations in college, but it’s really geared toward K-12 guidance counselors and special educators on how to prepare students for requesting accommodations in college.”

With her focus being on helping students with disabilities, most of Lori’s pieces have resided in the area of transitioning to college and learning how to ask for the accommodations they need in order to be successful.

“A lot of what I see, and what I wrote my dissertation on, is the transition to college for students with disabilities, and how they get accommodations in K-12 versus how they get them in college is very different; it’s two different worlds. I like getting the word out about how to better prepare them before they get to us.”

As the assistant director of Student Disability Services at UT, Lori says she enjoys feeling like she is helping people access higher education. That’s what drew her to the field in the first place. She admires the ever-changing landscape of the field, as well as meeting the needs of the students she engages with every day.

“It’s a very interesting field to me because part of what we do is based on the law and the interpretation of that is always changing, so it’s never boring. Every student is unique, no matter what kind of disability they have, and part of the law we follow is we look at every student as a unique individual and consider their unique circumstances.”

While some may find the task of fulfilling each different need of a student with a disability daunting, it’s a challenge that Lori has come to love. She learns something new every day that will have an impact on the students she works with.

“One student with A.D.D. may need different accommodations than another student with A.D.D., as their symptoms present differently. It’s always a little bit like solving a puzzle when you meet with a student and talk about what their challenges are and try to figure out the best way to help them.”

It’s clear in listening to Lori talk about her profession that she has passion for students and helping students access the tools they need to achieve their goals, not only at UT, but nation-wide. She is taking the knowledge she’s gained over the course of her career and is sharing it with the people involved in students’ transitions into higher education. There is no doubt that the work that Lori, and every member of the Student Disability Services staff, is having a positive impact on students that will help them be successful at UT and beyond.