News, University News

Former associate dean and director of SEAS steps down

Catherine Axe ’87 moves to inaugural position to promote accessibility at Johns Hopkins University

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Former Associate Dean and Director of Student and Employee Accessibility Services Catherine Axe ’87 left the University in March to “pursue a wonderful leadership opportunity” at Johns Hopkins University as its inaugural executive director of student disability services, wrote Eric Estes, the vice president for campus life in an email to The Herald.

Her departure follows 15 years of service at the University and the notice of resignation that she gave in January.

Since Axe’s departure, Desirae Mix and Jonathan Corey, assistant directors of SEAS, have managed the office’s day-to-day operations, wrote Vanessa Britto MSc ’96, the assistant vice president for campus life and executive director of health and wellness, in an email to The Herald. The University is actively searching for a new director to permanently fill Axe’s role, a process which began in February, Britto wrote.

Britto, who is chairing the search, said that the University is considering both internal and external candidates for the role. Britto hopes to invite candidates for on-campus interviews soon, with the goal of naming the new director by the end of the semester. The new director will “plan to transition to campus in the early summer,” she wrote.

After accepting her new position at Johns Hopkins in January, Axe, along with the SEAS team and Britto, developed a transition plan to delegate Axe’s former responsibilities among other administrators within SEAS “in ways that made sense,” Britto wrote. Previously, Axe was responsible for ensuring equity and inclusion on campus, overseeing SEAS and setting departmental goals for the University’s accessibility, according to the director of accessibility services job description.

Because SEAS handles accessibility requests for the housing lottery during the spring semester, this time of year has been especially busy for the office in Axe’s absence, Britto wrote. “With the added responsibilities that each team member has during this period of transition they are much busier — it has not been easy,” she added.

Collaborative efforts, however, have allowed SEAS to undertake the increased volume of work during this period of transition, Britto wrote. “From my perspective, while the department has always prided itself on being collaborative, I think it is fair to say that they would describe themselves as even more collaborative over the past several weeks.”

Despite Axe’s departure during a period of high demand, “there is a strong commitment that each SEAS member has to not compromise students’ experiences, to respond to requests in a timely fashion and to maintain professionalism all the while,” Britto wrote. “It has been very impressive.”

Axe joined Johns Hopkins as their first executive director for Student Disability Services March 11. After examining their disability services, Johns Hopkins developed “a new model of service delivery to suit their multi-campus needs,” Britto wrote. Axe was hired for an inaugural position created under this new model of disability services, she added.

In her new role, Axe will be responsible for working with “disability coordinators,” managing student accommodations and raising awareness around disability issues within the university’s community, according to a press release from Johns Hopkins.

Though SEAS will miss Axe “as a colleague and as a friend,” the University is “very fortunate to have a deep, talented and diverse pool of qualified applicants” applying for Axe’s former position, Britto wrote. “Selecting the right person for the position is our priority. I am confident that we will be able to do that,” she added.

Axe could not be reached for comment by press time.

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