After over 20 years serving as Kenyon’s director of Student Accessibility and Support Services (SASS), Erin Salva ’79 is retiring. Her last day will be on Jan. 15.
Born in Connecticut, Salva came to Kenyon as a student in 1975, earning a degree in psychology. She has resided in Gambier ever since. While at Kenyon, Salva started the Kenyon women’s soccer team, and played for the team. She later served as its coach following graduation before the team transitioned from club to varsity.
Salva then began work at a local elementary school in Centerburg, Ohio, focusing on inclusivity within the classroom. She was in the process of applying to be an artist in schools, working specifically with music and storytelling, when the position at SASS opened up. Salva then changed her career path: In 1999, 20 years after her graduation, Salva returned to Kenyon to become the director of the program. “I’d describe it as a full-circle experience,” she said. “Timing was everything.”
At the time of her hiring, SASS was a new program on Kenyon’s campus, leaving Salva with a lot of autonomy in shaping the position. “I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into,” she said. “I learned a lot very quickly.”
When she began her work, Salva said disability studies was still a new field. During her time at Kenyon, however, conversations around disability began to take flight. In her 20 years as director, Salva confronted a range of issues surrounding accessibility at the College, from the Middle Path restoration project to developing the housing accommodations program and assisting students with both mental and physical disabilities.
Reflecting on her work, Salva said that her biggest motivators were the students. “I was basically learning from the students, and figuring out what kind of accommodations they needed to freely access Kenyon’s classrooms and programs,” she said.
Salva was also responsible for bringing assistive technology to Kenyon’s support services, such as Kurtzweil 3000, a program designed to provide literacy support to those who struggle with literacy within the classroom. She also brought in SensusAccess, a file conversion program that makes digital resources easier to use.
“Technology is always evolving, and it’s amazing,” she said. “[It] provides greater accessibility for students and faculty.”
President Sean Decatur expressed his deep gratitude and fondness for Salva’s work, saying that he joins the rest of the Kenyon community in wishing her a restful retirement. “She has been kind and generous in educating the broader community,” he said. “She has a rare strength in knowing the policy issues with a great deal of depth, but also understanding the human impact with a great deal of empathy and nuance.”
Looking towards her retirement, Salva will be staying in Gambier. She said that she is excited to spend more time with her four grandchildren, all of whom reside in Ohio. She also plans on reading, focusing on music and spending time in the garden, as well as helping her husband with renovations to their house, which is made completely out of recycled materials.
Salva will also continue to spend her time cycling with Pelotonia, which she has done for the past 10 summers. Decatur fondly remembers his bike rides with Salva.
“On several Pelotonia rides, she was kind enough to slow her pace so that I could ride with her, which I appreciated,” he said with a chuckle.
Salva will miss her time working at Kenyon, and is thankful for the students who helped her learn along the way. In her final comments, she reminded everyone that accessibility is a “we issue.”
“[Accessibility] doesn’t reside all in one office,” she said. “It resides with all of us and all of us are responsible for making Kenyon a more welcoming and inclusive place. It’s going to take some work, but hopefully we’re on the road to that.”