Accessible Learning Conference 2019 Planning Committee


Kate Sonka

Assistant Director of Academic Technology, College of Arts & Letters

Kate Sonka smiling outside in headshot

Kate Sonka is the Assistant Director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters and the Executive Director of Teach Access. She holds an M.Ed. in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and a TESOL certificate from DePaul University. Her areas of scholarly interest include accessibility as pedagogy, second language acquisition and the role of language in identity development, and how technology and experiential learning intersect through both accessibility and study abroad/away programs. She has taught a variety of courses including first year writing for non-native English speakers, a study away to explore the creative industries in Los Angeles, a study away examining the accessibility practices of large Silicon Valley tech companies, and a course on language acquisition as part of a study abroad to Chengdu, China. She is the founder and director of the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.

Committee Members

Mika Byar

CAL Undergraduate Student Representative 

Mika Byar is an undergraduate student studying Experience Architecture at Michigan State University. He has Interned at the College of Arts & Letters within the educational technology department for the past 6 months with a focus on accessibility and multidisciplinary design. He is involved in many student organizations on campus including Design for America as a project team lead, WDBM 88.9FM as a live DJ, and Experience Architecture club as a member. Outside of MSU, he also volunteers at the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter as an assistant webmaster. Upon graduation, Mika hopes to find a career within the disciplines of product, UX, or UI design.  

Caitlin Cornell

CAL Graduate Student Representative 

Caitlin Cornell smiling in headshot

Caitlin Cornell is a Ph.D. student in Second Language Studies at Michigan State University. She earned her MA in Linguistics and TESOL from the University of Illinois at Chicago and she has taught English and trained English teachers since 2005. In 2018, she interned with the English Learning and Accessibility Specialist in the Michigan Department of Education’s Accountability Office. She serves the 2019 Accessible Learning Conference as the outreach chairperson. Her second language research interests include the experiences of language learners with disabilities, strategies for accessible learning, computer-assisted language learning, online and hybrid learning, and U.S. K-12 language policy.

Anderson Day

CAL Undergraduate Student Representative 

Anderson Day smiling in headshot

Anderson Day is a software engineer studying Experience Architecture at Michigan State. Over the past two and a half years Anderson has worked at the College of Arts and Letters in the education technology department focusing on web development and accessibility. Anderson has worked with Experience Architecture program to implement technical accessibility skills into the XA curriculum. Anderson is also the lead Swift coach for the iOS Design Lab at MSU. After graduation, Anderson hopes to pursue a career bridging software engineering and accessibility.

Danielle Fowler

International Studies and Programs

Danielle Fowler headshot

Danielle Fowler is a departmental assistant director of communications for at Michigan State University. Danielle first started working in accessibility by designing plain language workshops for Michigan state government, and she continues her a11y work at MSU as an accessibility liaison for international programs. Outside of MSU, she’s an advocate for gaming accessibility and serves as a closed captioning consultant for the web series Critical Role.

Jess Knott

HUB Innovation in Learning and Technology 

Jess Knott smiling in front of trees in headshot

Jessica is the head of LX Research and Professional Development at the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology at Michigan State University. Jessica holds a BA in Journalism, an MA in Education, and a Ph.D. in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, all from Michigan State University. She has worked in digital spaces since 1998, spanning the private and academic sectors. She has led nationally- recognized networking, professional development, design and facilitation projects, and is deeply involved in her local community. Project management rhetoric makes her giddy, and learning new things is her favorite. Her scholarly interests include community-engaged experience research, strategic assessment practices, shifting literacies in the digital-social age, and how UX and service design methods have the potential to transform the student experience in higher education and beyond.

Amy Nienhouse

College of Human Medicine 

Amy Nienhouse smiling in headshot

As digital communications manager for MSU College of Human Medicine, Amy manages content strategy, social media, website design and accessibility. Amy has more than ten years of experience in public relations, communications and social media management. Amy has been with the university for more than five years. In previous roles, she served as public relations manager at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, social media specialist at Spectrum Health and adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University. Amy received a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations and a master’s degree in communications from Grand Valley State University.

Jackie Rhodes


Jaqueline Rhodes smiling in front of trees in headshot

Jacqueline Rhodes is Professor and Chair of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at MSU. Her scholarly work focuses on intersections of rhetoric, materiality, and technology, and has been published in a variety of venues, including College Composition and Communication,JAC: A Journal of Composition TheoryComputers and CompositionEnculturation, and Rhetoric Review. Her book On Multimodality (co-authored with Jonathan Alexander; NCTE, 2014) won the 2015 CCCC Outstanding Book Award and the 2014 Computers & Composition Distinguished Book Award. Techne, a book-length e-project co-authored with Jonathan Alexander, won the 2016 CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship. For more information, see her website:

Charlie Ruggiero

College of Education

Charlie Ruggiero smiling in headshot

Charlie Ruggiero works for Operations and Finance at the College of Education. He currently heads the College’s digital accessibility efforts while the College transitions accessibility under the new Associate Dean of Equity, Inclusion and Faculty Affairs starting Fall of 2019.

Heidi Schroeder

MSU Libraries 

Heidi Schroeder smiling outside in headshot

Heidi Schroeder is the Accessibility Coordinator at the Michigan State University Libraries, where she oversees and advocates for library accessibility initiatives and works with various campus accessibility groups and partners. Heidi spearheaded the creation of the Big Ten Academic Alliance Library E-Resource Accessibility Group and currently serves as its chair. Her research, publication, and presentation topics of interest include accessibility/library accessibility, electronic textbooks and affordable textbooks, and library collections and e-resources. Heidi is a 2019-2020 Big Ten Academic Alliance Academic Leadership Program Fellow. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA) and Wayne State University (MLIS).

Angela Sebald

MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities 

Angela Sebald smiling in headshot

Angela Sebald is an Ability Access Specialist for students and employees who are blind/visually impaired at Michigan State University’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. She’s responsible to oversee and coordinate alternative format production for students with disabilities. This enables students to access course-related material in formats such as electronic text (E-text), Braille, and books in audio and tactile format. Her responsibilities also include working with the MSU Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Policy for employees, staff and students with blindness/visual impairments, needing employment and academic accommodations.


Penny Shanks

CAL Events Coordinator 

Penny Shanks smiling in headshot

Penny assists with event planning including logistics, structure, budget, and sponsorship development. 

Maddie Shellgren

Graduate School

Jeremy Van Hof

Broad Business School

Jeremy Van Hof smiling in headshot

Jeremy is Director of Learning Technologies at Broad College of Business. In that capacity he oversees accessibility, instructional design, and pedagogy initiatives for online, blended and face-to-face courses. He most recently served at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as the Assistant Director of Academic Technologies. Prior to that he worked for 11 years as a high school English and journalism teacher in Mid-Michigan. He has also served as chair of the Big Ten Academic Alliance Teaching and Learning Liaisons committee, and as a board member and as president of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Master’s in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University, a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University, and a BA in English education from Michigan State University.