2020 Accessible Learning Conference Planning Committee

Director & Co-Chair

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 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 co-chair of the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.



Heidi Schroeder

Accessibility Coordinator, Michigan State University 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).

Committee Members

Mika Byar

Undergraduate Student Representative 

Mika Byar is an undergraduate senior studying Experience Architecture at Michigan State University. This Summer he worked at a digital design agency as a UX Design intern. He has been an Accessible Design intern for the College of Arts & Letters within the educational technology department for nearly 1.5 years, and recently joined the Broad Business School as well. He is involved in many student organizations on campus including Design for America as the Director of Design Education, WDBM 88.9FM as a live DJ, and Experience Architecture club as a member. Upon graduation, Mika hopes to find a career within the field of digital product design. 

Caitlin Cornell

Assistant Director of the Center for Language Teaching Advancement, College of Arts & Letters

Caitlin Cornell smiling in headshot

Caitlin is the Assistant Director of the Center for Language Teaching Advancement, as well as a Ph.D. student in the Second Language Studies program. She earned her MA in Linguistics (with a specialization in TESOL) from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. She has taught English and trained teachers since 2005. Her research interests fall into the broad category of accessible teaching and learning and she specifically explores such elements of research into second language acquisition as  individual differences, online education, computer assisted language learning (CALL), and U.S. language education policy through the lens of the experiences of disabled language learners. 

Danielle Fowler

Assistant Director of Communications, International Studies and Programs

Danielle is the assistant director of communications at International Studies and Programs, and also serves as ISP’s web accessibility policy liaison and web/accessibility trainer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Albion College and various Lynda.com completion certificates. Her involvement with accessibility began with plain language advocacy in state government and has grown to include a11y in the public, private, educational, and especially social and recreational spheres. In her spare time you’ll find her serving as the lead closed captioning editor for Critical Role, a hit webseries in which a bunch of nerdy voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons.

Leslie Johnson

Assistant Director, Assistive Technology Innovation, Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities

Leslie is the Assistant Director for Assistive Technology at Michigan State University in the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). She has been at RCPD since February 2016. In her role at RCPD, Leslie works with MSU students and staff with disabilities to assess their needs for technology, determine assistive technology solutions, provide assistive technology training and support, as well as staying on top of technology trends and bringing innovative technology to MSU. Leslie also serves on several committees at MSU that focus on advancing accessibility and growing awareness to make MSU accessible for all. Leslie believes technology is an important tool for all, but even more so for people with disabilities. Assistive Technology empowers people with disabilities and maximizes ability and opportunity for full inclusion in education, work, and overall life success.

Brooke Knapp

Digital Accessibility Analyst, MSU IT Digital Experience Team

Brooke coordinates Digital Accessibility efforts and collaborates with partners to move forward accessibility initiatives across the university focusing on procurement, websites, and the student learning experience. She has a BS in Nursing from Michigan State University and over 5 years experience in digital accessibility. Brooke is passionate about the intersection of accessibility and the medical field as well as the impact of accessibility on student rights and advocacy. She co-coordinates the Rivals accessibility group which focuses on collaborative discussions with various accessibility professionals from the University of Michigan as well as other universities

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.

Jessica Stokes

Co-Founder, HIVES Research Workshop; English PhD Student, College of Arts and Letters

Jessica Suzanne Stokes is a disabled poet/performer/educator/scholar currently pursuing her PhD in English at Michigan State University. She analyzes contemporary poetry (particularly poetry deemed “experimental”) to analyze and develop crip methodological writing and reading practices. Jessica offers her thoughts on disability poetics as author of Jacket2‘s “Discordance” Commentary Series. Her goal is to work towards reading methods that allow for coalitional access (ie forms of access that are attentive to disability, illness, neurodivergence, race, class, gender, and sexuality). Jessica is a co-founder of the HIVES Research Workshop and Speaker Series on disability and animal studies in popular culture. Her work has appeared in Contemporary Objectives in Postgraduate American Studies, The Mayo Review, and the book We Are Not Your Metaphor: A Disability Poetry Anthology.

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.