Thompson takes over as SASS director

By Julia Train

After a summer spent searching for a new director of Student Accessibility and Support Services, there’s a new one as of Oct. 2: Cheri Thompson, a 33-year veteran of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Who is Cheri Thompson?

Thompson’s original career plan was to attend law school or get a teaching certificate after she graduated from Rutgers New Brunswick with an English degree in 1988.

After discovering reading case law wasn’t for her through internships, she decided to get a masters in psychiatric rehabilitation instead from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which is now owned by Rutgers. 

Thompson then began working for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development as a tax collector. After nine years at the job, she switched positions to work for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which helps disabled individuals find employment.

“The reason I found out about vocational rehab was because my mom had a brain aneurysm and she was at St. Lawrence rehab, and they referred her to [vocational rehab],” she said.

At her state job, Thompson was the assistant director of administrative services, where she oversaw the IT unit for the division. For her, moving to the university was a step in a calmer direction after retiring from the Department of Labor in April. 

“My intention was always to go back to work after my six-month break. I actually thought I would extend it to a year and start my search next spring, but then, I started to get a little bit restless,” said Thompson, “That’s when I started seeing a lot of opportunities here [and] TCNJ. And because I’m local to the area, I wasn’t trying to cast a net further than 10 or 12 miles.” 

SASS goals going ahead

As the director of SASS, Thompson is in charge of ensuring that students provide the proper documentation and ensure it’s completed within a timely manner and receive the accommodations that they request, such as extended time on tests, housing and dining.

“We were looking for someone who had really good experience working with students who have disabilities, someone who could understand that perspective and can apply it to the academic year,”  said Nicolette Colón, associate director of SASS, who has held the role since last October. 

Thompson handles students with emotional, physical and learning disabilities, including requests for emotional support animals, air conditioning in rooms, single rooms and dorms with a kitchen for students with allergies or food restrictions.

At the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Thompson was in charge of a greater number of people and dealt with a wider range of customers. While she deals with solely college students in her current role, she met individuals of a variety of demographics.

Colón’s duties include supporting the director with their vision for the department, meeting with students to check in to see how they’re doing and reviewing documentation to assess academic and housing accommodations.

She’s looking forward to having someone continue on the path the prior director was heading down, which was looking into obtaining different technologies that would help students get the accommodations they need. 

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