Compass Icon

The Academic Life Navigator (ALN) is a role and program within SDS that is intended to provide skills for students with disabilities pertinent to their academic careers.

The ALN is meant to be a resource for those with ASD and ADHD to help empower them to achieve all that they can at the University of Iowa.  

In Spring 2020, the ALN program began as a pilot program in Student Disability Services (SDS) in collaboration with the Department of Rehabilitation and Counselor Education in the College of Education. Through a partnership with Dr. Erin Barnes from that department, one of their interns was placed in our office for the spring to work individually with students.

During the first two semesters of the program (Spring 2020 and Fall 2020), 33 students worked with ALN. This past semester, Spring 2021, another 18 students worked with ALN and were able to benefit from the program. Surveys were completed at the end of each semester which garnered some positive quotes about the program: 

My Academic Life Navigator did a wonderful job!
My Academic Life Navigator cared a lot about my success and helped me navigate through this difficult time.
My Academic Life Navigator was so wonderful to work with and will be very missed!
A year strong and no end in sight! Keep this program going for as long as possible.
My Academic Life Navigator did an awesome job. I’m happy this program is continuing because it has been very helpful for me.
My Academic Life Navigator did well in improving my work ethic during the semester. I am grateful for that.
My Academic Life Navigator did a fantastic job. 10/10 would recommend.

In addition to the above quotes from students who worked with ALN, below is a quote from our Spring 2021 ALN intern, Ashley Renteria:

I am extremely grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to serve as the Academic Life Navigator during Spring 2021. This unique experience provided me the chance to empower, collaborate, and assist in guiding academic goals with students identifying with autism spectrum disorder or other learning disabilities. The Academic Life Navigator position allowed me to develop and grow as a person and future rehabilitation counselor. The professional guidance and autonomy provided by Vickie Houser and Dr. Barnes only enhances this professional opportunity to improve. Additionally, this opportunity has ignited a passion to continue to serve the disability community and advocate for universal design. The Academic Life Navigator program is incredibly valuable and I hope to see it continue to flourish and aid students at the University of Iowa.

We are excited to share that ALN will be continuing during the 2021-2022 academic year.  Our interns for the 2021-2021 academic year are Sarah Strub and Brandon Wong from the Department of Rehabilitation and Counselor Education in the College of Education.  

For more information, contact Vickie Houser at