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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 and is available at no cost.

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.

Interested in meeting with an ALN?

If you are interested in meeting with one of our ALNs, please fill out this eight question Interest survey and we will be in touch with you about working with one of our ALN’s.

About the ALN program

Since the program began in Spring 2020, over 125 students have worked with an ALN and benefited from the program.

We are excited to share that ALN will be continuing during the 2023-2024 academic year.  Our interns for 2023-2024 academic year are Camille Cook and Margaux Hovda from the Department of Rehabilitation and Counselor Education in the College of Education. 

If you are interested in learning more about the program, please contact Vickie Houser.


Surveys were completed at the end of each semester which garnered some positive quotes about the program:

My ALN was phenomenal! He was someone I was able to count on to teach me new things and hold me accountable during this semester. I can’t thank him enough for the work he has done for me!
I don’t know how I would have gotten through this semester without this program and I want to continue in the program but also see the program continue for a long time.
I would recommend this program and my ALN to any student at Iowa, but particularly those that struggle with mental illness, are isolated from their peers by distance and/or age, and those struggling with coursework. This program was essential for me.
My ALN was so amazingly helpful, kind, and motivational. He really helped save me and made me feel as though I was on the same playing field as everyone else at this university.
I love how much the program grown. Keep it up, the work done here is amazing!
This has been life changing. I cannot thank you all enough.
I had been searching for support like this for awhile and was so excited to finally find the ALN program. I felt so validated and supported and seen in a way that I have not been before. My ALN helped me turn around self-doubt and criticism into results of ADHD that I don't have to blame myself for and can learn to work with. I feel much more capable of living with and as me than before this semester, and I now am in a better place to enter the next phase of my life as a woman with ADHD who can advocate and care for myself.

In addition to the above quotes from students who worked with ALN, below is a quote from our 2021-2022 ALN intern, Sarah Strub:

I am so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to intern for SDS and work with the Academic Life Navigator Program. This internship allowed me to experience a different side of rehabilitation counseling that I didn't know existed. I don't think my counseling skills or confidence would have grown as much as they did if I was at a different site. Vickie created a supportive, empowering environment for me to practice and grow as a counselor. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing students on their academic success. I am thankful for students' participation and effort with the ALN program. It was a joy to see their growth throughout the year. Vickie and the SDS staffed allowed me to experience every aspect of the office from doing intakes, to tabling at visit days, and even setting up captions in the classroom. Through this internship I found the career path I had been searching for my entire life. I came into the ALN program knowing nothing about it and left with my dream job. That is all thanks to Vickie, SDS staff, and the students I had the pleasure to work with. I cannot express how thankful I am for this program.