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Johns Hopkins University Case Study

The Challenge

Johns Hopkins University has a passionate and diligent population of students with disabilities who were excited to work with the University’s inaugural Executive Director to position Johns Hopkins as world leader serving the complex academic and student life concerns of its many high achieving students challenged by disabilities.

The Executive Director for Student Disability Services will effectively lead all aspects of Disability Services across the nine University schools.  This pivotal leadership position will pioneer a University-wide vision to propel the University through the design of an innovative, relevant, and progressive strategic plan to meet the needs of this growing population of students.


The Approach

Higher Talent was retained to lead a national search for the inaugural Executive Director.  We connected with the Association of University Centers of Disabilities (AUCD), National Network for University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research & Service, and other related national organizations, where we networked and posted the job prospectus.

Simultaneously, Higher Talent conducted original research to identify higher ed institutions who had highly regarded student disability service functions and those who were responsible for developing and implementing the programs.  We targeted individuals at the Association Director, Director, and Executive Director levels.

The search committee was comprised of faculty, staff, and students.  Higher Talent worked with the committee on the process, interview questions, and the importance of confidentiality.


The Result

Higher Talent reached out to approximately 230 individuals and after a thorough vetting, recommended 5 shortlist candidates, including 4 women and one person of color. In partnership with Johns Hopkins University, Higher Talent designed an interview process that included:

  • 1st round interview via video with the search committee
  • 2nd on-campus interview with the search committee and other key stakeholders:
    • Candidates delivered a 15-minute presentation with Q&A to follow
    • Had a campus tour
    • Debriefed with Higher Talent

Johns Hopkins University hired Catherine Axe as the school’s first Executive Director for Student Disability Services, deepening its commitment to serving people with disabilities on its campuses.  Catherine Axe was the director of Student Disability Services at Brown University.  In her role at Johns Hopkins University, she will provide guidance and support for disability coordinators across the university; oversee accommodation needs for students; and build awareness, knowledge, and skills among the school’s faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants.