According to Assistant Professor of Healthcare Management Danielle Waldron, there’s no greater joy in teaching than “giving her students the tools to succeed and then taking a step back and watching them shine.” As part of her course centered on disability, Waldron’s students complete a project that aims to address a problem faced by the disability community. Waldron provides students with the structure and timeline to develop a proposal, presentation and final report. Then, she encourages them to discover their project idea. “I empower my students to create something of purpose,” she said. 

Waldron’s research focuses on the health and well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Emily Foley ’22 learned about the autism spectrum in Waldron’s course, which then sparked the idea for her disability-in-action project. When she heard that autistic individuals often receive support services throughout high school but tend to lose resources once they reach college, Foley knew she wanted to address this gap in higher education.

A Soothing Space

Foley and three classmates, Kaily Moniz ’22, Timothy Connors ’22 and Victoria Wise-Copland ’22, realized that the MacPháidín Library was a place where they could establish a permanent soothing space for students with sensory needs.  

With this observation in mind, the team conducted research and worked with library staff to design a respite space where students could go to reduce stress and regulate sensory overload. Foley took the lead on writing a grant through Stonehill’s Wellness Initiative Fund, and Waldron supplemented this funding with a successful grant application through the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The student team also received donations from the College’s Department of Finance.

They outfitted the space with a soothing swing chair, a bubble light that aids in concentration and focus, and other thoughtful furnishings.

“Having a sensory room on campus sends a clear message of acceptance,” said Waldron, who has also consulted alongside Stonehill students in the development of a sensory room at Polar Park, home of the Worcester Red Sox. 

Although Foley and her classmates graduated from Stonehill before the sensory room was fully completed, Waldron worked with her SURE students, Emily Hartford ’23 and Jacquelin Sauer ’23, to finish the space and launch it. This fall, Waldron will conduct research to measure the effectiveness of the room, which is always open during library hours and is also utilized by the Office of Accessibility Services. 

Foley, who now works at PricewaterhouseCoopers as an experienced audit associate in the health industries sector, recently visited the sensory room on campus and reflected on her involvement with its creation. “It was a fulfilling experience to see our vision come to life and to make a positive impact on the College community,” she said. “It means a lot to me that the sensory room we helped to create continues to be used by students today.”