For more than seventeen years as the executive director of Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) at UT, Alan Muir has brought together universities, employers, and US government agencies to focus on the careers of college graduates with disabilities.
This month, Muir was recognized for his outstanding work when he was selected as one of the members of the inaugural class of the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame was created to honor those who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring and awareness building. The National Disability Mentoring Coalition named twenty-five outstanding leaders as the first inductees to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Muir started his career in financial services in New York, training young employees as they entered the company after graduating college. After his wife accepted a position in Knoxville, Muir took a thoughtful approach to his job search—meeting with employers where he could focus on serving people with disabilities. During the job search, he met UT’s former director of career services, Bob Greenberg, to discuss how universities were serving this student population.
“Having the experience of being a person with a disability and working with young people in my previous position, I felt that I could help improve opportunities for students with disabilities,” Muir said.
After joining UT in 1998, Muir recognized a disconnect between postsecondary offices of disability services and career services at universities across the country. With Greenberg, he co-founded COSD.
Based within UT’s Center for Career Development, COSD is a national association of more than 850 universities and 650 major national and regional employers focused on the career employment of college graduates with disabilities. According to a COSD- and University of Connecticut-led study completed in 2013, the unemployment rate for college graduates with disabilities was 46 percent.
COSD has been working hard to improve the career outlook for this population. Muir serves as a national consultant with many higher education institutions to boost collaboration with career services and disability services offices. He additionally consults with major employers on how to recruit and hire college students and recent college graduates with disabilities.
“It is quite an honor to be recognized with twenty-four other inductees, who are true pioneers in this field, having changed the landscape of how disability is viewed since the passage of the ADA in 1990,” said Muir. “I have had the opportunity to lead an organization that highlighted this overlooked population, with many people believing that once a student with a disability has a college degree, they will have no problem finding a job. As a national change agent, COSD has proven there is more to this story and that higher education has the responsibility to collaborate and assist these students to be successful.
“Employers look to COSD as a pipeline of highly talented candidates who happen to have a disability, and they are very eager to make that connection. Changes in federal regulations have accelerated this need by employers to include candidates with disabilities as they are developing their diversity recruiting plans. There is no other organization that seamlessly links disability services, career services, and employers for one common goal,” he said.
COSD also provides that link through a variety of programming and resources, including its regional semiannual Full Access Student Summits. The summits bring together up to sixty college students and recent graduates to meet with eleven major employers in an intimate setting for two half-days of networking. The events have proven highly effective, with more than twenty-five full-time hires and thirty-four internship hires in the past four years by such employers as Microsoft, MGM Resorts International, the IRS, Lowe’s, Comcast NBC Universal, Cisco Systems, and Delta Air Lines.
For more information on the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, visit pyd.org/hall-of-fame.php.
For more information on the COSD, visit cosdonline.org.
For more information on the Center for Career Development, visit career.utk.edu.