Consultant on disability policy & program development
“Mentoring young people with disabilities is one of my most meaningful life activities! There are several reasons I feel this way. One, I learn so much from young people about their lives, hopes, struggles, and how systems designed to serve them are working and how they need to be changed. Second, I am deeply committed to growing future leaders in the disability rights movement who understand intersectionality and are committed to advancing positive social change. Third, I suffered from not having an adult role model with a disability and hope my support can help people achieve their life goals and feel proud to be identified as a person with a disability.”
We are proud to induct Catherine Campisi into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
As a person who has experienced a significant disability for almost all of her life, Catherine is acutely aware of the issues facing persons with disabilities including, but not limited to, discrimination, low expectations and stereotypes, lack of seamless service delivery systems, and lack of equal educational and employment opportunities, and lack of knowledge of how to be an effective self-advocate.
Catherine’s education, culminating in a Ph.D. in social psychology, was focused on giving her the skills and knowledge to change policies and social attitudes toward all people who are different and who have experienced isolation and discrimination whether due to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.
Catherine firmly believes that people from diverse groups, while having unique issues, face common challenges. She believe we have all seen increased opportunities as a result of our own civil rights movements which emanated from the Black and women’s civil rights movements. All of the civil rights movements embrace the principle that we are not limited by the differences we have but by the meaning these differences have in society and the policies and practices that flow from the meaning these differences have had for decision-makers and the general public.
Catherine has devoted her career of 30 years to increasing opportunities in higher education and employment for persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged persons. In this effort, she has had the honor and responsibility of serving as the Director of the largest vocational rehabilitation program in the nation (California) and as the Coordinator of Disabled Student Service and Dean of Student Services in the largest higher education system in the nation, the California Community Colleges. As Dean, Catherine supervised a variety of programs including those which assisted disadvantaged students to succeed in their educational endeavors.
Catherine has also been an active member of the disability movement and have served as a member and officer of many organizations, including as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of a large independent living center and as Legislative Chairperson and President of the international professional organization of Disabled Student Services staff, the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
Catherine is deeply committed to mentoring young people with disabilities and have been active in administering the CA Youth Leadership Forum for many years.
She also works with many groups focused on issues other than disability to present the disability perspective and explain the needs and issues we face in a way that others can accept and understand. Examples of such service include membership on the California Medical Board (appointed by former Governor Gray Davis), membership on the Board and Advisory Committee of the California Unity Council, and recently being appointed by California Senator Darrell Steinberg, Senator Pro Tem to the California Cultural and Historic Endowment.
Catherine enjoys both working on disability specific issues as well as serving as an bridge to other groups to articulate the disability perspective and to accomplish shared work to advance opportunities of and better understanding for all persons.