“Alma College has impacted my life in so many ways. When I first came to Alma, I didn’t know who I was. I was worried that I wouldn’t make friends and that no one would understand me. I quickly experienced the opposite,” she said.
ALMA — When Chapin Kartsounes was considering where to continue her education after high school, it was a difficult choice to make — because at most of the colleges and universities she applied to, she had a difficult time getting around campus.
Kartsounes, now a senior at Alma College, has a medical condition known as dwarfism, which affects bone growth. She said her decision to attend Alma came largely on the strength of its small campus size, which allowed her more accessibility than she would be able to experience at a larger school.
“I knew that if I came to Alma, I would actually be able to walk to class more often, whereas at larger schools, that would not have been an option for me,” Kartsounes said. “I made a great choice.”
Alma College isn’t merely accommodating to students by virtue of its campus size, Kartsounes said. People on campus are working every day to improve the experiences of every student. Kartsounes had an opportunity recently to advocate for people with disabilities by moderating the college’s Women’s History Month keynote webinar, featuring Alice Wong, a disabled activist and author.
“Alice is a fellow disabled woman who has done extensive work to make disability advocacy more visible. Many members of the campus community watched the keynote and asked good questions — they were clearly interested and engaged,” Kartsounes said.
“As a disabled student, seeing my community discuss how important disability visibility is on campus and as an institution was very important to me. I was able to take the tools that I had learned in my leadership positions and use those to benefit my public speaking during the event,” she added.
Kartsounes, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, said Alma is similarly accommodating in areas of gender and sexuality issues.
“I am unapologetically myself: queer, disabled, educated, a leader, and someone that anyone could count on,” she said. “The support system that I gained from both my peers and the faculty at Alma helped me achieve this.”
Kartsounes, a psychology major, said she has had opportunities to develop and explore even outside of her personal experiences. She is web editor and web team manager for the student-run newspaper on campus, The Almanian, treasurer of the Multicultural Student Union and a member of the college choir, as well as a sorority, Kappa Iota.
“I have learned how to manage groups of people, how to communicate effectively both electronically and vocally, how to maintain a busy schedule, organize, and so much more,” Kartsounes said. “The best opportunity that Alma has given me is the chance to explore my interests outside of my field. Though I am a psychology major, I’ve been able to do choir, theatre, piano lessons, voice lessons, and several other clubs.”
After college, Chapin plans to pursue a career in clinical therapy, offering services to those who struggle with behavior-related obstacles. She hopes to be able to turn her passion for advocacy and social justice into a career, she said, and she credits Alma College with helping develop the skills necessary to make that happen.
“Alma has impacted my life in so many ways. When I first came to Alma, I didn’t know who I was. I was worried that I wouldn’t make friends and that no one would understand me. I quickly experienced the opposite,” she said.