Melissa Shafner, director of student accessibility services, died June 29, 2021 after an extended illness. She was a wonderful student advocate, a consummate professional and a trusted colleague to many at the College.
A longtime resident of New London, she was a Winthrop Scholar who graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors in psychology from Connecticut College in 1990. She then earned a J.D. at Hofstra University School of Law before completing an M.Ed. at the University of New Haven. She rejoined the College in 2016 as the director of student accessibility services within the Academic Resource Center and then moved in 2019 to the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. In that role, she oversaw academic and residential accommodations, handled policies and procedures to ensure full participation for all students and provided education about ability for the whole community.
She had a tremendous impact on the campus. She worked with many staff and faculty colleagues to support students with disabilities in and out of the classroom. She established and chaired a campuswide committee on accessibility to bring not only her equity-mindedness but also her legal expertise to promote policies and procedures that were fair to all. She took on the major task of converting her office from paper to electronic transactions to eliminate the need for students to share their request for accommodations in a public space. She led sessions among like-minded students to offer support, connection and community building. She even partnered with student leaders to bring a chapter of Eye to Eye—a group focused on mentorship for the differently-abled—to campus.
Her work with the local community was similarly transformative. As a long-serving member of the Board of Solomon Schechter Academy, she made a lasting difference. When the academy announced its final graduating class in June 2021, she received accolades for helping the school’s programs carry on for so many years.
Those who worked closely with her knew of her incredible work ethic, her dedication to students, her ability to navigate difficult situations and her skill at asking hard questions that push an issue or an organization to a new level. She was an intelligent, diligent and deeply thoughtful colleague with extensive knowledge of her field and a profound commitment to Connecticut College.
She leaves her son Noah; her father Jay Clott; her brother Jonathan Clott; her former husband Daniel Shafner; and many friends and colleagues throughout the Connecticut College community.