Kathy Muhr and Christina Scott

Summer Intern Gains Opportunity to Network and Grow Career

A summer internship for a college student is a dream come true. But getting an internship two summers in a row for the same company? Now that’s what I call lucky. I have been a summer intern twice for Commonwealth Medicine (the consulting division of UMass Medical School (UMMS)) in Shrewsbury, MA. Last summer (2018) I interned for the IT/digital marketing department and this summer (2019) I am an intern for the Work Without Limits team as part of the UMMS Emerging Professionals Summer Internship Program (EPSIP).

Group of interns with certificates of completion

Last summer, my goal as an intern was to help create new website descriptions using a program called Site Improve. I also created Excel spreadsheets with the data from Site Improve. The other half of my internship last summer was assisting with preparation for the IT Expo by creating a PowerPoint presentation and near the end of my internship, I trained on the Salesforce Trailhead website.

My main responsibilities this summer with the Work Without Limits team was to help with market research. I identified conferences, forums, and events that Work Without Limits could present at or exhibit at to educate others about the importance of disability inclusion in the workplace and to gain more exposure for Work Without Limits. I created an 18-month events calendar for the team and added these events to it along with all the trainings and career related events Work Without Limits already does.  Additionally, I researched foundations that Work Without Limits could apply to help expand and evolve their programs and I  transferred current PowerPoint presentations into the new Commonwealth Medicine format, updated flyers, created ads, and helped with social media including piloting a brand new Instagram page for Work Without Limits.

I have learned the value of working in the real world. Being part of a team is not easy, but I learned that if you work hard, a good result will come out at the end. Both these internship experiences have given me the confidence to show the world what I can do and not focus on what I cannot do. I know I can take the skills that I have learned and use them once I graduate from college. I know that obstacles may get in my way, but these internships have given me the confidence to prove that I can get over them and achieve anything. I feel that internships are important because they give you an opportunity to network and gain experience.

To connect with Christina for any questions regarding internships, please connect with her via LinkedIn:

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Brian Forsythe headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Brian Forsythe

What is your name, title, and role with Work Without Limits?

Brian Forsythe, Community Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC). I provide Public Benefits Counseling to individuals with disabilities receiving SSDI and SSI who are working or looking for work.

How long have you held this position?

I’ve been at UMMS for ten years and eight years as a CWIC prior to joining UMMS.

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting with clients one to one to help them understand that it is possible to work while receiving Social Security benefits and that in fact they will be better off by working.

Brian conducting training

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies?

I enjoy developing and conducting training’s to help service providers understand how they can better serve the needs of their clients.

What is your best advice for job seekers?

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on employment.  The satisfaction you get from a job well done far outweighs any anxiety about possible changes to public benefits.

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce?

Look past a person’s perceived limitations and focus on their skill set.  Individuals with disabilities are usually capable of much more than you think.  They may do things differently, but they can do them.

What is your favorite place in the world?

The coast of Maine.

Group of citizens employees smiling

Citizens Bank: Supporting accessible programming for Autism Spectrum Disorders at The Imagine Walk

At Citizens Bank, we understand that a good bank is at the heart of a community, and that investing in our communities enriches us all. We also know that our colleagues love to volunteer and give back. When we can provide opportunities for our colleagues to partner with local non-profits or meaningful organizations, we help both our colleagues and communities prosper.

That’s why in late April, Citizens volunteers and their families converged on Goddard Park in Warwick, RI for the 2019 Imagine Walk and Family Fun Day for Autism. Organized by The Autism Project, the walk showed support for accessible programming for all children and adults with an Autism Disorder, their families and those who work with them.

Woman at citizens truck with autism puzzle logo

The day was filled with numerous family-oriented activities aside from the walk, including pony rides, bounce houses, arts and crafts, face painting, music and more. “It was an amazing, fulfilling day,” comments Guercy Carrie, Audit Manager and active Citizens volunteer. “Seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces brought me a great deal of joy. It made me feel proud to work at Citizens to see all our volunteers so actively involved and having such a fun time.”

The walk represents The Autism Project’s largest fundraising event of the year.

All funds raised at the Walk directly support important programs at TAP where children and teens with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn life skills that foster independence, improve communication, and increase self-confidence.

Citizens Bank logo with 3 people under smilingFor Guercy, the event helped break down the stigmas surrounding individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well. “In my opinion, I don’t look at their differing abilities as ‘disabilities,’” explains Guercy. “The kids I met were so fun and amazing in their own way. They have unique abilities and attributes, and I’m confident their drive and optimism will make them very successful in their lives.”

If you’re in the market for a job, consider exploring a role with Citizens Bank. Our inclusive culture values the skills and experience of all our colleagues. Below, check out our open roles and consider applying today.

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Peter Travisano headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Peter Travisano

What is your name, title, and role with Work Without Limits?

My name is Peter Travisano and I am the Program Manager for the Work Without Limits Administrative Employment Network or AEN.

AEN Team Members: L-R Stephanie Major, Peter Travisano and Barbara Lee

How long have you held this position?

I have held this position since February 2014 although I held a previous position with Work Without Limits as a certified benefits specialist.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is working with our wonderful partners and the individuals they serve.

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies?

I am a musician, hiker, and overall outdoors enthusiast!

What is your best advice for job seekers?

Getting a job is a job in and of itself.  Keep at it consistently until you reach your goal!

L-R Peter Travisano and Benefits Counseling team members Brian Forsythe and Winnie Siano at the NABWIS Conference

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce?

Individuals with disabilities often perform better than they would appear to during the hiring process. Look deeper and you will likely find a great employee.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Any mountain top!

Learn more about the Administrative Employment Network here:

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Michelle Nowers headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Michelle Nowers

What is your name, title, and role with Work Without Limits?

Michelle Nowers, Director of Operations and Communications

How long have you held this position?

I’ve been with Work Without Limits since its inception – so for over 10 years! I started as an administrative assistant and have moved up within the organization.

What is the best part of your job?

Witnessing the successes of the work that we do. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of watching Work Without Limits grow and hearing the success stories and seeing the results, brings me so much joy.

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies?

My hobbies mostly include a lot of the work I do every day here at Work Without Limits! I love creating websites and developing creative collateral materials. I find I do a lot of that in my spare time and I love to see the end results. Other interests and hobbies include traveling, which I love to do (specifically to Walt Disney World) and spending time with friends and family.

What is your best advice for job seekers?

Remain positive throughout the process. The job seeking process is stressful and takes a lot of time, but in the end it will be rewarding. Some of your most important relationships that you will build will be those of your colleagues. Remain positive and don’t give up; you will get there!

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce?

The journey to an inclusive workforce should never truly end. As your company begins to expand the workforce to include individuals with disabilities, there will always be room for education and improvement. Work with your company to ensure that all staff, not just leadership and managers, are educated on the importance of individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Hmmm…this is a tough question. I suppose it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say Walt Disney World because to me it is truly a place that brings me happiness and joy.

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Bring Your whole self to work, focus on disability awareness: interview with steven shiner, senior vice president claims, executive sponsor, being MAPRE committee

Bring Your Whole Self to Work: An Interview with MAPFRE’s Steven Shiner, Senior Vice President Claims & Executive Sponsor, Being MAPFRE Committee

Work Without Limits is always proud to highlight the wonderful work being done by the  inclusive employer sponsors in our Disability:IN Massachusetts network. This month, we are featuring the great effort initiated by MAPFRE USA’s Being MAPFRE Committee. To raise disability awareness and foster a culture of inclusion within the company, the Being MAPFRE Committee began as a dedicated way to increase disability inclusion and is now the Diversity & Inclusion Council. In 2018, the company launched ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work’, an interactive online forum for employees to be able to express their individuality. As part of ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work’, the Being MAPFRE Executive Sponsors, Francois Facon, Executive Vice President and CFO and Steven Shiner, Senior Vice President, Claims, wrote articles focused on Disability Awareness. Below you will read the interview with Steven Shiner and the important emphasis MAPFRE USA puts on being a diverse and inclusive employer.

 

 In the spirit of MAPFRE’s Disability & Inclusion 2018 theme of Bring Your Whole Self to Work, can you share a little about yourself?  What are some fun facts or interesting information about you that you’d like to share with employees?

I’ve been bringing my whole self to work at MAPFRE for a very long time! I started my career with Commerce Insurance in 1985 shortly after graduating from Nichols College. This past January marks my 33rd year with the company. I started out as a Claim representative working in what was a very small department at that time. We had fewer than 30 employees in the Claim department and I was assigned to handle all claims from policyholders whose last name started with a “K”. Yes, believe it or not, that’s how we distributed claims in those days. We also had one computer at the end of each isle shared by 8 – 10 employees.  I can’t remember what we used the computer for but obviously, it wasn’t very much! We’ve come a long way since then and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been part of the continued growth and success of this company. But the best part of working here for so many years is the hundreds of great people that I’ve gotten to know and the many friendships that I’ve developed.

Outside of work I have a lot of interests. I enjoy skiing, cycling, gardening, spending time at the Cape and traveling, but my passion has always been golf. It’s one of life’s most humbling activities but it keeps me out of trouble on weekends. My wife and I have been blessed with three children; two boys and a girl. Two of the three are out on their own pursuing their careers and our third is a sophomore in college. Our eldest, a daughter, just recently gave us the best gift ever, a beautiful granddaughter. So now I have a new passion!

Why did you choose to be an Executive Sponsor of the Being MAPFRE Committee? Why is being a part of this work important to you?

It was actually one of my colleagues, Mary Singas, who approached me about our diversity and inclusion initiative at MAPFRE. Mary was involved in the program and mentioned the group was looking for an executive sponsor and wondered whether I’d be interested. I loved the idea of becoming part of a team focused on making our work environment more welcoming and inclusive, as well as easier for people with physical disabilities to navigate. But most compelling was the possibility of helping people with disabilities (people who may have had difficulty finding employment elsewhere) build a successful career at MAPFRE.

What does workplace inclusion mean to you, whether it’s about disability inclusion or other types of diversity?

I envision a working environment where our dedicated, hard-working, employees can be completely comfortable being who they are at work; where diversity is recognized as an organizational strength and where we, as employees, continuously work at focusing on the positive attributes of our fellow employees and celebrating their strengths, rather than perceived differences or limitations.

To our employees who identify as having a disability, what would you like them to know?

Through my participation in this group, I have come to learn that we have many employees with various types of disability. I know it’s a very personal decision, but for those who identify as having a disability, I’d want those employees to know that we are here to offer our support, any time they need it.

Why do you think groups like the new Caregiver’s Network are important to have? What value do you see in affinity groups?

I think it’s great that we are helping our employees that have common interests or challenges (such as caring for a loved one with an illness or a disability) develop a network and provide a forum where they can share experiences, ideas and suggestions. There is probably no better support system than to hear about the experiences of others who have walked in your shoes.

We’ve accomplished a lot of work in the last few years in respect to disability inclusion. What do you see as important to focus on now and in the future?

As I mentioned earlier, I’d like MAPFRE to be recognized as a company that provides employment opportunities to talented people with disabilities. In order to do this, we will have to leverage technology to make accommodations for people with physical disabilities, such as sight or hearing impairments.  It will surely take time for us to identify and adapt these technologies to our systems but as we go through our digital transformation I’d like to see us avail ourselves of these opportunities.

 

mapfre insurance

For those interested in connecting with inclusive employers, like MAPFRE USA, or if you’d like more information on creating an inclusive workplace, please contact us here:

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Visit MAPFRE USA to learn more about their company culture and exciting job opportunities:

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man in front of powerpoint that says umass 4th annual disability mentoring day

4th Annual Disability Mentoring Day: A Record-Breaking Year!

On March 5th, 2019, UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits initiative, in collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities, held the 4th Annual Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) in Massachusetts. DMD promotes career development for people with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships.  A record number of participants participated in Massachusetts this year!  Ninety-five (95) Mentors were paired with 63 Mentees providing an invaluable experience advancing career development and personal growth – for both Mentee and Mentor!

This year, ten employers from Work Without Limits’ Disability:IN Massachusetts network enthusiastically signed on to participate in DMD. The companies that participated included Eastern Bank; Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston; John Hancock; MAPFRE Insurance; National Grid; Public Consulting Group (PCG); Raytheon; TD Bank; TJX Companies, Inc.; and UMass Medical School.

fourth annual disability mentoring day,; logos: work without limits, dmd logo, eastern bank, FHLBank boston, john hancock, mapfre insurance, nationalgrid, public consulting group, raytheon, td bank, tjx companies, university of massachusetts medical school

Thank you to our sponsors for participating!

In order to make the day successful, each employer designates a DMD Coordinator who is the liaison between the company and Work Without Limits. The DMD Coordinator role is crucial to making the day a success. They are responsible for planning the day’s agenda, arranging guest speakers, and most importantly securing company Mentors.  I can’t thank them enough for all of their efforts during this endeavor!

The Mentees who participate are any individual 18 years of age or older with a disability.  Mentees learn about DMD from a variety of sources:

The Mentees are paired with a career professional (Mentor) to experience what it is like to work at a particular company; observe a typical workday; identify necessary skills; enhance career development and, of course, network!

Each company has the autonomy to design their own mentoring day so, though they may be similar, they are not identical. One example is MAPFRE Insurance that took a unique approach to Disability Mentoring Day this year. They used the opportunity to announce their new partnership with Best Buddies Massachusetts and the launch of their pre-employment training program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program will offer employment training and corporate mentorship in Central Massachusetts to help develop students’ career ambitions.  This is a great example of how companies can partner with community-based organizations in their community.

group of mentors and mentees facing front watching speaker

MAPFRE and Best Buddies at Disability Mentoring Day!

5 participants of DMD posing for picture

This was the 4th consecutive year that John Hancock participated in DMD Massachusetts. Sofia Teixeira, Head of U.S. Diversity & Inclusion at John Hancock had this to say, “The most satisfying part of the day for me was not only seeing how much fun everyone was having, but also realizing that our employees learned as much as, if not more than, our Mentees did.  It strikes me that we use the terms “Mentees” and “Mentors” for DMD because the truth is that these moments are more like peer-to-peer mentoring experiences, when we are all learning from and inspiring each other.”

No matter how the day unfolds for Mentors and Mentees, the goals of DMD are clear:

  • promote disability as a central component of diversity recruitment for a more inclusive workforce
  • dispel employer fears about hiring people with disabilities
  • increase confidence among job seekers with disabilities
  • enhance internship and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and
  • serve as a launch pad to promote a year-round, national effort to foster mentoring and career exploration opportunities.
Mentor and mentee standing together and smiling

Mentor from UMass Medical School, Bob, with Mentee, Victoriahope.

Both Mentors and Mentees provide us feedback on their experience and we are thrilled to share some of their impressions:

My Mentor is very kind and generous and a great listener. She was very open, willing and able to share about her personal life and honest feelings and thoughts about her experiences in her career. She is also very willing to communicate with me ongoing which is a great resource to me and very much cherished.

                                                                                                                                                Mentee

She has professional experience and connections relevant to my career interests, she tailored our visit based on what I wanted to accomplish, and she seems to genuinely want to help me succeed.

                                                                                                                                                Mentee

You get to understand the difficulties and hardships they endure just trying to find employment. It’s an eye opener for some of us who really don’t see this every day.

                                                                                                                                                Mentor

This was an excellent opportunity to put into practice many of the concepts we have been talking over the last couple of days regarding disabilities and incorporate individuals into the workforce. It was a great learning experience for me to create awareness and empathy for people that elaborates and process information in a different way.

                                                                                                                                                Mentor

We would like to thank the companies that participated, and all the DMD Coordinators, Mentors and Mentees for their participation. We could not have done it without you! We hope this experience accelerates the journey of disability inclusion in the workplace though awareness raising, skill building and networking. See you next year for the 5th Annual Disability Mentoring Day in Massachusetts!

 

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Kathy Muhr headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Kathy Muhr

What is your name, title, and role with Work Without Limits?

My name is Kathy Muhr. I am the Director of Community Engagement at Work Without Limits.

How long have you held this position?

I started working at UMass Medical School in 2007 and joined the Work Without Limits team in 2010.

kathy petkauskos, kathy muhr and dr david polakoff

Kathy Muhr being honored as a 10 year employee at UMass Medical School with Kathy Petkauskos and Dr. David Polakoff.

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many things I love about my job. First of all, I love being a member of the awesome Work Without Limits team. Though we are small in numbers we accomplish so much, thanks to everyone pushing up their sleeves and getting what needs to be done, completed! Secondly, our Community Partners are great. They know their job seekers inside-out and they work so hard to support them through their journey. Our Community Partners are faithful in sharing our employment events with their job seekers to help connect them with our employer network. Finally, our Employer Network is committed. Committed to hiring individuals with disabilities, committed to increasing their workforce’s knowledge around inclusion, and actively participating in Work Without Limits disability-related events and activities. What a privilege it has been over the years to see the number of employers in our network grow who truly are building a culture of diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies?  I love to watch and play sports.  I’ve been known to be driving down a road and stop at some random baseball game to watch the kids play.  I also love the challenge of playing golf. And, I’ve been playing on various softball teams for over 30 years (you’d think by now I would be good at it!).

5 members of the work without limits team at a table that says registration

Work Without Limits team members manning the registration table at one of our career fairs!

What is your best advice for job seekers?

Network, Network, Network!  Participate in various events such as Disability Mentoring Day; Meet and Greets; Open Houses; traditional Career Fairs and Virtual Career Fairs and make that connection with the employers. Also, I strongly recommend you have your resume reviewed by someone, a family member, friend, job coach, etc. prior to sending it to an employer. Does it look neat? Are words spelled correctly? Etc.

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce?

Work Without Limits offers a number of opportunities for employers to connect with job seekers with disabilities. Become a sponsor today to start connecting with a talented group of individuals who are eager and ready to work!

What is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place in the world is Aruba!  I’ve been there over 20 times and it never gets old. Great weather, awesome beaches, and very friendly people. It truly is ‘One Happy Island.’

 

If you are an educational institution or a disability serving organization who works with individuals with disabilities, and what to learn more about becoming a Community Partner contact Kathy Muhr here:

Contact Me

 

Bonnie Rivers headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Bonnie Rivers

How long have you held this position?:

Since Oct. 2017

Best part of the job:  The best part of my job is working on a small and mighty, mission driven team that can drive and feel impact with our employer sponsors daily! I’ve spent the majority of my career in the Financial Industry at very large employers. I am very grateful for the experiences I gained at these companies. However, by nature of being so large, gaining project clarity on direction, consensus, approval, and momentum was not always easy. Running with something often involved hurdles, mazes and towers. At Work Without Limits, we are constantly consulting, evaluating and innovating and with the words “Go for it!” comes great autonomy to do so. We are each responsible for driving our collective mission in different ways. This enables us each to lead, yet always remain critically interconnected at all times. We each challenge each other to be creative and lean into each other to leverage strengths all while delivering exceptional customer service. As a result of this diversity and empowerment, our organization is better for it!

 

Special skills/interests/hobbies:

I’m not sure how special it is as parents everywhere are all circus performers, but I pride myself on putting on a pretty good show as ring leader, clown, juggler, magician and with 3 teenage girls – most certainly tight rope walker, lion tamer and fire breather! When the circus leaves town, I hope to stretch my wings again and introduce my husband to Europe. Until then, I am a very amateur photographer and try to get away at least once a year with friends for a long weekend of scrapbooking and catching up.

 

Best advice for job seekers:

Confidence. Believing in yourself makes it a whole lot easier for others to believe in you.

 

Best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce:

Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice. Good choices improve business.

 

Favorite place in the world:

Tough one. Several come to mind… my whole family piled together under blankets, watching a movie on that rare occasion when no one needs to be anywhere. Laying in a boat’s jib hammock over the open ocean. Anywhere by a boat or the ocean, really. Traveling to new countries, exploring new cultures. Being on stage in front of a packed house. Laying in that bed and being told “we got it all!”. And then there’s the breakfast buffet at the Chatham Bars Inn…

To learn more about disability inclusion training for your organization or joining our robust network of Corporate Sponsors and Disability:IN Massachusetts members, reach out to me:

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Kathy Petkauskos Headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Kathy Petkauskos

What is your name, title and role with Work Without Limits? My name is Kathy Petkauskos and I am the proud director of Work Without Limits! My official title at UMass Medical School is Senior Program Director.

How long have you held this position? I started working for UMass Medical School as a contractor in November 2008 and then was hired as a full-time Project Director in the Spring of 2009. I was then promoted to Senior Program Director to lead the newly created Work Without Limits initiative.

Kathy Petkauskos and Alexis Henry sitting in chairs on stage at the 2013 Raise the Bar HIRE conference

Kathy Petkauskos and Alexis Henry at the Raise the Bar HIRE! 2013 Conference

What is the best part of your job?  The best part of my job are the people I work with! In particular, my staff and fellow Work Without Limits team mates. I also LOVE working with the employers who are so committed to hiring persons with disabilities, who make up our business network, and who have become dear colleagues of mine. I also enjoy getting to know and working with all the community organizations who work tirelessly on behalf of their job seekers. I have the best job on earth!

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies? I love sports and physical activities especially in the Summer. I love walking, hiking, swimming, tennis, boating, anything that brings me outdoors in the good weather!  Also, Go Pats!

What is your best advice for job seekers? Put your best self in the best light, and never give up! Be honest and genuine and the right employer will snatch you up before you know it!

L-R Roger Guzman of TJX, Kathy Petkauskos, Pat Hunt of DisabilityImages.com, Richard Curtis of State Street at Partners for Youth with Disabilities Party

L-R Roger Guzman of TJX, Kathy Petkauskos, Pat Hunt of DisabilityImages.com, Richard Curtis of State Street at Partners for Youth with Disabilities Party

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce? Become a sponsor of Work Without Limits and join a network of employers all committed to disability inclusion. Help lead the way to equal employment for people with disabilities. We all need to work together and we can’t do it without committed employers. There’s a lot to learn and there are resources available to help.

Kathy Petkauskous with Disability:IN Massachusetts 5 year members at Blue Cross Blue Shield MA

Kathy Petkauskous with Disability:IN Massachusetts 5 year members at Blue Cross Blue Shield MA

What is your favorite place in the world? My favorite place in the world is either in my living room with the fireplace going and candles lit, or on any beach or mountain top!

 

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