Welcoming UC Berkeley's Disabled Students' Program (DSP) Executive Director

October 10, 2023

Dear colleagues,

We are thrilled to share some exciting news regarding the extensive search process for the Executive Director of the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) position, which we have been diligently working on for the past year.

First and foremost, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Martha Velasquez for her outstanding service as interim executive director as well as the rest of the DSP leadership team: Carolyn Swalina, Rochelle Barnes, and Clifton Damiens. Their dedication and leadership have been instrumental in maintaining the DSP's exceptional standards.

We are pleased to announce that Carmen Varela has officially accepted our offer and will be joining us in her new role as Executive Director of Student Programs on November 1, 2023. Carmen brings nearly three decades of invaluable experience as a disability and civil rights practitioner, with a strong background in both Texas and California. Her entire career has been dedicated to advancing justice for people with disabilities, a cause she champions passionately as someone with a visual impairment herself.

Carmen's extensive background in racial and economic justice, particularly for individuals with disabilities and people of color, aligns perfectly with our commitment to equity and inclusion. She currently serves on the board of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of California and is the co-founder of their first Spanish chapter, Poder y Movimiento Latino. Her past roles as the Director of the Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources at Azusa Pacific University and of the Bob Murphy Access Center at California State University, Long Beach, demonstrate her strong leadership in the field.

Throughout her career, Carmen has worked on a wide range of disability-related issues, from policy analysis and program evaluation to research and advocacy for transitional youth. Her trilingual abilities in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL) have been instrumental in serving diverse communities, including deaf victims of human trafficking from Mexico and South America.

Carmen is a practitioner-scholar, holding a Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California's Rossier College of Education, as well as a Master's of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services from California State University - Northridge. Her current research examines the intersection of disability and race in educational attainment in the U.S. and best disability counseling practices in higher education.

Carmen's wealth of knowledge and expertise will undoubtedly prove to be a tremendous asset as we move forward. She will be working closely with our leadership team and dedicated staff to shape a shared vision that will propel us into a promising future.

Please feel free to reach out to Carmen directly at carmenvarela@berkeley.edu for any inquiries or to extend your warm welcome. We look forward to this new chapter and the positive impact Carmen will bring to our DSP community.

In community,

Dania Matos
Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Editorial note: A previous version indicated that Carmen served on the board of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and was the co-founder of the NFB’s first Spanish chapter. In fact, she currently serves on the board of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of California and is the co-founder of the NFB of California’s first Spanish chapter, Poder y Movimiento Latino.