Samantha Sur ASPIRES to live greater at Saint Joseph’s through the Kinney Center and a keen sense of determination. 

kinney_autism_k_logo_400x400I am a student with autism and other complex learning differences. I started at another university that was initially a good fit. However, it became apparent that to have the fullest college experience possible, I needed the right kind of support. The idea of transferring was scary. My family and I looked at many schools. When we met with Theresa McFalls and Ryan Hammond at the Kinney Center, we knew we’d found the right place. I was accepted into the ASPIRE program, which assists SJU students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in their transition to college.

The Kinney Center helped me with both skills training and advocacy. A formerly difficult process of communicating with my professors became easier as I gained confidence and tried out new tools. I learned to self-advocate. The Disabilities Services Office devised a plan of support as well. One really great thing about Kinney has been the SCHOLARs (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support). As soon as I got to campus, I was assigned peer mentors, kind and approachable fellow students who hung out, studied, ate, and talked with me. This interaction really helped me to stay focused on integrating into SJU.

I spent my first year as a campus resident and took advantage of what that had to offer, attending concerts and going to group events organized by my R.A. The classes and faculty were very engaging – the benefit of a liberal arts environment. I joined the University Singers that year and, with the help of an encouraging teacher, played at the fall and spring classical guitar recitals. I really felt at home on the SJU campus. Switching to commuting the next year, I also found a whole new group of friends in the Commuter Lounge.

As a Catholic, I’m grateful to be a part of a Jesuit community. Campus Ministry sends a weekly email giving a heads-up about Mass locations. This Lent, I worked on the Ignatian practice of examen, something I read about and began to assimilate after Pope Francis visited campus in September.

The support I’ve found at SJU has enabled me to perform on a demanding college level. It’s taken time to get to this point but as with anything else that you work hard to accomplish, it feels great to look back at all the effort. The Kinney Center takes a ‘teach a person to fish’ philosophy and, as a result, I’m now a SCHOLAR and hope to give back by working in behavioral health, maybe music therapy. If you have a disability or learning differences and are looking at SJU, I recommend that you come and check out the campus. You’ll meet some great people who make it their goal to help you be whole-person successful.




I’m from Berwyn, PA, class of 2017, majoring in Autism Behavioral Studies. I’m minoring I’m Music Performance and play the classical guitar. I have three dogs and enjoy biking and going to the beach. On campus, I’m involved as a Kinney SCHOLAR and Peer Mentor.