Changing the World: Alexis Riggs ’21 aims to serve those with disabilities

Alexis Riggs ’21 of Madison, Wisconsin, had challenges as she prepared to achieve her dream of higher education. She is a first-generation college student from a family with limited means, and she was born missing the lower part of both arms.

But with a lot of determination and a lot of help, her dreams are coming true. At Ripon, Riggs majored in anthropology and minored in sociology.

She currently is in her final year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for clinical rehabilitation counseling. She plans to become a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) counselor after she graduates in May 2023, and also is interested in working in disability services in a college setting.

She wants to help people with disabilities get the resources they need to get jobs.
She says that being a person with a disability and having had her own DVR counselor gives her a unique perspective that will enhance her ability to advocate for others with disabilities.

In Ripon, she was a job coach for Diverse Options in Ripon. She accompanies people with disabilities to their community workplaces and helps them develop the skills they need to succeed.

In Madison, she has worked with Lutheran Social Services as a service coordinator and in the Hotels to Housing Program, working with individuals experiencing homelessness in Dane County.

She also was appointed by the governor onto the Wisconsin Rehabilitation Council as a DVR services consumer representative in July 2022 and is serving until July 2023.

“As an individual with a disability, I have been very fortunate to have a great support system that has helped me get to where I am today,” Riggs says. “I would not be where I am today without the various support I received from my family, friends, Lisa Zeman and Dan Krhin from the Ripon College Student Support Services; Dr. Jacqueline Clark and Dr. Ursula Dalinghaus from the Ripon College sociology and anthropology departments; my own DVR counselor; and other mentors I have been fortunate to have throughout my life.

“I want to be what all these individuals were for me, but for other individuals with disabilities,” she adds. “I know this is something I want to do in some capacity for the rest of my life.”

She says Ripon’s liberal arts education has given her a strong foundation. “Because I was able to take so many different classes and the wide range of topics I learned within my classes, I feel it helped me attend UW-Madison in a different field than what I majored in at Ripon College,” she says. “I feel the liberal arts education also gave me a lot of skills like how to effectively communicate, how to work with others from various disciplines, and problem-solving abilities, which I use every day in my current studies and career. Overall, I am really thankful for the liberal arts education I received at Ripon College.”

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Alexis Riggs, Ripon College Class of 2021