May 5, 2014Vol. 44, Issue 5

High Expectations

Vania Klee is, by all accounts, remarkable.

The graduating senior earns degrees in both political science and international relations this month. She’s at the top of her class, pulling GPAs of 3.63 and 3.4, respectively, and she dreams of becoming a federal asylums officer in Jordan someday.

She’s a proven campus leader, serving as the 2013–14 president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society. As president, she planned multiple events and worked to create a sense of community among the members, including a study hall event at the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center during finals week. She’s also interned at the Community Legal Information Center (CLIC), was a member of an award-winning Model United Nations team, and participated in the campus’s Wildcat Leadership Institute.

To meet her, you would never guess that she is nearly blind.

Klee has rare retinal degenerative condition called Best disease, which causes progressive vision loss. It’s more aggressive if you’re born with it—which she was. She’s lost a significant amount of her central vision, which one uses to drive, read, and distinguish details like facial features. Incredibly, Klee has taken it all in stride.

“I don’t like telling people, so a lot of times people are shocked when they find out,” she says. “I’d rather they not know so they don’t treat me differently. I want to be judged for my merits, not my ‘disability.’ ”

Klee employs a suite of adaptive technology, including special software that reads documents and images like those in her textbooks. At CLIC, a telephone headset allows her to take notes and access files while she’s on client calls. She’s registered with the campus Accessibility Resources Center (ARC) and occasionally takes exams in her professors’ offices.

The most advanced technological accommodation, however, couldn’t touch what her attitude achieves.

“I have friends who are low-vision and blind, and some just stop and give up,” she says. “I’m like, why? You have all these resources. I’ve never understood people without disabilities who don’t care (to be involved)—you have the capabilities. That’s why I expect a lot of the people around me, because I expect a lot from myself.”

Klee’s eyesight has worsened this semester, and even she admits to moments of frustration. In fact, her internship at CLIC became so challenging, she recently considered dropping it. But a “mini-epiphany” changed her mind.

“You cannot avoid this kind of situation—what happens when you get to the real world?” she says. “Instead, I told myself, you’re going to be that person who makes your job have to get with the program. This isn’t the first nor will it be the last time I’m going to be put in those situations.”

With graduation on the horizon, Klee is researching paths to becoming an asylums officer for the federal Department of Homeland Security and is considering attending graduate school. She’s also focusing on completing a course in Arabic—“a language I’ve always wanted to learn.”

Not surprisingly, she’s earning an A.

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications

Senior Sendoff

Senior Send-Off

Soon-to-be grads tell us "what's next" at Senior Send-Off. See their responses.

Sarah Langford

From the Editor

Chico State faculty and staff have left an indelible mark on the class of 2014. Read more.

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