Episode 56 – Unstoppable Moving Beyond 120 with Brittany Grubbs-Hodges

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Beyond 120 is a program housed at the University of Florida. Our guest on this episode, Brittany Grubbs-Hodges is a part of this program designed to help college students look beyond the minimum of 120 units of college credits required to graduate. Brittany helps students look at their possible career choices and helps them learn more than they ever thought they could discover about what really goes into whatever they are looking to do with their lives.
Brittany is clearly a teacher at heart. As you will learn, even an immune disability does not stop her.
You will learn how Brittany is advancing her own life goals as she moves toward securing a PHD and how she wishes to continue to help students expand their horizons. Brittany is by any definition unstoppable. I am sure you will enjoy what she has to say and that you will be inspired by her.
About the Guest:

Brittany Grubbs-Hodges works at the University of Florida as part of the Beyond120 program. She assists undergraduate students by connecting them to internships and other experiential learning activities. Brittany also works as an adjunct professor in the UF College of Journalism and is graduating with her PhD in December of this year. In her spare time, Brittany enjoys spending time with family and friends, and she is looking forward to adopting her new puppy in the next few weeks!
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Transcription Notes

Michael Hingson  00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i  capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson  01:20
Hi, and welcome back once again to unstoppable mindset. Glad to have you with us wherever you may be. And however you’re listening to us. Brittany Grubbs Hodges as our guest this week. We have lots of fun things to talk about. We’ve been spending the last few minutes kind of reacquainting ourselves after chatting and also talking about all the things we could talk about. She is getting a PhD in higher education. She has a master’s degree in journalism. But she wouldn’t even let me talk about fake news. I don’t know What’s all that about. But anyway. But we we can talk about everything. And as people on this podcast know, I’m an equal opportunity political abuser, so it doesn’t matter. And so there’s real news too. And I haven’t seen much of that lately, because it’s all fake news, as everybody tells us right away. Brittany, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  02:12
Thank you so much, Michael, thank you for having me today.
Michael Hingson  02:15
And now that we’ve picked on fake news, we can get to more real stuff. You just got back, you said from DC. How was it up there?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  02:21
It was great. Yeah, I just got back I took about 20 students. I’m a professor at UF. And I think about 20 undergraduate students to DC mainly to just expose them to the world of work. You know, they like to say the real world but the students are in the world or, but I just want them to get an idea of the world of work. Specifically, I work for a department it’s called Beyond 120. At the University of Florida, it’s our experiential learning program. So we encouraged them to get outside of the classroom through things like internships through mentorship through excursions or study abroad. So this was one of our career excursions, we took them to various places around DC, USA Today, the Capitol building all kinds of places, and hopefully, you know, some of those opportunities will really come to fruition. I know a couple of my students have interviews already. So I’m excited to see what comes from that. And
Michael Hingson  03:15
how did they come up with the name beyond 120?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  03:18
So that’s a great question. So 120 is the number of academic credits needed to graduate with a baccalaureate degree. So it’s kind of a metaphorical and that we’re not asking you to take more credits. We’re just asking you to go beyond what’s required by really exploring outside of the classroom.
Michael Hingson  03:35
Yeah, that is so much fun and important. I remember being in college years ago, getting a master’s degree in physics, and there was no real discussion of either extracurricular activities, although there were a number of things available and so on. But there weren’t programs like a beyond 120, I did end up getting very involved on campus at the campus radio station, and I got involved in being in a consumer group of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind, in my senior year, and then continued with it ever since. But it makes a lot of sense to get people to really explore additional sorts of things. And if you will, as you said, look at a little bit of the real world, doesn’t it?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  04:17
Yeah, absolutely. And especially in the world of COVID, everything has really changed. You know, you have hybrid workforce, you know, offices now, and that people only come in on Tuesdays or you know, every other day, some some folks we were working with, they have teams so Team A will come in one day, and then Team B will come in the next day. So it’s really certainly changed since we last took our excursion. So we’ve, we’ve taken four excursions this semester, but prior to that, we our last excursion was February of 2020. So it’s been a full two years and a lot of students have had their experiences canceled. A lot of their internships went virtual, a lot of study abroad experiences were canceled. So we’re really trying to kind of make up for that and try and get some Students access and exposure to some of the jobs and some of the just the industries out there.
Michael Hingson  05:05
Not trying to be political or anything, but what was it like COVID wise up in DC was masking encouraged or, you know, what are the kinds of things did you see?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  05:15
Yeah, so it really depends on the individual place. So we went to Georgetown University to get our students who are interested in graduate school wanted to get them some exposure to what law school was like in graduate school, and they have a mandate, not only for the vaccine, but also for the booster, and of course masks as well. And then some folks, which, of course, private companies, it’s up to them, it’s up their discretion. But I did have to have the students bring their COVID cards, because for some of the entities, they were not allowed in without it. So it certainly was not a University of Florida regulation. But it was up to the individual and to T that was hosting us. And they all had very different regulations, depending on, you know, how many people were visiting with social distancing versus masking versus vaccinations, all that fun stuff?
Michael Hingson  06:05
Did you go to Congress or the White House or any of those at all?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  06:09
So we went to the Capitol building, which was a blast, we went to our local Congresswoman, and she took us around, I believe were with her for about two hours. She took us around and showed us a few of the different offices in different areas of the Capitol building, we weren’t able to go in because Congress was in session. We weren’t able to go in and actually see in the main room there. But we did see some of the areas on the outskirts of those rooms, who was your congressperson? Cat Kammok
Michael Hingson  06:42
haven’t met her. I spent a fair amount of time in DC over the years dealing with Congress, I went with the National Federation of blind a number of times, to invade Congress and talk all about the issues regarding blind people, and so on. And I’ve been there some other times as well. So I’ve met a number of people that don’t think I’ve met her.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  07:02
So she is our local representative. But we also met with Congressman, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, she’s also a US alumni. So we made sure to meet with a variety of folks throughout the trip on both sides of the aisle.
Michael Hingson  07:18
And I and I have met her and she has sponsored legislation. So she’s a cool lady as well.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  07:24
Yes, it’s always great to meet us alums that can share their stories with students and really mentor some of the students
Michael Hingson  07:30
makes perfect sense and go into Washington is an experience that I would encourage anyone to do. But of course, there’s so much history there. It makes perfect sense to do.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  07:42
Yes, absolutely. And I wanted the students to get some in history, as well as we gave them some free time, one of the days to go and explore all the museums nearby some of the Smithsonian’s that are now open. So they were able to see most of those and really get some time exploring to see their history.
Michael Hingson  07:58
Have you been there before?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  08:00
I have, we did a excursion there in 2019. That was actually our pilot excursion. So beyond 120 was not created until 2018. So myself and one of my co workers are one of the first hired in, in the department. And we kind of met and said, Okay, what is it that we want to do what’s going to help students out and so we did an excursion to DC with eight students in 2019, just to see if this would work if it’s a good concept at all. And it did, it worked well. So we were able to go to DC and 2019. And then in London in February of 2020. And funny story there. We were at the economist, the Thursday, before the play shut down, they shut down on a Friday. So we were there the day before they shut down. So we’ve just barely got out of the UK. And thankfully, no one tested positive it was we just made it by the skin of our teeth.
Michael Hingson  08:57
I escaped from New York in March of 2020. On the day they shut down the city, I knew that it was coming because they were talking about it. And I had had a flight later in the day. I decided I better get out of here. And so I was able to and I put it that way escape, before it was all shut down. And I understand why and it made perfect sense to do but it’s just so unfortunate that all this is going on and we got to deal with it though it is part of life now.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  09:28
Michael Hingson  09:29
Well tell me a little bit about you, where you you came from and how you got into the University of Florida and ended up in the programs that you did.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  09:39
Yes, absolutely. So when it comes to my story, I had a very non traditional journey. And so I’d love to go over with you later on in this podcast. Some of the folks that really influenced me, but I had a non traditional journey I actually had an immune deficiency. Whenever I you know, well it is a genetic thing. but I’ll say it really made a huge impact on my career and my college trajectory. Because I eventually going into adulthood, I had to have plasma infusions twice a week. So I spent my first two years local, and my second two years, about two hours away at the University of Central Florida. But every weekend, I had to come back and get a plasma infusion twice a week. And it definitely altered my career trajectory. And it altered the opportunities that were available. But I will say while I was there, my first semester at UCF, which was the first semester of my junior year, I said, you know, I’ve kind of missed out on the first two years, but I need to make up for that, how can I do that. And there was an office of experiential learning to UCF. And I was able to find an internship really saw the power of internships ended up working, it was at a hospital system called Orlando health. And I worked there for about two and a half years, before switching over to the education side. And I initially switched to a K through 12. So I taught grades six through 12 at a private school, but found that that wasn’t really my my niche, I love teaching. But that particular age group wasn’t really my niche. So I switched to higher education, worked in admissions for about five years, working with students in that college transition. But then when the opportunity came to join beyond 120, I remembered my days as an intern and thought this is going to be perfect for me, I’m so excited to be able to kind of pay it forward to have future students connected with internships and job opportunities, because my internship was so influential for me. So that’s kind of how I got into higher education.
Michael Hingson  11:48
I was teaching lower grades different or how did you find them different than teaching upper grades and getting into juniors and seniors in high school and I asked that, in part because my wife was a teacher for many years and loved teaching younger grades more than older grades, because she felt she had a little bit more of an opportunity to help shape the way behave. They behave later, because by the time they were in high school, they were a lot more fixed in less interested in and exploring a lot of things that maybe they should have.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  12:20
Mm hmm. Well, I guess for me, I mean, I was raised on a on a ranch, and I had a very strict upbringing. And so whenever I went to, to teach, a lot of my students did not have that strict upbringing. And I would hear them say things like, he’s touching me, he’s looking at me weird. He’s breathing on me. He’s, and it was just, it drove me absolutely crazy. Sounds terrible. But, um, but no, I just, I was definitely wanting to be able to see, I’m not even quite sure the best way to say it, but be able to see the difference that I was making. And that, you know, with a student that I was able to admit, at least with admissions with a student, I was able to admit into college, I can see that transition. And a lot of times those students would come back to me and say, Hey, this is what I’ve done while I’m here and moving towards beyond 120. I can see, for example, one of the students that I’ve been working with, for several semesters, we were able to get her an interview at NASA last week, and she said, Oh, my gosh, all of my efforts that I’ve done, have paid off, she’s taken my classes she did the excursion, she’s doing the internship. And now the full time job and so to to know that I’ve had a part in that is incredibly rewarding. And I’m just humbled and honored by the fact that I can be a part of students journeys, and really, truly have an impact and where they go in life. And I’m so thankful and grateful for that.
Michael Hingson  13:47
So it sounds like what I’m hearing you say is that you’re helping to teach people that and students that life is an adventure, which is something that conceptually is probably a little bit easier for them to think about and assimilate in later grades, because how do you tell a kindergartener that life’s an adventure?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  14:08
Well, and even sometimes students who let’s just say a student has a degree in philosophy, the student will come to me and say, What do I What can I do with a degree in philosophy? And my answer is anything you want to do with a degree in philosophy? Let’s see. What do you love doing? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy, you know, and just trying to figure out and really dig deeper into what that student may or may not realize they even want to do and kind of expose them to all these different opportunities out there to see what resonates. So yeah, I love thing. Life is an adventure. Let’s explore that together and see, you know, what’s going to be the best fit for you. And even if they
Michael Hingson  14:47
start on a career, or they decide to go down one road, you never know when you might have to change and being flexible, being a little bit more broader and thinking really can help people We deal with things that come along and may change their pathways over time.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  15:04
Absolutely. And that’s one of the biggest lessons that we teach students is that career paths are not linear. You know, they might be for some students who have a degree in accounting, they might want to be an accountant. And you know, that’s that’s a linear thing. But for a lot of our students, their journeys aren’t linear. And I know my journey in particular was not linear. But But yeah, we’re super excited to be able to impact those students. And you know, even my non traditional students love that love that love that we have a program called the University of Florida online program, which is fully 100% online degrees. And a lot of my non traditional students are still enrolled in my classes and take the excursions and do the internships. So, you know, that’s oftentimes even more rewarding. I know I had a student about a year ago, who had an immune deficiency, just like I did, and she, because of her condition, she was homebound and she could not leave to participate in some of our activities. And so I said, You know what, let’s, let’s see what you can participate in. And we were able to organize a few virtual internships for her. So it’s certainly very rewarding and love seeing the impact on students.
Michael Hingson  16:12
So in your case, what happened in terms of the immune situation, you were taking transfusions, I gather that has been able to be stopped?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  16:23
Yes. Oh, we’re so thankful. So thankful, um, I took plasma infusions for about five years. And thankfully, my body reacted to the infusions and was able to develop immunity on its own. So very thankful to my immunologist for all of his hard work. And it certainly took a while for us to figure out, you know, the dosage and whatnot, there were times that I had six needles in me at one time trying to infuse all of this plasma, because it was done subcutaneously instead of intravenously. So there was there were several obstacles. And I certainly got discouraged at some points. And that’s why I want to help to make those impacts on students because I see them often getting discouraged, not necessarily because of a physical condition like mine, but because, you know, they might have financial obstacles, they might have had students who, because of COVID, became homeless, you know, so trying to say, okay, what can we do to make your situation better?
Michael Hingson  17:21
So in your case, though, as you, as you pointed out, you got discouraged, and so on. How did you move past that? How did you pump yourself up, if you will, to keep going?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  17:31
Well, I think my family had a big part in that. My mother, she was with me through every single infusion. And I think she could see how challenging it was at 20 years old to have to come home every single weekend for two years straight, to have to do infusions. And so she truly encouraged me, but also the the power of prayer, me personally, I’m a very strong believer in Christ. And that was, that was my thing. And I know, not everyone has a particular face or a person to lean on. But for me, that was instrumental in my journey,
Michael Hingson  18:05
but there is merit to leaning on something, whoever you are, as, as long as it’s a positive thing, and you can use it to help yourself move forward, right. And
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  18:15
I want to be that that person that helps motivate my students in whatever capacity I want to be that that person that is their biggest cheerleader, you know, to try and get students wherever it is that they’re looking to go.
Michael Hingson  18:27
So you were able to get beyond that. Do you need to do anything still to kind of monitor your immune system to make sure it doesn’t repeat? Or are we beyond that now?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  18:36
Well, I actually had an appointment with my immunologist a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I are hoping to start a family soon. And I said, well, will this impact my child and my immunologist said probably not. But you know what, let’s just monitor it. We’ll take it day by day, and kind of go from there. So as of now I’m doing good. Very thankful. But yeah, doing doing okay, so far.
Michael Hingson  18:59
Well, jumping forward a little bit. Also, I understand that you’re about to get a new addition, you’re adopting a puppy. I am I’m very excited to tell us about the puppy.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  19:10
So so this is a mix between a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a lab. We basically got this dog from our my parents set groomers and so we’re excited about getting this dog but I mentioned that I grew up on a on a ranch and we had cows and horses and turkeys and you know, all of the the animals and so this will be my first time since my parents sold our farm. About seven years ago. This will be my first time getting a dog and other dogs so I’m very excited about it.
Michael Hingson  19:42
Wow, Rhodesian Ridgeback and lab so it will probably be a fairly good sized puppy dog by the time it’s full grown.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  19:50
Oh, yes, absolutely. But if you can take care of a horse, you can take care of anything.
Michael Hingson  19:53
Well, yeah, I wasn’t so concerned about that. It’ll be a big dog. And are we going to allow it on the bed? probably a good idea.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  20:04
Probably not it, but we’ll see, well, we’ll cross that bridge. And when we come to it will probably be another four to six weeks before the puppies weaned. But But yeah, I’ve done that discussion. My husband and I,
Michael Hingson  20:15
my wife always wants to let our dogs on the bed. Right now the only dog we have is Alamo who is my guide dog, a black lab, and I will not let him get on the bed because I know if that happens once it’s all over. Yeah. Once it happens one time, he’s going to stay on the bed. And it’s kind of one of those things that you you do have to monitor. On the other hand, she had a dog that was a breeder for Guide Dogs for the Blind that became her service dog. She’s in a wheelchair, she’s used to chair her whole life. And this dog who is very intelligent, picked up providing services for her like fetching things, which she had originally not been trained to do. But Karen always would encourage her to be on the bed. And as I love to tell people, Fantasia always took her half out of the middle of the bed. So I can think that it would be tough with a dog that will most likely be even larger than a lab.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  21:13
Yes, yes. But fingers crossed, she’ll have a good personality and we’re excited.
Michael Hingson  21:20
Yeah, that’s the thing. Well, you’ll have some control over that, unless it’s just a very strange dog. Dogs oftentimes do take on some of the personality of of their people, as long as the people are working really hard to make the home a good one and establish a good relationship. So my money is on you to be able to deal with that.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  21:41
Thank you. I’m, I’m going to try my hardest. You’ll have
Michael Hingson  21:44
to keep us posted. We’ll do. So you, you were able to deal with the immune deficiency and you’re able to then graduate. So did you go to UCS for for the rest of your undergraduate career or what?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  22:00
Yeah, so I went to a community college called SSC je in Jacksonville, Florida for my first two years, went to UCF for my last two years, and I continued on doing plasma infusions until I was probably about a year post graduation. And I had them I mean, because they have to be refrigerated. Most plasmas have to be refrigerated, they delivered it to my work, I had a refrigerator there, and they just kind of made some accommodations for me. But yeah, I went all the way through graduation, with those plasma infusions and continued on into the workforce. And ironically enough, I worked at a hospital for my internship and part of my first job, so it didn’t weird anyone out whenever I was getting plasma delivered to me.
Michael Hingson  22:51
How did that work when you were getting infusions, at work, and so on? Did Did someone actually do the infusions? Or was it something you could do?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  23:00
Yeah, actually, every single infusion that I ever had passed, the first three weeks were all me. And it because it’s done subcutaneously, you end up getting, I don’t know the best way to say it, I guess it’s like little fat pockets. Where your stomach is, or your legs are, wherever it is that you’re getting your infusions, because you’re putting essentially liquid right underneath the skin. And so it would kind of be bloated, I guess, wherever that earring is. And so I would just have to wear loose fitting clothing. And I had, because the infusions took anywhere from one to two hours to do and so whenever I graduated, and there were times when I had to have an extra infusion, so I do that at work. And I would just kind of take my little carrying case with me and people would see tubes kind of going inside my clothes. And I would just say, Oh, I’m having a plasma infusion. No one really felt comfortable asking, like more details. I did have a friend of mine who I worked with who who knew what was going on. And so if there was any emergency, she was able to call someone but thankfully that never happened. Everything was okay. And you know, I was I was comfortable. Eventually just kind of living a couple hours away from home and not going back on weekends after I graduated from college and just kind of doing that myself. But I do have a funny story. We kind of got tired of having the infusions done in the stomach, it began to hurt really, really bad once you do it over and over. And so one of the sites that you can do a plasma infusion is in the back of your arm and like the fatty part of your arm. And so my dad had to do those because I couldn’t reach you could reach Yeah, you couldn’t reach correctly. So so my dad had do those. And I mentioned I grew up on a on a ranch and my dad is used to giving our cows like you know the vaccinations, right so or their annual shots or whatever it is. And of course the cowhide is extremely thick and so he would jam that Have needle into the cows. And so then it wouldn’t came time for me. You pretty much do the same motion. And I remember screaming so hard. You don’t need to do it that hard, because he would jam that thing in cowhide. I was like tad. No. And so I never let him do that again. I learned my lesson.
Michael Hingson  25:19
My fourth guide dog Lynnae was a yellow lab and contracted glomerular nephritis, which is a kidney disease, it actually was a morphing of limes disease. But what happened is that the kidney would let out the good stuff, in addition to the waist, so it wasn’t really doing the filter that it was supposed to do. But one of the things that we needed to do with her was to give her subcutaneous fluids every other day, and had to put a liter of lactated ringers, saline solution in her just to really keep her very hydrated. So very familiar with the process. And we did that usually on her back right up near her shoulder. So there was always this big bump. She didn’t mind, mostly for her it was at least she got attention. And it worked out really well.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  26:12
Well, I’m glad that it helps at least for a little while. Yeah, did for
Michael Hingson  26:15
a while. And eventually she? Well, she lived three more years after the diagnosis. She guided for three years and then live for three more years with us. So we we had her company for quite a while, which was really good. Yeah. So you went off and you graduated, and then you started doing the things that you’re doing now. So what exactly do you do you do now? And how are your studies going and all that?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  26:38
Well, I, I’ve been told that you are not supposed to do your PhD topic on your work, but I completely disregarded that role. So doing my dissertation on what I’m doing at work, because it is a little challenging to kind of juggle everything. So I’m just kind of had to pray that it all worked out. And thankfully it has but what I’m doing now I created a course it’s called Industry Insights. And this is a variable 123 credit class. And I basically connect with various UF alumni in different industries. And we co teach a class together. And at the end of that class, the students while some of the students those that want to an internship or a full time position, they will let our alumni co instructor know and potentially interview for a full time position or internship, as of I believe, screen 21 Spring 2021, which is when we piloted the class, there was a student who got a full time position in Dubai. enlistees fall of 2021, there are two new different students who received positions, spring of 2022, there were three students. So so far, it’s been pretty consistent, say the top two to four students each semester are getting internships or jobs. But honestly, in some cases, this has done the opposite. And that students think, oh, I want to work in marketing, or I want to go to law school or whatever the case may be. And after they take this class, they say, Oh, my goodness, I don’t want anything to do with law school, or I don’t want anything to do with this. Which in my case, I think it’s just as valuable for people to kind of cross things off the list. And to say, this is what I want to do, because I can say, in my own experience, my internship helped me solidify what I wanted to do. But I also had a second internship. And I won’t say where, because it was not a great experience. But I had a second internship that was very closely related to my major, I thought I wanted to work in news broadcasting. And so I did an internship at a station. And it was the worst experience, it was absolutely terrible. And it helped me solidify that this is not what I want to do. And so I tell students, you know, you don’t want to get to law school, spend 200 grand getting into debt and getting your law degree to justify it out. You really don’t want to be a lawyer or practice any type of law. So in my experience, I think it’s just as valuable for students to just be exposed to the industry, and be able to cross something off the list as to be exposed to it and realize that this is what they want to do. So whether it’s yes or no, I think it’s pretty valuable.
Michael Hingson  29:18
The station you worked at was that TV or radio? It was television, television. So yeah, I’ll bet it was awfully political. And there are a lot of challenges. And in doing that,
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  29:29
well hey, this is it wasn’t something that I was willing to do at the time that there’s there you have to work your way up in, in news and in broadcasting, you start off, you know, as an editor reporter or whatnot, and you have the graveyard shift. And there’s just other politics that kind of go into it. And it was just some things that I just wasn’t willing to do. And I you know, I really love the corporate side of it, being able to market our hospital services. It’s a it’s a place that I was working at, and I was like, this is really it. This is what I want to do. And to be honest, I would have been Been there for, oh my goodness, I don’t even know how many years if it weren’t for the fact that Medicaid reimbursement hit, and my entire department was eliminated. And so it kind of forced me into education. But I found out that I really love teaching. And it ended up being just as great of a fit. And
Michael Hingson  30:17
I was just about to ask what got you from all of that into education. On the other hand, your marketing background, certainly would have a positive effect on you, and education and teaching and so on, because you learned how to communicate with people.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  30:34
I did, I did. And I’ll say, when you’re initially growing a department, it’s crucial to have some of those marketing materials, things like your flyers, your website that and I’ve had some web design skills, so I was able to design our website. So there were a lot of those skills that I learned throughout my time and communications, that really helps me build beyond 120, along with my other co workers.
Michael Hingson  30:59
So in dealing originally in marketing, and then going on into education, and even some dealing in news and so on, off the off the wall sub question, did anything ever come up in terms of making sure that the information that you produced or the things that you were doing, or now, even with 120, or classes at University of Florida, anything ever come up with making sure that that sort of stuff is accessible for people with disabilities?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  31:26
So, yeah, yes, and no. So I was, at least for my first five years, I worked in the office of admissions, like I mentioned, undergraduate admissions, so I was actually the disability coordinator for the Office of Admissions. And I had anywhere between probably three to 500 students every year, who would apply for disability consideration. And so I worked really closely with the Disability Resource Center at UF, I worked really closely with them to make sure that our students received the disability accommodation that they requested. And so that I mean, you know, of course, we talked about my own disability. And so that really gave me a sense of empathy. And I wanted to make sure that the students were getting what they needed. So So then moving into beyond 120, that was already at the forethought of forethought of what I was doing and saying I want to make this accessible for everyone. So COVID, kind of, in a way forced us to be accessible. However, we already kind of weren’t accessible in some senses. So it really, if anything, it just made us be even more conscious about that. And so, for example, we have a class I teach a class called strategic self marketing, I developed the class myself based on some of my own experiences, and some of the things that that students are facing right now things like, you know, the Great Recession and Generation Z needs, and you just some of the things that students are facing. And so I said, How are we going to make this accessible to everyone? Because like I mentioned, I had a student who, you know, had an immune deficiency could not leave. And you know, there are students who are non traditional, perhaps they’re a single parent trying to take classes, perhaps they’re, they’re working a full time job trying to take care of, of their own parents, right. So how do we make this accessible, so we had what’s called hybrid classes, so students have the option of either coming in person to learn because I know students tend to who have like ADHD have a tendency to do better based on research in person classes. So we had in person section and at the same time, we would live stream that class. So for those who were at home and couldn’t leave, or you know, we’re experiencing some type of hardship and whatever case that might be, both sections at the same time could learn and we could all interact with one another and learn from one another. So we didn’t necessarily have hybrid classes before zoom, we had a synchronous online classes for our UF Online folks. And then we had traditional sections for our residential folks. But through COVID, it kind of gave us the technology needed to have these hybrid classes. And that’s something that I still continue to this day, and I have plans to continue until I leave the University of Florida. So So yes, and no, we did meet with some students who needed accommodations, any specific accommodations? And so we met with them individually and said, what are some things that we can do to make this more accessible for you? So as a department, we kind of worked with all populations myself, as the internship coordinator, I worked with all populations and you know, so so it’s, it’s been an interesting journey, trying to create a more accessible options. Is there more that we could do? Absolutely. And my goal is to eventually have someone that we can hire or to work with more non traditional populations. And that’s kind of been in the works. But But yeah, ultimately just trying to make sure that we’re listening to you to everyone and trying to be as accessible as possible.
Michael Hingson  35:10
Access gets to be quite a challenge. Whether it’s a hybrid class and virtual class or totally online, for example, professors may create a lot of graphs and images, or professors may write on a board or do something that is visual, not verbalizing it. And the result is that anyone who’s in the class who happens to be blind or low vision, won’t get that information. And that’s one of the access areas, I think, especially in colleges, but not just colleges, where there is a lot of challenge, and sometimes the requirement for a lot of advocacy because the information isn’t made available. And it isn’t something that technology in and of itself is gonna fix. It’s an attitudinal choice that one has to make.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  36:00
Right? I agree with that 100%. And I will say it does get easier with technology. So So for example, I will make sure that closed captioning is on all of the videos that I record. So if anybody, you know needs closed captioning services, we have those available now at no charge. And then we have also transcripts that come along with our zoom recordings. So if a student needs a transcript, to be able to use with one of the services that Disability Resource Center offers, to be able to read those transcripts out to the students, we have those as well. So there certainly have been improvements, but it’s up to the individual faculty on whether or not to utilize them. So I agree, it’s certainly an attitude thing, as well, trying to make sure everybody’s on board. I mean, I can’t speak to anybody else. But I’m hoping that my classes are accessible as possible.
Michael Hingson  36:52
Well, here’s another, here’s another example. So you create a video, or let’s say you, you create some sort of video where there’s music, or there are a lot of images that are put on the video, what kind of audio description do you create, in order to make sure that a person who can see the images in the video part of it is able to access it and and that’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about that we’re a lot less a well, I’m able to run word, but we’re a lot less likely to include those things, even though they may be just as important to be able to do or you create a document or you scan a document and create a PDF of it. The problem is that’s a graphic. And so it is totally unavailable to a person who uses a screen reader to verbalize or to to be able to interpret the document, unless the optical character recognition process is doable. And again, it is a result of becomes inaccessible. And those are the kinds of things that we haven’t done a lot with yet. And it’s not something that you can easily automate. It is a process that somebody has to put time into one of my favorite things that I that I love to complain about, I love to complain about it, but that I complain about is television advertising, how many ads today just have music, or just have sound but no verbalizations So that unless you can see it, you have no clue what’s going on. And the reality is, what you what you do by not having words is leave out not only people who are blind or who can’t see it, but you’re missing the opportunity to market to all those people who get up during commercials and go do something else, like get a snack or a beer or whatever. Because all they hear is music, and they don’t hear anything that helps the commercial continue to keep their focus on the product.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  38:52
Right. Great. No, that makes total sense. I mean, I try and think you know, based on the materials that I teach, whether it be closed captioning service for those who are who are hearing impaired, or whatever the case may be, you kind of try and think of those things. But you’re right. There’s some things that I’ve never even thought about that I hope I would be empathetic to if a student needed those. Those that assistance, but yeah, it’s it is certainly there’s a lot of barriers there.
Michael Hingson  39:21
Well, here’s the other part of it. It isn’t just the student who may come in and need it. You archive classes.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  39:28
The student, yes, the students do you have access to previous classes? Right, but you have to be enrolled in the class in order to the material. Yeah,
Michael Hingson  39:37
but if that’s the case, then without having that information accessible in the archive classes, they’re just as unavailable as anything because they weren’t made accessible from the outset. So it is a it’s a process. I know it’s not inexpensive. But if we truly are dealing with accessibility, that is kind of one of the things that we need to explore and maybe the day We’ll come when there are better ways to automate a lot of that it’s not here yet. I don’t know whether you checked out excessive be the company that I work for and help. But it is begun the process of, in part, at least creating an automated process to make websites accessible by analyzing the content of the websites with an artificial, intelligent widget. And it can do a lot to make websites more accessible. But it won’t be able to do everything. It’s it’s amazing what it can do. Because you can oftentimes using the widget, analyze an image and get a description of it. Like on my website, if you go to Michael henson.com, there is a picture of me hugging my guide dog Roselle, the dog who was with me in the World Trade Center, when the image was first encountered by excessive B, before we did anything with it. It analyzed the image and embedded a description that said, Man and black suit hugging yellow Labrador retriever, which is incredible in of itself. But the reality is it doesn’t do what we really wanted it to do was to say, which is to say, Michael Hinkson, hugging Roselle. So we embedded code and excessive B, we’ll leave it alone. But already we’re seeing the the machine process, do a lot to analyze images. And over time, it will get better. But we can’t automate videos and put in video or audio descriptions yet and things like that. And maybe the time will come to do it. But in the short term, it means that that people have to make the effort to do that. Right and should make the effort to do that. Absolutely. It’s a process. And you know, we’re not there. And a lot of people don’t think about you mentioned that COVID was something that helped bring a lot of this to the forefront. And it did but not always in a positive way. Like the Kaiser Health Foundation did a survey in 2020 of COVID-19 websites for registering to get when it started vaccines, but before then to get tests and get tested. And out of the 94 websites that the Foundation research 10 had made some effort to include accessibility and the reality is most hadn’t, which is unfortunate. It is a process and I only bring it all up. It’s it’s interesting to discuss it. But hopefully it will help people think about more accessibility kinds of things in the future as we go forward.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  42:30
Absolutely, absolutely. I was hoping. I mean, there’s little things that I’ve learned over the years things like you know, when it comes to folks who need certain services, I don’t remember exactly which which disability this was. But there was one particular condition where folks, it was hard for them to read color, it was easier if it was 100%, black and white versus on a grayscale. So So, so yeah, I made sure okay, this is in black instead of in a gray or blue or whatever. Because at University of Florida, our colors or colors are orange and blue. And so a lot of the stuff that I was making was in orange and blue. However, somebody was like, you know, it’s actually really hard for me to be able to see this I’m visually impaired and having you know, I again, I don’t remember what condition it was. But it was easier for her to to read in black and white. And I was like, Sure, absolutely. Let’s do this. So hopefully, I mean, it’s the more that we learn and more we’re exposed to different things, the more accessible hopefully that we can make the material.
Michael Hingson  43:31
And when we’re talking about vision impairments, the reality is what you just described is a lot easier to do today than it used to be because so much is stored electronically, you can quickly go in and change the colors and reprint or whatever. And even the student might be able to do that. But the fact is that you can do it. And that really helps a great deal. Yeah,
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  43:51
I’m absolutely I’m hoping that as as time goes on, of course, I’ll be exposed to different things and be able to make those accommodations for my students, but hoping that, you know, everyone around the country will be able to recognize some of the things that we can do as a population to be able to make things more accessible.
Michael Hingson  44:09
Yeah, we need to become a lot more inclusive than we tend to be today. And we’re working on it. Diversity doesn’t tend to include disabilities, but you can’t very well leave us out of inclusion. Otherwise you’re not inclusive rights. It’s it’s a it’s a challenge. But you know, we’re working on it collectively as a society and I am sure that we will eventually get there. But it is an effort and it’s always about awareness to get people to think about it. Well, so you have had a lot of experiences and they’re doing a lot of fun things. So what are you going to do in your future? What are your future goals?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  44:48
So, my goal is to keep on building beyond 120 and hopefully to scale. We have had in like I said beyond 120 was just launched in 2018, we had two years where we were just completely cut off in certain areas. But at least in excursions, we’ve had about 250 students participate in excursions, but our college serves 11,000 students. So I want to be able to scale that up. We want to give more scholarships to students in various populations. I know one of my students, I won’t say her name, but she is absolutely precious. She’s a single mom, her child is about two or three, I believe now, she started off in her freshman year in one of my classes, we were able to get her a scholarship to participate in an internship and that scholarship went to babysitting costs, you know, because a lot of times those non traditional populations have different challenges than our traditional 1822 population. So I would love to provide more scholarships to students of any population. And we would love to, to really help students get to where they need to go. So I mean, we’re actually our excursion is entirely donor funded. And so we’re just reaching out to various UF alumni and saying, Hey, come give back. And whatever capacity you can, whether that’s money, whether it’s time, investing in a student simply through giving them a mentorship consultation, so I would love to be able to reach a larger population within our college and make an impact. And I ultimately, I can only impact this the folks that are here at the University of Florida, however, I would love to share what we’ve done with other universities, and and really encourage other universities to, to support students in those non traditional ways through experiential learning. I presented at a Duke University online pedagogy conference last Wednesday, and was able to share that with a few people. So any impact that we can make on any other schools, I would certainly love to be able to see that happen.
Michael Hingson  46:57
That is exciting. It’d be great if you could do something with all 11,000 students at University of Florida what?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  47:05
Well, 11,000 students times $2,000 per scholarship is a lot of money. We have a long way to go.
Michael Hingson  47:13
Yeah, well, that’s okay. It’s, it’s something that’s still doable. I’ve seen colleges receive a whole lot larger donations, but it is a process. So once you get your PhD, what will you do? Are you to continue to work at University of Florida? Well, you have the opportunity to do that, or what Yes,
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  47:31
I mean, my, well, I’ll say this, my husband is in the Air Force. He is a surgical resident right now at UF and which is why I’m able to stay here, and it will be here for the next six years. And then kind of depending on where he goes, I will be following him and the University of Florida is expect expressed interest in keeping me here in more of a remote position if the if the situation calls for it. So potentially just kind of traveling to help facilitate some of these opportunities. But I would really love to scale the program up and be able to share with other universities, the impact of this program. And of course, to continue impacting students would be my ultimate goal in the future,
Michael Hingson  48:16
interesting idea to figure out a way to expand it to other universities, and whether you do it through the University of Florida, or there’s a way to start a company to do beyond 120. Worldwide right beyond beyond when 20 Inc.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  48:32
Yes, exactly. I will say, though, that I will do I have marketing and communication skills, I do not have as much business skill. So I would need somebody to help me with that. I
Michael Hingson  48:42
bet you could find someone at UF to help with that.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  48:46
Yes. Well, I’m excited. I’m excited. Well, we’ll see what happens. But But no, it’s a great start. We’re excited to see now that COVID We’ve gotten a bit of a handle on it, I certainly have a long way to go with that. But certainly happy to see now that things have kind of calmed down a little bit what opportunities are going to be open for us in the future. I’ll say I’m presenting at the National Association of Colleges and Employers next month to share our model with other schools. So hopefully that will go well and we’ll be able to to impact other universities there.
Michael Hingson  49:21
That’s exciting too. You’ll be able to do that. And of course, that’s the kind of teaching but you’re going to continue to teach.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  49:27
Oh, absolutely. That’s the bread and butter of our program. We have the coolest classes of course I have to brag on Brent Industry Insights because that’s my class that I created but we have other really cool courses we have a course called The Art of adulting you know, kind of teach students what does it mean to be an adult you know, and just have that interesting? open discussion. We have a Global Pathways course we have a professional pathways just expose students to various industries and particularly the skills correlation to say you know, If you’re going to be a lawyer, great, but what are the skills that go into being a lawyer? What do you need things like problem solving, critical thinking, communications, teamwork, all of those skills that go into any profession. And we laugh, we provide students in the internship course what’s called the SDS assessment. And it will basically ask you a bunch of questions and then tell you based on your skills, some of the top career choices that align with those particular skills, and it cracks the students up a lot of time, I know it cracked me up, because one of my top job matches was a tattoo artist, and I’m going what on earth? I cannot draw for anything in the world. But but we just kind of had to dig deeper and say, you know, what are the skills that I have, that perhaps a tattoo artists would have, or a marketing manager would have or whatever. So, you know, really teaching the students the value of having some of those transferable skills that you can have in any any job.
Michael Hingson  51:03
You mentioned earlier about people who had an influence on your life, I gather, you have some people that that really have made a great impact on you would love to hear about that?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  51:13
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So well, Isaac, I don’t know if if she’ll ever hear this, but she was the internship coordinator who, you know, I walked into her office, and I had a rainbow colored resume, it literally had every color in the rainbow on it. And she looked at me and said, Brittany, what on earth is this, you do not need a rainbow colored resume. And so we kind of work together over the course of this semester. And she was the one that that got me the job at Orlando health that got me that internship that launched the rest of my career. And so I want to be the hula Isaac for for all of my students, so she was definitely an influence. My immunologist was a huge influence. He’s the one that worked with me in the midst of having an immune deficiency. And I’ll say, I didn’t mention this earlier, but I’ve had four very significant surgeries, three of which were open heart surgeries. So you know, he’s, he’s been there in the midst of all of that, and just my family to you know, as, as my husband, and I talk about starting our own family saying, you know, what type of influence do I want to be on my kids, just as I am on my students, so that that’s kind of my goal is to really make a positive impact on others through their various capacities.
Michael Hingson  52:35
Well, and you’re certainly working toward it by any standard. And that’s, that’s as good as it gets, you know, you’re making every effort that you can. So in 10 years, you’re going to be doing the same thing.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  52:48
Hopefully, I’ll have more of a leadership role. And we’ll be able to have grown, I mean, hey, let’s say we get 1,000,010 million 100 million dollar donation for the program, hopefully, we’ll be able to hire lots of me, and not literally, but lots of people in my role, and be able to scale up and influence 1000s of more students. And ultimately, I would love to travel and be able to share with other colleges, some of the things that we’ve learned and see how we can help impact those students as well. I mean, you see, me even even going along the employer side, you see a lot of employers saying, Oh, we’re going to pay our interns $8 an hour, or we’re going to pay our interns nine or $10 an hour. And the reality is Amazon and, you know, Starbucks, and a lot of other employees, they’re saying, hey, we’ll pay you $15 an hour. And so students don’t feel as much of a need to do internships anymore, because they can go work at a part time position for a lot more money. And so we’re encouraging employers listen, you want to make sure that you are offering our students a competitive rates, because we want to make sure the students are getting access to internships and for especially for our students who have significant financial barriers, this is something that we strongly encourage employers listen, you need to meet that growing rate, because we want students to have access to whatever it is that you’re teaching them, because they’re so so so valuable. And I know, the federal folks up in DC are just starting to pay interns. So encouraging employers, encouraging students and really making those those connections. So yeah, so eventually kind of be doing the same thing. I hope it’s at a broader scale, though.
Michael Hingson  54:33
Well, hope you can hopefully you can work with companies to get them to fund the internships and pay appropriate wages and so on. And, you know, maybe it would be to their interest because some of those people then will join those companies and move forward but as far as having lots of you doing it, you know, we’re not cloning people and that’s a good thing. So it’s you, but it is really exciting what you’re doing I mean, if people want to learn more about it or reach out to you, how can they do that?
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  55:05
So I find that the easiest way and I tell this to my students as well, the easiest way is just to Google UFL beyond 120. And, and that’ll bring you to our websites. And it’s actually held through the Academic Advising Center. So when students go to get their advising services, a lot of times they’ll Fordham to us. If they’re saying, Hey, I’m not quite sure what classes to take based on my career interest, or hey, I want to participate in internship, I don’t know where to go. So we’re held within the Academic Advising Center. So if you see academic advising, you’re in the right place. So hear us beyond 120. And then I can certainly send my my email to you as well. It’s Brittnay Grubbs@ufl.edu. And so happy to chat with anybody who’s interested and you know, replicating the program for their own college or, or maybe donating some time to helping the students we certainly appreciate that.
Michael Hingson  56:01
So do the email one more time and spell it if you would? Absolutely. It’s
B r i t t a y G r u b b s@ufl.edu, UFL for University of Florida. edu for education.
Michael Hingson  56:15
There you go. So people who are interested, maybe you’ll hear from some other schools and colleges and universities, or companies that might be willing to contribute to the program. We’re certainly willing to advocate so anything we can do to help them hopefully this will raise awareness and that some people will reach out to you and I would love to hear what you what you encounter as you’re going forward.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  56:38
I would love that. I would love that it went regardless of what anyone has to know today, whether it’s money time or anything else that people are interested in. We are certainly appreciative of anything that people have to offer.
Well, Brittany, thanks very much for being here. With unstoppable mindset this hour has gone by in a hurry hasn’t absolutely having me which is why this is always fun. As always, any of you listening, I’d love to hear what you think. Please reach out to us you can reach me Michaelhi  m i c h a e l h i  at accessibe  A C C E S S I B E.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also go to our podcast page, which is www dot Michael hingson.com m i  c h a e l  h i n g s o n.com/podcast. Wherever you go, wherever you’re listening to this podcast, please give us a five star rating. We really appreciate that a lot. I do want to hear your comments. If you know of other people and Britney you as well. If you know of other people who ought to be guests on unstoppable mindset, please let us know we’re always open to hearing about more people. And I appreciate those of you who even over the last week have emailed us about that or reached out. Anytime people want to talk to us about guests or just thoughts about the podcast. We want to hear them and we will respond. So again, Brittany, thanks very much for being here.
Brittany Grubbs Hodges  58:06
Thank you, Michael. Really appreciate it.
Michael Hingson  58:08
And we look forward to all of you joining us next time on unstoppable mindset.
 You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.

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