Meet Dr. Sharon McLennon Wier, CIDNY’s New Executive Director

CIDNY is excited to introduce you to our new Executive Director, Sharon McLennon Wier, Ph.D., MSEd., CRC, LMHC. She joined us in July.

Photo of Sharon McLennon Wier sitting at a desk, wearing a red blazer.What did you do professionally before joining CIDNY?

I have worked in the field of disability, vocational rehabilitation, and mental health services for the last 25 years. I am a mental health provider who has graduate training in vocational rehabilitation and doctoral training in counseling psychology. I have a world-view lens comprising a scientific-practitioner model of social justice/evidence-based practices in psychology. I am a blind, Black woman who wanted and believed in achieving career advancement. I worked arduously to advance to occupational roles including counselor, coordinator, consultant, manager, and director.

Just before I came to CIDNY, I worked for Berkeley College as their Director of Disability Services for their multiple campuses in New Jersey and New York. I ensured equable disability-related services for students and employees at the college. In addition, I am a mental health therapist, teach psychology courses as an adjunct professor, and write book chapters and articles on various psychological topics.

Why did you want to become the Executive Director?

What impressed me about CIDNY was its mission to provide social justice and equable services for people with disabilities living in New York City. The opportunity to lead an organization that advocates for people with all types of disabilities addressing all aspects of life (including transportation, housing, education, work, and benefits) was important and a true vocational calling.

What expertise are you most excited to bring to this role?

I am excited about leading CIDNY to include more comprehensive services for people with disabilities, particularly related to post-secondary education and employment. CIDNY does not currently provide specific services that focus on these critical objectives.

Additionally, I’m excited to utilize my expertise in mental-health services to help us expand our mental health offerings. People with mental health disabilities are largely hidden, and they often struggle with maintaining meaningful and gainful employment. Finally, my experience working in a myriad of occupational settings will help CIDNY to refine its organizational structure and grant allocations, determine infrastructural needs, develop a strategic plan, and improve its technology services.

What was the first job you ever had?

My first paid job was when I was 18 years old and a freshman attending Syracuse University: I was a wet-vending attendant at the Carrier Dome sport complex. I had to maintain three part-time jobs during my undergraduate studies to ensure payment for expenses. I earned $4.50 per hour preparing soda trays for the honkers to sell to the patrons sitting throughout the venue. I was so excited to receive this job because I wanted to experience earning my own money and being responsible to complete a task that someone wanted and required me to complete. I also heard some good concerts and basketball games while working in the arena!

My first job as a postgraduate with a master’s degree was working as a vocational-rehabilitation counselor. I worked for an inpatient, therapeutic, and drug-free program. This program specifically worked with veterans who had substance abuse, alcohol dependency, and chronic mental-health issues in New York City.

Do you have a personal story you would like to share?

I have had my visual disability since the age of six years. I cannot remember a time where I was able to see objects clearly. However, I know that I possess vision to see the world through other lenses. Simply stated, I possess the human characteristics which encompass the need to love, to listen to the birds sing, smell the aroma of the bright flowers, walk barefoot on the green grass, taste the fruit and vegetables grown from the earth, and hear the crashing of the ocean waves.

I am inspired and passionate about social-justice initiatives because I have worked for over 25 years with individuals who are ascribed membership to minority and disenfranchised groups. I strongly believe that all individuals must share and experience the opportunities that our society can provide regardless of social class, primary language, immigration status, beliefs or other circumstance.

I have experienced all aspects of discrimination and prejudice attributed to my aspects of diversity. I had to apply and interview at more companies compared to my peers. I had to accept a lower salary just to have a job. I had to watch peers with less experience and knowledge receive promotions that I applied for. And so much more.

I bring the knowledge, professionalism, fortitude, hope, and charisma needed to propel this organization to appropriately help those who are affected by inequities in our society. I am a working professional who is a totally blind, Black woman who has experienced the emotionally gripping swords of discrimination and stigma. Despite significant challenges, I learned tangible lessons over the course of my lifetime that fostered perseverance, passion in my convictions, and resilience.

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