2002 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty: Dr. William E. Field

Dr. William E. Field answered a phone call from a farmer with paraplegia in 1979 that would permanently change Purdue University. The farmer had a simple request: he wanted to get back on his tractor and farm again. Dr. Field, Purdue's Extension Safety Specialist at the time, having no prior background in disability-related work or adaptive technology, took several agricultural engineering students to visit the farmer and see if they could assist the farmer in reaching his goal. From this contact, the program that would become Breaking New Ground (BNG) began. Under Dr. Field's leadership, Breaking New Ground has served farmers and ranchers with disabilities throughout Indiana, the nation, and even other countries. BNG has responded to over 10,000 calls for assistance over their toll-free help-line, and has produced more than 50 resources designed to assist not only agricultural workers, but also rural businesses, Extension offices, youth organizations like 4-H and FFA, and the caregivers of individuals with disabilities. The BNG program was used as a model for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's AgrAbility Program that was launched as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. BNG has also earned numerous national, state, and university awards for program accomplishments. Dr. Field has won a number of individual honors as well, including the 2000 Hovde Award, the USDA Superior Service Award, and Purdue University's Cooperative Extension Association's Junior and Senior Specialist Awards. Dr. Field has also brought Therapy, Health, and Education through Children and Horses as Partners, a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with disabilities, under the BNG umbrella.

Staff: Betty M. Nelson

Ms. Betty M. Nelson has had a tremendous and long-lasting positive impact on accessibility at Purdue University. In the mid-1970's, she was a staff member in the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS). She worked with student organizations on campus to raise money to have curb cuts installed for wheelchair users. Ms. Nelson also worked with students who needed accommodations. In time, Ms. Nelson held the position of Dean of Students. As the Dean of Students, she created two new specialist positions within Adaptive Programs, now known as the Disability Resource Center, to better serve the needs of students with disabilities. Ms. Nelson became even more proactive in disability issues once the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. She was appointed to the University's Steering Committee. Ms. Nelson also founded and chaired the Advisory Council on Disability Issues, which is a faculty and student advisory group, to spread information and raise awareness of disability issues in the classroom. She fostered an atmosphere in ODOS and at Purdue that accepted people with disabilities as people first. Ms. Nelson was also a charter member of the Association for Handicapped Student Service Programs in Post-Secondary Education (which later became the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)) and the founder of the Indiana Higher Education Committee on Disabled Students (which later became Indiana AHEAD). She also participated on the Indiana Rehabilitation Services Area V Advisory Committee and the Governor's Task Force on the Employment of the Handicapped.

Student: Adam J. Rodenbeck and Hamlet

Mr. Adam J. Rodenbeck and his service dog Hamlet were Focus Award recipients while he lived at Wiley Hall during the 2001-2002 academic year. Many of the people living and working in the residence hall stated that they learned a great deal from their interactions with Mr. Rodenbeck and Hamlet. Many people stated that Mr. Rodenbeck, who is blind, approaches life with great confidence and impresses everyone with his independence. He was involved in many activities which occurred on campus. Mr. Rodenbeck educated the Purdue community by being willing to share his experiences with both students and university employees. He participated in various Boiler Gold Rush activities. Mr. Rodenbeck also joined the Wiley Hall radio station as a disc jockey. Another student, who was also a disc jockey at the radio station, was impressed at the fact that Mr. Rodenbeck was more familiar with the equipment after a few months than he was after four years.

Organization: Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS)

Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), which was founded in Purdue University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the fall of 1995, is an innovative program at the University that creates partnerships between teams of undergraduate students and local community not-for-profit organizations to solve engineering-based problems in the community. This partnership provides many benefits to the students and the community alike by fulfilling the complementary needs of engineering undergraduates and acting as a community service organization. EPICS at Purdue grew from five teams and forty students in fall 1995 to twenty-four teams and three hundred fifty students in fall 2001. EPICS worked on three different projects related to assisting Purdue students with disabilities during the 2001-2002 academic year. The three projects involved creating an adjustable table, an adjustable chair, and an interactive campus map. The students involved in the campus map project were awarded a $5,000 grant from the Christopher Reeve Foundation to conduct their research and create the map. Because of EPICS popularity and benefit to the surrounding community, programs have also been started at other institutions, such as Notre Dame, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Georgia Tech.