2010 Focus Award Recipients

 Faculty - Dr. Marifran Mattson

Dr. Marifran Mattson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication. In 2004 she was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident in which her left leg was severed above the knee. While teaching her graduate and undergraduate classes upon her return to Purdue, Dr. Mattson was challenged by her students to embark on a motorcycle safety campaign. Subsequently, the Motorcycle Safety at Purdue Campaign rolled out in the Fall of 2006. A dedicated team of student volunteers continues to work on the campaign. Dr. Mattson was also the driving force behind a new law in Indiana that will increase insurance coverage of prosthetics. As the chair of the Indiana Amputee Insurance Protection Coalition, Dr. Mattson has worked alongside fellow amputees, prosthetists, and caregivers to fight for state House Bill 1140. This law, which will help current and future amputees, became effective on July 1, 2008. Though Dr. Mattson is an amputee, the state bill will not specifically help her. Her insurance through Purdue University is on the federal level, and the coalition is lobbying for a similar bill on the federal level. The Prosthetic & Custom Orthotic Act of 2009 (H.R.2575) was introduced in the House on May 21, 2009. The coalition has worked with Senator Olympia J. Snowe's office to get the bill introduced in the Senate. This bill will ensure amputees get the healthcare they need to live active, independent lives. Dr. Mattson also volunteers her time to share her experiences by speaking to students.

Staff - Jodi James

Jodi James served as the Disabilities Services Coordinator for the Student Support Services program at Purdue North Central (PNC) from December 2000-September 2009. During her employment at PNC, she excelled in her commitment to disability accessibility and diversity. Mrs. James played a key role in effectively coordinating accommodations for students with disabilities, providing high-quality academic counseling to students with diverse backgrounds, and delivering workshops and seminars to faculty, staff and students. Through her active involvement on the campus ADA Steering Committee, she was instrumental in making the campus more accessible by, for example, increasing campus signage to include Braille. In addition, she demonstrated a connection with the community disabilities agencies and served on the Board of Directors for Michiana Resources, Incorporated. Her extensive knowledge of the law, the disability community, and her positive attitude were factors in her significant commitment and achievements towards disability accessibility and awareness at PNC. Mrs. James presented on various disability related topics at the state level, including the Indiana Chapter of the Mid American Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel and Indiana AHEAD. In addition, Mrs. James was appointed by the late Governor Frank O’Bannon to serve as a member of the Indiana Council of Independent Living, on which she served from 2001-2007. Mrs. James attended rallies in both Washington, DC and Chicago, IL to raise awareness of individuals with disabilities. Not only did she ensure students on the PNC campus received appropriate accommodations, Mrs. James took her advocacy from the regional level to the national level. Mrs. James regularly went above and beyond her formal position in the PNC Student Support Services program to advocate for greater disability accessibility and diversity.

Student - Richard Weatherford

Richard Weatherford, a Purdue graduate, was in his first year of graduate school studying History when he received the Focus Award. However, he changed his area of studies to Rehabilitation Counseling as result of his work and involvement in the area of disabilities. Mr. Weatherford had been an unfailing participant in almost every available opportunity to increase awareness of disability-related issues and to advocate on behalf of his fellow students with disabilities. Mr. Weatherford worked to educate faculty and staff about the individual differences that exist among disabilities, even with disabilities that fit within the same category. Mr. Weatherford was the President of the Disability Resource Center student group, Advocating Disability Awareness to Purdue Students (ADAPS). With little guidance, Mr. Weatherford resurrected the student group and co-authored the ADAPS Constitution. With Mr. Weatherford's leadership, the ADAPS student group focused their energies on specific goals and tasks, including a transition program with students from Ivy Tech and area high schools, providing information regarding disabilities to a major corporation and by doing so securing grant money, expanding social/professional networks and connections, registering with Get Involved as an official campus organization, and by increasing visibility of students with disabilities by participating in numerous on-campus outreach events, such as My Purdue days and the Office of the Dean of Students Diversity Committee brown bag series. Mr. Weatherford exhibits qualities of a strong leader-one who puts others above himself and continues to be dedicated to broadening and expanding the scope and perception of disability.

Alumni - Sharon Arvin Byrkett

Sharon Arvin Byrkett, a Purdue alumna, made a huge impact on the Purdue campus. She wanted an opportunity for a college degree but initially needed the support of her family to attend classes. Mrs. Byrkett, her sister, and a group of friends who also used wheelchairs, wanted to enroll in Purdue classes, attend athletic events, attend events in the Hall of Music, and participate in student organization activities. At that time there was no way for a person with a significant mobility disability to access the campus. In response to The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Mrs. Byrkett led a movement that changed the face of the Purdue campus and the attitudes of many administrators, faculty members, service providers and students. Mrs. Byrkett helped organize and lead the first annual Handicapped Awareness Days on campus. She persuaded administrators, faculty, student leaders, and Physical Plant workers to "accept" an assigned disability and live a day coping with blindness, a hearing impairment, or using crutches or a wheelchair. As designs were drawn for various building modifications, Mrs. Byrkett and some of her group met with the planners to talk through the modifications. When projects were finished, Mrs. Byrkett and her nucleus of students were invited to visit and critique their effectiveness. Much of the physical access one sees today on our campus began with the momentum Mrs. Byrkett developed. As a result of the positive changes Mrs. Byrkett fostered, she was able to attend a Christmas Show in the Hall of Music, use the women's restroom in FWA-4, access Hovde Hall via the new lift on the Ground Floor, enter Stewart Center to attend meetings, and park reasonably close to her classes. Mrs. Byrkett was a determined change agent who left a deep and permanent mark on Purdue. She easily won the hearts of Purdue faculty and staff.  Her success was our success.

Organization - Ford Dining Court

Ford Dining Court opened in August of 2004 as the first free-standing and newest place to eat on campus, employing nearly 300 part-time student workers at any point in time. Global diversity and age diversity have been a part of the culture of Ford Dining Court since its beginning. But, even with a culturally diverse workforce, Ford staff still needed more help at lunches. Ford needed assistance from other "under- utilized/non- traditional" employee groups, available during the lunch service time. Ford had huge numbers to serve everyday that first semester (typically over 8000 daily). In response to this need, Ford developed the program "Beyond Limitations: An Environment of Inclusiveness, Caring, Comfort, and Success." This program targets the hiring of physically and emotionally challenged individuals from the Greater Lafayette community. Ford works with local high school transitional work programs and employment agencies that assist people with disabilities in finding and obtaining employment, in order to find "good fit" opportunities for temporary employees at Ford Dinning Court. This work brings a sense of pride and contribution to members of our community who are all too often not considered a vital part of the workforce. Temporary employees are given tasks suited to their situations. Their efforts are making Ford a shining example of excellence on campus. Moreover, the joy temporary employees find in their contributions is infectious, making Ford an even more pleasant place to work.