2012 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty - Dr. Maren Linett

Dr. Maren Linett is an associate professor in the Department of English.  During the 2011-2012 academic year, Professor Linett designed and taught a course titled “Modernism and Disability.” This course offers students in the English Department and across the university the opportunity to engage in meaningful critical discussions about how disability is represented in language and in art and to recognize and question the normative assumptions that often arise in contemporary political discourse. During this course, students examine how disability was represented in the early twentieth century in texts and discuss these representations alongside a selection of contemporary advocacy texts that prompt students to imagine how access, equality, and positive representations of disability may be achieved in the future. Through Dr. Linett’s direction in class, students explore how advocacy for disability rights can be complemented by re-imagining what constitutes valuable human life.  Other issues discussed in Dr. Linett’s class include issues of medical ethics and how disability can be represented not in terms of “lack” but in terms of “difference,” and these issues will become increasingly important in the humanities and in public discourse more generally in the coming decades.

In addition to the “Modernism and Disability” course, Dr. Linett taught a 400-level class on “Literature and Disability” for English majors during the 2011-2012 academic year. These classes grew out of Dr. Linett’s own initiative and commitment, not because of departmental need or request. Dr. Linett is also working on a book-length study provisionally entitled Modernism and Disability, and she organized a seminar in 2010 entitled “Modernism and Disability.”  Dr. Linett is one of a small group of faculty in the English Department and at Purdue who seek to develop disabilities studies courses and scholarship. Dr. Linett's dedication to developing disability studies courses and scholarship isn't going to end with the new classes. In the near future, she hopes to help form an interdisciplinary minor at Purdue.  We are very pleased to have her leadership in this area at Purdue.

Staff - Ms. Wilella Burgess and Dr. Perry Kirkham

In 2010, the Institute for Accessible Science (IAS) was established at Purdue University through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pathfinder Award with a mission to promote the inclusion and retention of persons with disabilities in biomedical science careers through practical laboratory experiences, assistive technology development, student and educator support services, and research.  Ms. Wilella Burgess and Dr. Perry Kirkham were an integral part in bringing the IAS to fruition. 

As project coordinator with the Office of the Vice President for Research, Dr. Kirkham has been a tireless advocate for bringing attention to disability research among faculty and administrators on an institutional level. With no academic program in assistive technology or disability research, Dr. Kirkham realized the importance of developing a prominent presence at Purdue for promoting STEM education for students with disabilities, especially in the life sciences. Discussions between a few assistive technology researchers and Dr. Kirkham led to the idea that a large center grant could be an effective means of bringing research on STEM education for students with disabilities to Purdue. Dr. Kirkham’s continual dedication in engaging faculty researchers and administrators from disciplines across campus to consider collaborating in this area eventually resulted in Dr. Brad Duerstock and Dr. Susan Mendrysa being awarded a $2 Million NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award in 2010 to promote the inclusion of underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences. This was only one of six grants awarded in the nation and the only one to focus on broadening the participation of persons with disabilities in the sciences. Dr. Kirkham was not only involved in every aspect of developing the grant proposal to establish the IAS at Purdue, he was also essential in forming the team that was critical to the success of this endeavor. Many of these researchers had never considered working in assistive technology prior to being contacted by Dr. Kirkham. Ms. Burgess, managing director of the Discovery Learning Research Center, was also integral in the planning stages and development of the proposal for the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award to establish the IAS. When lead faculty investigators, Dr. Duerstock and Dr. Mendrysa, received the NIH Director’s Pathfinder award, Ms. Burgess continued on to serve as an unpaid advisory board member for the IAS.  Ms. Burgess’ efforts have helped with the early stages of establishing the structure of the Institute and the planning and external evaluation of Institute activities. Ms. Burgess was also instrumental in enabling the IAS to renovate laboratory space at the Disability Resource Center in order to create an accessible biomedical immersive laboratory for students and scientists with physical disabilities to practice lab research techniques and experiments.  Her efforts in promoting STEM education for students with disabilities have been critical in establishing and launching the IAS.

Ms. Burgess and Dr. Kirkham’s commitment and efforts with the establishment of the IAS will have far-reaching impact on students with disabilities at Purdue.

Student - Ron Carr

Ron Carr was a doctoral student pursuing a degree in Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education at Purdue when he received a 2012 Focus Award.  Mr. Carr was the inspiration for and president of a student organization called BADD (Boilers with ADD/ADHD). Mr. Carr created BADD in the summer of 2011as he became aware of so many Purdue students struggling with issues in relation to their ADD/ADHD. BADD’s goals are to provide support for one another, share in community and campus resources, and participate in service and outreach to the campus and community.  First and foremost, Mr. Carr and participating students hope to educate the Purdue community about the challenges of students with ADD/ADHD.  As founder and President of BADD, Mr. Carr has spearheaded a number of public awareness and outreach events.  In October 2011, BADD hosted a free screening of the ground-breaking documentary, “ADD & Loving it?!” to mark ADHD Awareness Week, and Dr. Sydney Zentall, Professor in Special Education and Psychological Science in the Department of Educational Studies, led a successful discussion with the audience members following the screening. 

Under Mr. Carr’s leadership, BADD developed many more plans for the 2011-2012 spring semester, including hosting monthly dinner get-togethers, a bake sale, and plans to locate and obtain space for an ADHD Resource Center on Purdue campus.  The organization plans to create workshops that will focus on assisting Purdue students to develop strategies that will help them consistently implement study skills and time management skills. During the 2011-2012 academic year, BADD began developing a “coaching buddy” program that would partner students to keep each other accountable for their school work.  BADD’s plans also included the to development of an Anti-Bullying program to share with area schools, and is also working on forming an affiliation with the local Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a national non-profit organization serving individuals with ADHD and their families.  Mr. Carr is a dynamic and enthusiastic leader with many creative ideas that will aid BADD in becoming a well-known presence on campus.  Mr. Carr is also a deeply committed individual who has already begun to leave his mark on the Purdue University community with his efforts to provide more support and resources to students with ADD/ADHD.

Organization - PETE's PALS

PETE’s PALS, Physical Education Teacher Educators Supporting Physical Activity and Life Skills, is an aquatic and motor program offered for children with disabilities that was initially started in 2005 as a service-learning component of Health and Kinesiology 326: Foundations of Adapted Physical Education. The official founder was Susan Flynn, who was a clinical faculty member at the time. When Ms. Flynn left Purdue in the spring of 2009, PETE’s PALS stopped functioning. In the summer of 2010, Mr. Kevin Richards was asked to teach a summer session version of HK 326 and needed a field placement for his students. Mr. Richards contacted Ms. Lori Eubank, who is a special education teacher at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, and asked if she would be willing to do a session of PETE’s PALS with him that summer. They were able to get a small-scale version of PETE’s PALS off the ground for what was initially intended to be a one-time session. However, after experiencing the program and the way in which it touched the children in the community, Mr. Richards and Ms. Eubank agreed to continue offering PETE’s PALS and took the necessary steps to make it an officially recognized Purdue University program through the Department of Health and Kinesiology.

PETE’s PALS has the ability to serve approximately 60 local children with disabilities while engaging 75-80 Purdue students in service-learning during each semester. The program is designed to help the participating children become efficient movers in a fun and safe environment. Each child in the program is assigned a trained clinician who works one-on-one for the two hour gym and swim program. Throughout the PETE’s PALS program, parents are also provided with opportunities to engage with one another and with invited guest speakers. Guest speakers include key individuals such as adapted physical education teachers, occupational therapists, and special education professionals. Through these meetings, parents are provided with information to help advocate for their children in the educational environment and enhance knowledge to assist their children’s motor needs at home. 

During the 2011-2012 academic year, Mr. Richards taught HK 326 and reintegrated PETE’s PALS into the class so that students studying adapted physical education received the experience of serving as clinicians. Student leadership positions were also added to the program to allow undergraduate and graduate students who have been involved to take on additional program responsibilities. During the 2011-2012 academic year, Mr. Wesley Wilson coordinated the physical activity component of the program and Mr. William Robbins developed and implemented the aquatics section.  PETE’s PALS, a much-needed program, has made a significant impact not only here at Purdue but also in our local community by providing a safe learning environment for all that are involved.DI while enrolled at Purdue. She participated in presentations PADI gave to classes about disability issues and was a member of the PADI panel at previous Disability Awareness Month activities. She is described as being witty and having an outgoing personality. Ms. Mathews is comfortable with her disability and does not attempt to hide it. For example, she chooses bright colors for her hearing aid molds. She is also open to learning about others experiences with disabilities. Along with PADI, Ms. Mathews was also active in her sorority and in the American Sign Language Club.