2014 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty - Dr. Lata Krishnan and Dr. Jennifer Simpson

In response to student-expressed interest in clinical work abroad in 2010, Dr. Lata Krishnan and Dr. Jennifer Simpson, clinical faculty members in the department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) contacted Purdue Alumnus Mr. Alfred Mwamba (Mu-wum-ba), the only audiologist in Zambia.  Shortly thereafter, the SLHS Zambia Study Abroad program was born and began in May of 2013.   Zambia is home to about 14 million people, and nearly half are under 15 years old. Hearing screenings for school-age children are not common practice, and as a result, conditions that can lead to hearing impairment may go undiagnosed and untreated. 

During their stay in Zambia, the team worked with multiple community partner organizations that provide much-needed therapy services to children with intellectual disabilities and educational services to children with physical disabilities. Students performed audiology work by testing and screening some 450 patients.  Undergraduate students had the opportunity toprovide screenings to assess hearing of children, something they would not normally have had the opportunity to participate in until graduate school.

For most students, this experience was their first time to examine patients — and to add to the challenge, most were children who didn’t speak English. In addition to overcoming the language barrier with their young patients, the students also saw children with disabilities and learned to adapt testing as needed.  Senior Jordan Potosky said her experience at a rehabilitation center and school for children with disabilities was a “game changer”. She interacted with kids who had cerebral palsy, were missing limbs, or had some other sort of physical or cognitive disability.  She was quoted as saying: “I will never again take for granted the things I am so fortunate to have, like a functioning pair of legs.  The children had such a positive and inspiring outlook on their disability — they carried on their day like they could do anything in the world. I had such a great time with them that I could see myself becoming very passionate and directing my career toward working with disabled children.”

In an article in a College of Health & Human Sciences Newsletter, Dr. Krishnan said:  “Our goal was not to ‘swoop in’ to Zambia and provide our specialized services, but rather to carefully listen to Zambian providers about the needs in their country and see how we could fit our program to their goals.  As guests in their country, we felt strongly that we needed to respect their decisions and acknowledge that Zambians know best what their country needs.” 

Dr. Krishnan and Dr. Simpson have paved the way for our students to make a real impact on the lives of others by serving as ambassadors to Zambia and are giving our students invaluable learning experiences which are shaping their future careers. 

Staff – Pamela “Pam” Riesmeyer

Initially hired as a part-time contract employee to work on several projects at Purdue Calumet, Pam Riesmeyer became involved in web accessibility at Purdue Calumet in 2005.  Ms. Riesmeyer became interested in web accessibility through Calumet’s web person and the chair of the ADA Advisory Committee.  She took an online class on the topic in 2008 and has never looked back. Even before the University passed its Web Accessibility Policy in 2010, Ms. Riesmeyer had been working hard to try to incorporate accessibility into everything that Calumet did online.Eventually, she became Calumet’s Web Accessibility Coordinator. 

Ms. Riesmeyer has tirelessly volunteered her time and efforts to spearhead projects to help the University achieve its goal of full accessibility for all digital content.  Ms. Riesmeyer played a central role in developing a software application and electronic information resources purchase/renewal process that ensures that all such applications and resources meet applicable accessibility requirements.  The draft process is currently being refined for presentation to the University’s Senior Leadership Team.

Ms. Riesmeyer identified a useful tool for assessing the accessibility of individual web pages on the University’s website and for identifying problem areas for repair or modification.  This tool has been key in helping the University move from a point where only 38% of the web pages tested in February 2012 were compliant with the Policy to a point where 85% of such pages were compliant in fall 2013. 

Ms. Riesmeyer goes above and beyond to promote web accessibility.  She has provided a number of training opportunities for staff, faculty and student workers and has open lab hours each week during which questions are answered and demonstrations provided. She has trained individual departments, Administrative and Professional Staff Advisory Committee members, and new employees during new employee orientation.  She has also partnered with the staff in Calumet’s Office of Instructional Technology to teach web accessibility techniques to University faculty as part of the University’s digital learning certificate program.  These efforts are geared toward helping ensure that hybrid or online courses are developed in a manner that is consistent with the University’s Web Accessibility Policy.

When asked what she likes most about working in the area of web accessibility Ms. Riesmeyer said, “It feels great to be doing something positive and to be giving back. Now, what I do is help open doors and break down barriers to digital access. It's exciting to watch someone begin to understand why web accessibility is important, and to see how technology can help someone overcome physical limitations and allow them to communicate in new ways.  What I like about doing this at Purdue Calumet is the commitment to creating a welcoming community and the amazing, compassionate people with and for whom I am privileged to work”.

Ms. Riesmeyer’s dedication and commitment to making digital programs and services accessible to people with disability has never wavered, and her passion and initiative exceed any expectations.  While Ms. Riesmeyer would be the first to point out that the progress the University has made toward reaching the goal of ensuring that all digital and online content is accessible to people with disabilities has been the result of the work of many people on campus, there is no question that she has consistently been at the forefront of the University’s efforts to achieve that goal.  She has been relentless in her efforts to maximize the extent to which digital and online information is accessible to and useable by people with disabilities and we commend her for the impact she has made at Purdue Calumet as well as all Purdue Campuses.

Student – Timothy “Tim” Leonard

Tim Leonard came to IPFW in 2011, and campus has not been the same since. Having been involved in adaptive athletics before coming to the university, Mr. Leonard began looking around for a team or club to join. Seeing none, he decided to make change happen himself. Mr. Leonard recruited students both in wheelchairs and those willing to play basketball in wheelchairs on team AdapoDons. Aided by his campus and community partners, Mr. Leonard captained the inaugural AdapoDons season. The team initially competed with other two teams affiliated with a local service agency for individuals with disabilities. However, Mr. Leonard and his teammates have no small ambitions. One of their mottos is “Go big or go home.” True to that spirit, they soon began to schedule games with teams in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Intercollegiate Division. They have played some of the finest teams in the country, including the University of Illinois and Auburn University and have appeared at half-time at an Indiana University women’s basketball game.  In February 2014, the IPFW AdapoDons finished 1st in the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association’s basketball tournament in Illinois.

In addition to creating the AdapoDons, Mr. Leonard has been active in campus life, serving as a senator in the Indiana-Purdue Student Government Association and as a team manager for IPFW’s women’s basketball team. He was elected Homecoming King in 2013. Mr. Leonard was also active in Sigma Chi Delta, an international English honor society, and has been awarded that group’s student leader of the year award for 2014. Mr. Leonard graduated in May 2014 with degrees in both English Literature and English Writing. He plans to attend graduate school,.

Mr. Leonard relayed a funny story with his experience serving at the team caption of the AdapoDons..

“Our first season as a team was a memorable one for us all. However, there were times where laughter filled the air. We were heading south to Auburn University in Alabama for a tournament and we stopped for a break at a truck stop. I said, ‘Be back on the bus in 15 minutes.’ Time had elapsed, and members of the team returned to the bus. We departed after receiving a head count from the team mom. About 10 minutes later my phone started to ring. I looked down, and it was one of my players, Josh. I yelled, ‘Josh why are you calling me?’ There was a silence. Another player said, "Dude, Josh isn't on the bus." I then decided to answer the phone. Josh was wondering if we moved the bus to the other side of the building.  I replied, ‘Yes, about 5 miles down the interstate.’ Moments later we returned to the truck stop, picked up Josh,and continued to travel south to Alabama. We all shared a laugh that day. However, I felt the need to give a motivational speech to my team and their parents. I said:

People in the world have forgotten about individuals with disabilities and what we're able to do. It's an honest mistake, just like we honestly forgot about Josh. We have to stand up for ourselves in the world we live in today or no one will ever notice us. We have to be [full voiced] in assuring that our rights and abilities are being thought of. Our school believes in us, I believe in you all, and you need to believe in you. It only takes one individual to make change happen and we're doing it as a team. IPFW will never be the same again. But, that's a good thing. Now, let's bring home a victory and show all the colleges in Indiana that AdapoDons are not a one hit wonder, but that we're here to stay.

We didn't bring home a victory, but we grew stronger as a team”.

Mr. Leonard is a leader who has demonstrated the power of inclusiveness.  He has made a lasting impact on those around him as well as at Purdue, and we are grateful for his efforts. 

Alumni – Andrea Murray

Andrea Murray graduated from Purdue Calumet with a degree in communication and creative arts in May 2007.  Ms. Murray was born with cerebral palsy and was then injured in a car accident 20 years ago, and she has been a wheelchair user since.  During her time at Purdue Calumet, she was known around campus as “the wheelchair warrior” for her tireless efforts to improve campus accessiblity and inclusion for those with disabitlies. 

While attending Purdue Calumet, Ms. Murray championed initiatives that brought awareness to the needs of people with disabilities. Her efforts at Purdue Calumet included: founding a campus chapter of Hoosier ADAPT, an advocate group for students with disabilities; establishing the art show, “Don’t (Dis) My Art,” which highlights artwork and performances by students, including those with disabilities; inclusion presentations in which Purdue Calumet faculty and administrators experienced life using a wheelchair and white cane, and with  vision and hearing limitations; and serving on Student Government as a mentor and volunteer. A professor once stated: “Andrea’s attitude is infectious; she makes the best of things and then fights for what is right.  She has a way of cutting through the problems by getting people to work together to improve situations. She has made me aware of things that I take for granted as an able-bodied individual.”  In March of 2008, the ramp to the stage at a newly remodeled Purdue theater was named in Ms. Murray’s honor, recognizing her efforts to achieve accessibility for theater students with disabilities.  Prior to the ramp, Ms. Murray and other students with disabilities had to perform all their plays OFF the stage. Once she graduated others continued her efforts, demonstrating the magnitude of the impact she made at Purdue Calumet.  For example, students with and without disabilities would together put on plays and show their art work for Disability Awareness Month.  When asked what pleased her most about Purdue Calumet’s response to her efforts on behalf of these with disabilities, Ms. Murray said, “Before, people who were not disabled would avoid people like me. Now, I’m treated like anyone else; inclusion has really happened at Purdue Calumet.  When I first lived in The University Village, I had [a roommate] who was afraid of me and wouldn’t come out of her room when I was there. Now, she’s my best friend.” 

Ms. Murray has continued to advocate for people with disabilities after her graduation.  Her first battle occurred shortly after graduation when she had to fight to get her apartment complex to comply with the Fair Housing Act by providing her with accommodations for an accessible apartment. 

Ms. Murray describes herself a public speaker, artist, a writer and actress. She is a member of ArtsWORK Indiana, an informal statewide network of artists, educators, vocational professionals, and cultural organizations. She is a board member of the Governors Council for People with Disabilities and has taken a leadership role in establishing the Valparaiso Mayor’s advisory council for people with disabilities.  She was selected to attend an eight month advocacy training program called Partners in Policymaking and graduated the program in 1997. For many years she was also on the board of VSA Indiana: the State Organization on Arts and Disability, and has received several awards.

Ms. Murray once stated: “I’ve never really felt disabled.  I’ve learned to adapt-if you can’t do something one way, you learn to do it another way.”  We commend Ms. Murray for the impact she has made at Purdue Calumet and recognize all of her efforts to increase accessibility, promote disability awareness and inclusiveness. 

Organization – Purdue Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV)

The Purdue Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) housed within the Krannert School of Management is part of the National EBV program founded at Syracuse University in 2007. The EBV serves post-9/11 veterans interested in starting businesses. This program is conducted in three phases: on-line learning, a 9-day residency (over 90 hours of scheduled instruction), and one year of mentoring.  Purdue joined the consortium of eight-world class universities in 2009. The Purdue EBV at Krannert proudly has 104 graduates in their alumni network. The National EBV has provided training to over 700 veterans, helping create an estimated 670 new jobs.

The Purdue EBV class of 2012 had 26 graduates. Within180 days following the program, nine of the veterans had started businesses. Craig Triscari, a Purdue 2012 graduate will have fifty employees in his new recycling business before 2015. During 2014, veterans enrolled in the Purdue EBV class included: inventors developing commercialization ideas for oil and gas fields, and medical devices; wood crafters building furniture and art; innovative technology to capture scientific data; e-retail stores; non-profits; fitness and wellness centers; medical care clinics; gun safety programs; and more. While the ideas vary, a common element among the veterans is that they want to continue to serve their country with purpose.

Retired Lt. Col. Craig Triscari, 2012 Graduate said of his experience:

 “I witnessed veterans coming out of their dark places and experiencing a sense of worth that they seemed to have lost after leaving the service. The program provided a reconnection of the brotherhood, but armed them with a firm base of knowledge on becoming an entrepreneur. It inspired the EBV students to be more and to strive for a better business future.”

The Purdue EBV is a community effort and in 2013, over 400 volunteers assisted with the program. Volunteers included faculty, staff, students, entrepreneurs, alumni, corporations, community leaders, civic groups, retirees, the Purdue football team, and more. At Purdue, during the residency portion of the program, in addition to teaching the “Nuts and Bolts of Business,” there is a concentration on building community and creating an entrepreneurial mindset. Purdue students are enmeshed within this program, and there are experiential learning opportunities for Purdue students inside the Purdue EBV initiative.

The National EBV program is pleased with the Purdue program and is assisting Krannert in starting an Entrepreneurship Boot camp for Veterans with Disabilities Family (EBV-F) program to serve spouses and caretakers of wounded warriors.  Krannert has an outstanding volunteer team that works on this project and it would not be executed at this high level without the support, dedication, and tenacity of the following individuals: Dr. Elaine Mosakowski, Professor and Academic Director of the Purdue EBV; Professor Hal Kirkwood, Purdue Libraries; Brenda Allie, Administrative Assistant in External Relations; Michele Markley, User Service Hardware Coordinator; Karin Disher, Administrative Assistant in the Deans Office; Emily Warter, Krannert Recruiter in the MBA Office; Gloria Klutzke, Administrative Assistant in Undergraduate Office; Zenita (Za-neeta) Subba (Sooba), MBA Graduate Student; Philip Hsueh (Sway), MBA Graduate Student; Yonghua (Yung-wa) Li (Lee), MSHRM Graduate; and Saul (Saw-ool) Del Real (Del-Ree-L), MBA Graduate Student. 

As Krannert Dean Christopher Earley has said:

“We sincerely hope our EBV students have learned as much from us about how to build and sustain a successful business as we have learned from them about courage, resilience and the strength of the human spirit.”

We recognize and thank the Purdue Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities and all the countless volunteers for their outstanding contributions to taking this program one brick higher to better the lives of veterans with disabilities.