Focus Awards for disability advocacy presented

March 1, 2012

Purdue's 12th annual Focus Awards shined the spotlight on five recipients for their outstanding contributions to furthering the University's commitment to disability accessibility and disability diversity.

This year's winners received their awards Thursday (March 1) at the Disability Awareness Month reception in Purdue Memorial Union. The Office of Institutional Equity presented the reception.

Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for ethics and compliance, hosted the reception and presented the awards.

The event's keynote speaker was Marcus Soutra, founder of the Keene State Disabilities Advocates, a group that works to motivate and educate people about disability issues in New Hampshire. He also is managing director of nationwide programming for Project Eye-to-Eye, a nonprofit organization that pairs children with learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with similarly labeled college-student mentors.

During his speech, Soutra addressed the importance of building a campus community for the learning disabled.

"Raising my hand -- and 'outing' myself as a person with a learning disability (LD) -- changed my life," Soutra said. "It allowed me to build a new LD community on my college campus. Will you raise your hands with me today and, in doing so, commit to celebrating our LD community here at Purdue?"

The 2012 Focus Award went to the following recipients:

Faculty: Maren Linett, associate professor of English. In the past year, Linett has designed and taught a course called "Modernism and Disability," which requires students to examine representations of disability in early 20th-century texts alongside contemporary advocacy texts. This semester, Linett also is teaching a class on literature and disability and is working on a book-length study on modernism and disability. Linett is a member of a small group of faculty who seek to develop disability studies courses and scholarship at Purdue.

Staff: Wilella Burgess, managing director of the Discovery Learning Research Center, and Perry Kirkham, project coordinator in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Burgess and Kirkham were integral in bringing to fruition Purdue's Institute for Accessible Science, which promotes the inclusion and retention of persons with disabilities in biomedical science careers. It was created in 2010 through a $2 million Director's Pathfinder Award from the National Institutes of Health -- one of only six grants awarded in the nation and the only one to focus on broadening the participation of persons with disabilities in the sciences.

Student: Ron Carr, doctoral student in engineering education. Last summer, Carr created the student organization Boilers with ADD/ADHD (BADD). The group provides support and resources for Purdue students with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It also participates in service and outreach to the campus and community. As BADD's founder and president, Carr hopes to educate the Purdue community about the challenges of students with ADD and ADHD.

Organization: Physical Education Teacher Educators Supporting Physical Activity and Life Skills (PETE's PALS). Started in 2005 as a service-learning component of a health and kinesiology course, PETE's PALS is an aquatic and motor-skills program for children with disabilities. Although the organization ceased functioning in 2009, health and kinesiology graduate teaching assistant Kevin Richards paired with a local special education teacher to resurrect the program in summer 2010. PETE's PALS has the ability to serve about 60 local children with disabilities while engaging up to 80 Purdue students in service-learning each semester.