Access Achievement Awards, 2012

The recipients of the Access Achievement Awards for the 2012 year were:

Marilyn Becker, Director of learner Development, Medical School

Dr. Marilyn Becker has been a strong supporter of equitable access for medical students, residents and fellows for the past 10 years. She frequently works with Disability Resource Center in her role as Director of Learner Development. Three years ago, a private funder was interested in improving the learning environment for medical trainees with disabilities at a worthy institution. He chose the University of Minnesota because of the strong collaboration between Disability Resource Center and the Medical School. Marilyn became the principal investigator of the Marcus Foundation Faculty Education Grant. Project participants conducted focus groups, administered surveys administered, delivered keynote addresses, and conference presentations to medical and disability associations. Dr. Becker is now leading the development of a Call to Action to further remove the barriers identified through the project.

Robert Burgett, Vice President of Development, University-Wide Programs, University of Minnesota Foundation

When I first met Bob Burgett, Vice President of Development, University-Wide Programs for the University of Minnesota Foundation he challenged me, and the staff in Disability Resource Center to think creatively. Sure, we have generous donors, large and small, who contribute to our thriving scholarship program but how can we make it better? How can we connect the donors and the scholars and enrich their relationship? He’s also been a tough taskmaster and diligent steward of University Foundation funds making us accountable for every penny spent. But mostly, he’s been committed to seeing scholarships and scholarship opportunities for students with disabilities grow. This year we distributed a record $56,000 and when President and Mrs. Kaler decided to establish the Kaler Family Scholarship, Bob encouraged collaboration with the Office of Disability Resource Center and recommended qualified students from our pool. We did, and two of our applicants were awarded Kaler Family scholarships.

Lisa Gruszska, Associate Director, Orientation and First Year Programs

Quite simply, there doesn’t seem to be an orientation or first year program challenge for students with disabilities that Lisa Gruszka, can’t handle. Find a place for adaptive equipment? A lot of adaptive equipment? Got it. Need a specific orientation date? No problem. Protect a student’s confidentiality? Of course. Actually, the list of things that first year students need to consider is mind-boggling. And it takes a fleet of people in Orientation and first year Programs to keep the details straight. More importantly, because of Lisa, students with disabilities have the same engagement opportunities as all students.

Glenn Hirsch, Director, University Counseling and Consulting Services

Keeping students connected on campus, helping them find services, find friends and —often find themselves —encourages success. Glenn Hirsch keeps students at the center of his work, encouraging all to seek critical connections. His strong clinical skills, leadership, creativity and follow through have been integral to the success of a series of collaborative efforts between Counseling Services and DS. He determined that sharing a case manager with Disability Resource Center would increase the likelihood of identifying and serving students who might “fall through the cracks.” Similarly, he has engaged in critical conversations to clarify the role of the Disability Resource Center Specialist who provides accommodations, and the counselor who can address stress, relationship, conflict and other personal concerns. In addition, he has worked tirelessly to increase collaboration across units to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Maki Isaka, Associate Professor, Asian Languages/Literature

At our first meeting we realized that Dr. Isaka felt the same way we did – excited and a bit nervous – and eager to take on the challenges of making a Japanese Theater class accessible to EVERYONE in the classroom. While she had never worked with interpreters before, Dr. Isaka knew that sign language interpreters must review class materials. So, Dr. Isaka often sent e-mails before class outlining an activity she was planning on doing and asking our opinion about whether or not the activity would be effective when interpreted. For me, as a student, Dr. Isaka, used her wonderful creativity to provide access to the course. When we were watching a clip of Japanese Theater, the young man, the young woman and the narrator almost had the same pitch when speaking. Dr. Isaka helped distinguish the speaker by using colored papers— yellow for the young man, pink for the woman, and blue for the narrator. She would raise the specific colored paper corresponding to the speaker. Attitude is often the key to access. Dr. Isaka’s attitude was exceptional. Clearly, she embraced access in her classroom. She embraced having a Deaf student in her class and working with ASL interpreters as an opportunity to enrich everyone’s experience.

Chen-Fu Liao, Information Technology Professional, Civil Engineering

Chen-Fu Liao, senior assistant engineer at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory and his colleagues are developing an app to assist blind and low vision travelers navigate streets; the app not only tells users when to cross the street, but which direction they are going and how many lanes they have to cross. He and a colleague interviewed blind and low vision users: What would they like in the product and what format would work best for them? He also consulted with an orientation and mobility specialist. (Linda)" I was also very impressed when I heard Chen-Fu talk about the system he developed and how aware he was of the needs of different constituencies. It was obvious he had done his homework!" Meet Chen-Fu Liao. Dr.

Laura Molgaard, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Veterinary Medicine, Academic and Student Affairs

Dr. Laura Molgaard, knows that diversity drives discovery. As Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Molgaard has guided her college in providing equitable access in all aspects of learning for veterinary medicine students with disabilities. She works collaboratively to create welcoming and inclusive environments that set the right tone for access and equity for all students. She ensures that Disability Resource Center is represented at New Student Orientation and during faulty development activities. She even helped us figure out how a student could use captioning in the barns! She has demonstrated compassion, empathy, leadership, and integrity while maintaining the high standards of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Jerry Rinehart, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Everyone knows that Jerry Rinehart, our student affairs vice provost and dean of students has a reputation for putting students first. Development Outcomes. The Strengths initiative. But what many do not know is that for his entire career at the University of Minnesota Jerry has been a real advocate for advancing access for everyone, not only encouraging his units and student groups to include people with disabilities, but sponsoring and supporting Disability Resource Center activities. So as you saw, when Deaf Rapper Signmark was scheduled to appear on campus last spring, Jerry was quick to help fund the appearance. When asked if he might be willing to introduce Signmark to the crowd on Northrup Plaza, he said, “yes.” Turns out, Jerry is the only senior student affairs officer in the big ten who uses American Sign Language, which makes us very proud.

Larry Rudnick, Professor, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Disability Resource Center applauds faculty who contemplate and encourage students to consider disabilities as differing ways of understanding the world. Professor Larry Rudnick, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, does just that in his freshman seminar entitled, “Nothing.” Each year he leads students in exploring “nothing” in the world from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. And for as many years as he has been teaching, he invites an individual who is blind to hold a conversation with his students around the topic of “seeing nothing.” Larry’s incorporating of this topic in his freshman seminar has significant consequences in two areas: Students acquire a new perspective from which to explore their world and chosen field of study. Students become more comfortable and understanding of individuals with disabilities. I am pleased to introduce Larry Rudnick, observational astrophysicist studying both supernova remnants and large-scale structures in the Universe, consultant to the PBS series, Newton’s Apple, and friend of Disability Resource Center.