Four outstanding IUPUI staff and faculty members were recognized during the Annual Diversity Soiree sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) on September 20, 2017 with the Advocate for Equity in Accessibility Award. Establishing during the 2015-2016 academic year to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the award is presented to IUPUI staff and faculty who have gone above and beyond in their support of students with disabilities. “Individuals nominated for the award represent IUPUI professionals who help to make the dream of higher education a reality for an often forgotten group of students,” explained Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen Dace.
Recipients of the 2017 award include Wende’ Nichols Ferguson, Ronald M. Sandwina, Mark G. Urtel and Pam A. King.
Wende Nichols Ferguson is senior associate director for student affairs in the McKinney School of Law where one of her responsibilities includes advising and managing all ADA accommodations. She works diligently to ensure a smooth transition into Law School and that the necessary services are in place so that students have one less thing to worry about as they pursue their law degrees. Ms. Nichols Ferguson has earned the reputation as the “go-to person” for students with disabilities in the McKinney School.
Ronald M. Sandwina is the general studies program director in the School of Liberal Arts and director of undergraduate studies in the Communication Studies Department. His nominator wrote “Ron has worked tirelessly with AES students and always tries to find a way to assist all students with achieving their academic goals. He goes out of his way to mentor and support many students at IUPUI by offering encouragement and guidance. There is no doubt that Ron has played a significant role in the persistence of many students all the way to graduation.”
Mark G. Urtel, is a professor in the Physical Education Department in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management and is known for finding creative and thoughtful ways to accommodate students. Where some see hopelessness, Professor Urtel sees hope, limitless possibilities and the promise of a brighter future for students with disabilities. As one nominator wrote “Mark always finds a way to accommodate a student, making sure everyone with the desire to can participate fully in his classes.” One of Professor Urtel’s students with a disability went on to become an Olympian as well as an IUPUI graduate. Currently, Professor Urtel is adapting a course to accommodate a visually impaired student. “Mark Urtel is a rare faculty member who embraces the disability of his students and then works with each student to find the best way to ensure their success,” a nominator wrote.
The final award recipient is Adaptive Educational Services (AES) Director Pam King who, after serving in that role for 28 years, recently announced her decision to retire. “Anyone who has been around IUPUI for more than a minute knows that there is no greater advocate for individuals with disabilities than Pam King,” Dace said. During her tenure Ms. King has been a constant, making sure the institution is mindful of the needs of veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome, blind students in need of a textbook transcribed into braille or a deaf community member visiting campus for an important keynote lecture hoping there will be a sign language interpreter present. “I have always thought of Pam’s advocacy for individuals with disabilities as integral to the work we are charged to do at IUPUI—create opportunities where everyone has the chance to thrive. She has been faithful to a community with disparate needs and a voice for those often unheard,” Dace elaborated.
When Ms. King began her career at IUPUI, the office she lead was known as the Disabled Student Services. When students using the office under the former title approached her suggesting the name, Disabled Student Services Office had a negative connotation—they said “we have a disability but we are not disabled students”—Pam worked with them to change the name to its current Adaptive Educational Services. “From the beginning, Pam King has always been an Advocate for Equity in Accessibility,” Dace said.
In addition to receiving an engraved plaque during the Diversity Soiree, the names of each recipient go on to the permanent, wall-mounted Advocates for Equity in Accessibility plaque located in Taylor Hall near Adaptive Educational Services and the bust of Joseph Taylor, the founding Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. The father of a special needs daughter, Dean Taylor was another advocate for students, staff and faculty with disabilities. “The placement of their names to the permanent wall plaque means that the legacy of their commitment to and advocacy for IUPUI students with disabilities will be on display for years, even decades, to come,” Dace concluded.