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ADA Coordinator's Office



Second Annual Unity Awards Ceremony

UNITY, (opens in a new window), an organization of students with disabilities, recognized faculty and staff that have gone the extra mile to make The Ohio State University a welcoming community for students with disabilities. The April 4th,2002 ceremony kicked off a month long celebration of disability at The Ohio State University. The students invited Linda Schoen, Undergraduate Academic Advisor from the Psychology Department as their speaker. The list of the recipients is followed by the text of her speech.

Recipients:

Dr. Richard Sams, Vet Med Analytical Toxicology

Dr. Bostwick Wyman, Mathematics

Dr. Michael Vasey, Psychology

Mr. Pete Tender, School of Music

Mr. John Sylvester, Animal Science

Mr. Gabe Stoller, Animal Science

Dr. Joy Omslaer, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Dr. Steve Moeller, Animal Science

Mr. Tim Leeds, Animal Science

Dr. Mark Kleffner, Geological Sciences

Dr. Gail Kaye, Bionutrition Program, Human Ecology

Ms. Natalie Hinshaw, Human Nutrition & Food Management

Ms. Stephanie Griffin, Human Development & Family Science

Dr. Michael Folmar, Counseling & Consultation Services

Dr. Jeff Firkins, OARDC Animal Science

Mr. Larry Evans, Student Financial Aid Public Support Services

Dr. Louise Douce, Counseling & Consultation Services

Dr. Denise Deschenes, Counseling & Consultation Services

Mr. David Carroll, Industrial, Interior, & Visual Communication Design

Ms. Heather Caprette, Industrial, Interior, & Visual Communication Design

Ms. Charlotte Belland, Advanced Computing Center for the Arts & Design

Ms. Jennifer Beckman, Animal Science

Dr. Lawrence Baum, Political Science

Dr. Beth Ray, USAS

Ms. Melissa Mentzer, USAS Exploration

Ms. Sara Hadaway, Undergrad Residence Life

Text of speech by Linda Schoen

I want to thank Nadia Webster and the other students of Unity for asking me to speak today. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that they asked me. Last year, I was very pleased to receive this award. We were given the opportunity to say a few words and in the midst of my comments, this wave of emotion hit me unexpectedly, and I started to tear up. So I was surprised that the students risked me losing it again this year. But I appreciate the opportunity to add my words of recognition today.

In the last year or so, the OSUToday on-line newsletter has featured faculty and students who are "Making OSU Great" and at sporting events we have heard- OSU - Do something great. Well, when I think of what that means - this is it. You are what make OSU great. True educators are those who take the time to mentor and build relationships with students. They meet students at the intersection of the students' potential and their need.

I'd like you to take a moment and think back to a "great" teacher in your past. What was it that made that teacher great? For me, it was Miss Lyman, who was my fifth grade teacher. Now, I've had some good teachers since then, but she took the time to mentor me. I knew that my learning was important to her, and I was encouraged to stretch intellectually. She validated me as a student, and as a person. She reached out just that bit more to a shy, scared fifth-grader. And that is what all of you have done. You have reached out and provided the opportunities to learn for every one. That is what being a true educator is about. And that is how OSU will be remembered as "being great" in the hearts of the students who pass through here.

I think that the academic community, in general, is aware of the need to offer the accommodations required by law, but the manner in which this is done defines the integrity of the faculty. I was on faculty at one institution that will remain nameless, at which the undergraduate academic dean didn't "believe" in learning disabilities. He thought they were psychological hogwash and just ways for students to try and get out of work in the courses. Needless to say, any accommodations were offered in an attitude of begrudging suspicion. Students felt bad asking for them, and felt that they needed to apologize for their different learning styles. What this faculty member didn't understand is that what is done for students with disabilities actually strengthens teaching skills and makes one aware of one's assumptions about learning and teaching. Just because I learned this subject in this fashion, it does not mean that it is the best way to learn or the only way.

I'd like to share a personal example. I have two sons, aged 16 and 9, who have developmental disabilities that affect their ability to sequence information. At an Individualized Educational Planning meeting for my eldest son when he was in first grade, we were discussing that Dan was struggling tremendously with reading aloud, which was part of the regular curriculum and the most standard way to test students' reading ability. By the time he struggled with decoding the visual representation of the words and then transferred the information to a verbal production system, he had forgotten the beginning of the sentence. A GREAT educator remarked, "So maybe we need to recognize that is something that Dan will never do and does this really need to be part of his curriculum?" Now, I ask you, on a day-to-day basis, how many of you have to read aloud from a text? It challenged the assumptions of what actually is needed in an academic curriculum and how to build an educational plan based on strengths. And I believe that in providing accommodations to students with disabilities, we are challenged to rethink what content and skills are really required in our courses and are there multiple ways in which these can be taught? Hopefully, faculty can see this as an opportunity to look at their curriculum and their teaching methods from a fresh perspective.

There are many pressures on faculty and staff, and I see these perhaps increasing in our new budget environment. As enrolment numbers become more of a driving force, it may be more challenging to provide the needed assistance to individual students. We may see faculty being asked to teach more courses and to a larger number of students. And, budget cuts may result in fewer course assistants and Graduate Teaching Assistants. This may make it more difficult to provide needed accommodations and the individual mentoring that we are here to witness today.

So why bother to go above and beyond the legally required accommodations? And I know that this is preaching to the choir, but if a colleague asked, "I don't get it - why did you go to all that trouble?", how would you answer? I guess I would say that I do what I do, because it is the right thing to do. And although the recognition is greatly appreciated, it is not the motivating force. Providing accommodations validates to students with disabilities their role as learners, and validates the role of faculty as educators, and highlights that the learning process invites, even demands, relationship. And that is where you have shined with integrity. I applaud you as a fellow teacher, as an academic advisor, and as a parent, for your ability to see the potential. And would like to close with the words of Kierkegaard:

If I were to wish for anything,
I should not wish for wealth and power,
But for the passionate sense of the potential
For the eye which, ever young and ardent;
Sees the possible.
Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.
And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant,
What so intoxicating, as possibility!

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L. Scott Lissner, ADA Coordinator

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