Students recognize faculty and staff for support
April 29, 2014Tweet
Kind, sincere, inspirational and friend were words used frequently by students to describe faculty and staff being honored at last week’s recognition reception sponsored by Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).
Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose opened the reception where nearly two dozen faculty and staff were called out by the students they have helped navigate the classroom, the advising process and overall campus life. Rose spoke of an earlier experience in higher education when he was named compliance officer and, at the urging of his colleague Andy Rothman, spent a day with a wheelchair-bound student who faced constant physical obstacles in her quest to earn her degree.
“Living that experience made me understand that we have to be better at this,” he said. “So today, we get to recognize the Binghamton version of Andy Rothman.”
Student Kelly Martin spoke first, one of many to honor people who had made a difference to them. “I’m thankful for his enthusiasm and his support of me,” she said about Jeffrey Barker, associate professor of geological sciences and environmental studies. “He always finds engaging ways to demonstrate the things he is explaining and is especially patient and understanding.”
Julian Shepherd “is the reason I graduated with my master’s in 2013,” said Nikida Robinson. “He did not see my disability when he saw me. He became my greatest asset. I can’t say enough about the tremendous impact he has had on my life.”
But the impact of these particular faculty and staff has reached far beyond the individuals in the room, said Howard Struble, as he thanked faculty Ann Merriwether and Patricia Gazda-Grace and academic advisor Donna DiStefano for “believing in us for being not just successful students, but adults and human beings.” Merriwether taught the hardest class Struble has taken so far, but is caring, genuine and wants students to succeed; DiStefano worked tirelessly to ensure that his classes went smoothly; and Gazda-Grace help Struble gain a better understanding of human beings in general.
“Whether you agree or disagree with someone, it’s important to speak up because silence does nothing,” he said.
One of Gazda-Grace’s class activities stood out in particular, Struble added. “We had pieces of paper and each student wrote something about you on it,” he said. “I found it made such an impact on others, so that was really eye-opening for me and changed my path so I’m going into student affairs instead of social work as a result.”
B. Jean Fairbairn, SSD director, and Valerie Hampton, chief diversity officer, presented the Beyond Compliance Award to Drew Tucci, director of the Educational Communications Center.
“We recognize many colleagues who are committed to access,” said Fairbairn, “but occasionally we can’t help but notice someone who has been a torchbearer and behind the scenes moving us forward.” She noted that Tucci is a long-standing advocate for equal access for people with disabilities and is an active member of the University’s Web and Media Access Committee as well as an ongoing collaborator with SSD.
Thinking outside of the box is key for accessibility, said Hampton, “And that is one of the things that is stellar about Drew. He prompts us to think outside of the box and be inclusive in our efforts.”
“Listening to these stories makes you understand why we hold accessibility, diversity and inclusion so high,” said President Harvey Stenger. “What these faculty and staff do outside the required regulations is above and beyond that. It’s almost unbelievable what people do and the stories these students have told us. It’s hard to say sometimes how much we love our students, but you make it easy today because of how you have honored our faculty and staff.”