Freshmen Connections Raises Disability Awareness
For the past 12 years, Ball State’s Freshmen Connections has organized educational programming for first-year students. As part of Freshman Connections a book is selected that all incoming freshmen are required to read. After receiving a copy of this year’s common reader at summer orientation, students were required to complete an online writing assignment in conjunction with an on-campus small group discussion. Every year, the discussions are led by volunteers who consist of faculty, staff, and graduate students. Following a rigorous selection process, this year’s common reader featured Mark Zupan’s 2006 memoir Gimp.
Gimp is Zupan’s story of life as a person with a disability as a result of a car accident as a freshman in college. Zupan was able to take the reader through the night of his accident and his life since. After a long night of partying with his soccer friends, Zupan decided he had enough for the night and walked into the parking lot of the bar. With nowhere to go, he curled up and fell asleep in the back of his friend’s pick-up truck only to be awakened by the truck spinning out of control. Thrown from the truck into a canal, Zupan held onto a tree branch for fourteen hours until being rescued. Now a quadriplegic, Zupan has told the world that being in a chair does not mean you are limited to the type of life you can lead, “Everyone faces some sort of adversity or loss throughout their life. It is important to move forward and dream big—life is to short not to.”
Even more so than his book, Zupan is known for playing quad rugby—also known as murderball. A two time quad rugby national champion, he won a bronze medal in the 2004 Paralympic Games and won a gold medal in the 2008 Paralympic Games. Graduating from Georgia Tech with a degree in civil engineering, Zupan holds a position at C. Faulkner Engineering. In addition, he starred in the Academy Award nominated documentary Murderball. He is the face of the U.S. Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby National Team and speaks to crowds across the nation on the topic of disability.
The process for selecting the freshman reader began with a committee consisting of 17 faculty members, staff, and students. Three books were chosen to proceed to the coordinating council—a council that made the final decision as to which book the incoming freshmen read. “Gimp” was chosen based on the relevance that it holds to the Ball State campus. Melinda Messineo, director of Freshman Connections shared, “Ball State is known as being accessible to those with disabilities and this book raises awareness of disability topics such as person-first language and universal design. Gimp was a natural choice.” The committee believed Gimp to be reader friendly. Zupan was very raw in his approach to disability and helped break the barriers that many hold of men and women in wheelchairs. His message was aggressive in delivery, but held the attention of its readers.
Disabled Student Development partnered with Freshman Connections to create a broad range of events to continue the discussion that surrounds disability as it related to Zupan’s book. Over the course of the semester, power soccer and quad rugby demonstrations were held in the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center to extend the theme of competitive sports. The documentary Murderball was shown and more disability films are scheduled to be shown over the course of the year. The programmers were able to put together a panel of three experts to speak about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it has impacted those with disabilities in higher education. WNBA star Tamika Catchings, who is hearing impaired, spoke at Pruis Hall on November 15. While many students reported having a basic understanding of disability, high attendance rates for the events has proven that students feel like they are benefiting from this year’s common reader.
Like past common reader authors, Zupan came to campus in September to speak about his book, his accident, his recovery, and everyday living as a person with a disability. Because of his message, documentary, and popularity resulting from his success in the Paralympics and his appearances on MTV films, the attendance rate for his presentation was an estimated 2500 people. Throughout the day, students around campus were able to meet and interact with Zupan. “He was very well known around campus,” reported Melinda Messineo, “He stayed until midnight signing autographs and talking to students.”
Zupan shared that “Talking to this group has been the most fun. Everyone has read the book so there are great questions and underlying discussions.” Along with telling his story to groups around the country, he is currently in the process of creating a foundation called Mark Zupan’s Will to Live Foundation: “The foundation will provide help with chairs, school, and sport camps. Anything that we can provide help for, this foundation will do its best to provide those facing adversity with exposure to different opportunities.”
Marcus Engel to Speak on Campus
March is Disability Awareness Month and DSD and Disabled Students in Action (DSIA) are already preparing for an eventful month.
Highlighting Awareness Month activities will be a presentation by Marcus Engel. Being hit by a drunk driver his freshman year of college, Engel was left completely blind. After six months in a rehabilitation school and numerous surgeries, Engel faced his new life with acceptance and determination. Engel has written three books and speaks regularly to groups across the country about his experiences. He will speak to a variety of student groups on the topic of disability.
An update will be sent to all friends of DSD regarding the dates and times of the events involved with Disability Awareness Month.
Bush Scholarship Winners
Disabled Student Development would like to congratulate the 2010-2011 Myrna Bush Scholarship recipients.
Myrna Bush, a 1928 graduate of Ball State, endowed funds to the university to support those with visual impairments. Going on its second year, the Bush Award gives scholarships to students based on their involvement on campus and their academic achievement. This year seven students received the Myrna Bush Scholarship Award.
· Dietrich Eherenman: Graduate Student, Information and Communication Technologies
· Seth Johnson: Sophomore, Journalism
· Lauren Kopf: Sophomore, Dietetics
· Patti Kupchik: Senior, Exceptional Needs/ Mild Interventions
· William Polk: Senior, General Studies
· Dena Polston: Graduate Student, Adult and Community Education
· Mike Stanek: Graduate Student, Actuarial Science
· Jenny Vetor: Senior, General Studies
For more information or to apply for this scholarship, please visit the DSD website.
Learning Center Receives National Recognition
Marking its 25th anniversary at Ball State, the Learning Center was the 2009-2010 recipient of the Frank L. Christ Outstanding Learning Center Award. The award was a result of meeting expectations that were set forth by the National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA). Jacqueline Harris, Jennifer Haley, and Gary Ritz, coordinators of Ball State’s Learning Center, received the award at the NCLCA’s annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina in October.
According to Dr. Harris, coordinator of study strategies and writing, “Learning centers that want to be considered have to submit documentation that proves standards are being met. NCLCA reviews the documentation from the learning centers who applied for the award and we received recognition.” Last year alone, the Learning Center offered tutoring, study strategy sessions, supplemental instruction, and testing services to 3,947 students. As a result of its services and professional practices, the Learning Center was also recertified for its tutoring services and tutor training program.
As part of the certification process all academic tutors must meet certain standards. The Learning Center’s 150 tutors receive at least 10 hours of training in order to earn nationally recognized certifications through the College Reading and Learning Association. Gary Ritz, mathematics and technologies coordinator, stated, “We take a proactive approach when training our tutors about different disabilities and learning styles. We train with universal design in mind because what would work for someone with a learning disability will probably work for someone without a disability.” Training over the course of the 2009-2010 school year consisted of seven disability related training sessions and workshops in addition to the four that were held this semester.
The Learning Center works with DSD to ensure that students who receive testing accommodations receive appropriate services. Focusing on campus and community outreach, Dr. Harris and DSD Director Larry Markle continue to speak on the topic of academic success for students with disabilities at conferences around the nation. Discussing the Faculty Mentorship Program with concentration on the success of first year students, Dr. Harris and her team continue to improve Ball State’s Learning Center. Dr. Harris was recently recognized as a “Certification Trailblazer” at the national conference for her contributions to the national certification process for learning centers.
Feature Profile: Amanda Rusk
Different cultures and exciting surroundings have been the driving forces for our featured student this year. Amanda Rusk is a freshman at Ball State and is majoring in psychology and minoring in criminal justice. She plans to have a career researching the human mind as it relates to criminal activity.
Losing her vision at the age of 16, Amanda enrolled at the Indiana School for the Blind. She also received training at The Seeing Eye, a guide dog training school in New Jersey. When she was 18 she was able to get her four-year old German Shepherd, Connie.
An Indiana resident, Amanda grew up practicing martial arts in her hometown of Wabash and was very active during her time at the Indiana School for the Blind. Showing dedication through her participation in wrestling, track, forensics, and serving as the president and vice president for her schools Leo Club (community service organization), Amanda has shown that she is prepared for what college has to offer: “I was always expected to hold my own. I learned to work hard, meet deadlines, and have discipline.” She chose to come to Ball State for the size of the campus and its great reputation for disability services. Amanda shared, “I heard they had a very good department for students with disabilities. Ball State is a good fit for me.”
In her time here at Ball State, she has exhibited her work ethic towards her academics. She is involved in the Faculty Mentorship Program, Student Conduct Board, and Disabled Students in Action. She wishes to study abroad in London next year and her academics are her focal point, “All I do is study now. We know so little about the world around us so it is important to get a global sense of the world.”
Power Soccer Update
With changes taking place, the Ball State power soccer team is preparing for the new season. After placing 8th in the National Tournament this past summer, Natalie Russo, president of the Ball State Cardinal team said, “Dropping rank in the standings was rough. Our Division II team did really well though, placing 3rd in the nation”. The two teams merged at the beginning of the semester to create one Division I team to coincide with the new regulations for the sport.
Going from division games to conference games, the team is getting used to its new 10 game season set-up to qualify for the National Tournament, “We have a strong team. Our goal is to make it back to the top,” Natalie shared. With the merging of the two teams, they now have plenty of players to make scheduling conflicts a thing of the past.
This will be Natalie’s last season with the Ball State Cardinals as she is scheduled to graduate in May. She shared that she was confident in passing her leadership role to the up and coming players. Upon Natalie’s graduation from the team, Rebecca Schafer and Matt Deinlein, both assistant coaches for this season and former head coaches of last year’s Division II power soccer team, will become the head coaches.
The Ball State Cardinal power soccer team is currently raising funds for a trip to Arizona. If you would like to contribute, please contact DSD at 765-285-5293 or at dsd.bsu.edu.
DSIA Semester Review
It has been a productive fall semester for Disabled Students in Action (DSIA). President Jenny Vetor started organizing before the semester began and advertised the group at the Activity Fair on August 21st, the Saturday before classes started. Since then, she has planned several different events throughout the semester.
The group had an introductory meeting to decide what day of the week would be best to meet. DSIA met to eat pizza and traveled as a group to Emens Auditorium to hear Mark Zupan speak about his book and his disability. The biggest task for DSIA this semester was designing and purchasing t-shirts for the group. Many people participated in the design process, and they worked with a graphic design student to create a new logo for the group. DSIA held a celebratory end of the semester party on December 7th where they distributed the new t-shirts. These t-shirts are available in the DSD office for $5/each.
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