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Student Receives Grant To Raise Awareness of Issues Faced By Students With Disabilities

A Southwestern University student has received a $1,500 grant that will enable her to raise awareness on campus about issues faced by students with disabilities.

Elizabeth Knox, a junior majoring in communication studies, received the grant through the Associated Colleges of the South. The ACS, of which Southwestern University is a member, provides “diversity mini-grants” to help member institutions foster diversity initiatives on their campuses.

While diversity is typically thought of as being related to race and ethnicity, Knox believes it also should be extended to students with disabilities.

“Students with disabilities are a minority group,” she says. “I would like to help create a more welcoming environment for students with disabilities. I believe a lot of people are naïve about the issues facing this group.”

Knox will use some of her grant money to attend the 2007 Pacific Rim Conference, the one of the top-rated international conferences for people who work in and study the field of disabilities.

She will use the remainder of the grant to put on a seminar at Southwestern next April using information she brings back from the conference. Students from other area universities will be invited to attend the seminar along with students from Southwestern.

Topics to be addressed at the seminar will include ones such as how to talk to people with disabilities.

“The seminar will be a collaborative effort to get ideas from the perspectives of both students and faculty members so that campuses can be more cohesive and open to different forms of diversity,” Knox said.

Although she has some personal experience with disability issues (Knox was born deaf), Knox said she applied for the grant because of her position as a student associate in Southwestern’s Office of Academic Services.

In this position, Knox has been paid to assist students who have a documented need for accommodations in order to pursue their studies. This might mean finding notetakers for students who cannot write or getting faculty members to extend test times for students who require it.

Knox also has been a member of Southwestern’s Diversity Enrichment Committee since her first year on campus.

“Elizabeth has used her gift as a leader to help shed light on an array of issues in her time here at Southwestern, and this grant gives her the opportunity to have a concrete impact on our community through the workshop she’ll be designing,” said Kim Murphy, director of academic services and advising. “Student-initiated projects like this one tend to elicit a great response from other students, and we’re excited to see this unfold.”