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Kerschbaum, Iammatteo receive UD awards for work in disabilities

The University of Delaware Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Disabilities Support Services has announced that Stephanie Kerschbaum has been presented the Mary Custis Straughn Excellence in Higher Education Disability Advocacy Award and Guido Iammatteo has been presented the Kevin Miner Scholarship Award.

The Mary Custis Straughn award recognizes a member of the University community whose advocacy, leadership, research, teaching or service promotes access and excellence for people with disabilities in higher education.

Kerschbaum, an associate professor of English, was recognized as both a campus and national leader and an exemplary advocate in expanding conversations about disability through her research, teaching and service. She is actively involved as a scholar at the Center for Study of Diversity, and a leader in the Women’s Caucus. She is described as an energetic, passionate, skilled, thoughtful, effective visionary.

Through her work, Kerschbaum has received an Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center instructional planning grant in support of developing new courses for UD’s Disability Studies. Most recently, her 2014 book, Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference, received the 2015 Advancement of Knowledge Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

The Kevin Miner Scholarship was created in honor of Kevin Miner, a UD student with a disability who passed away in November 2015. This award is given to a student who demonstrates the core values of leadership, provides and promotes advocacy for themselves or others; and who takes pride in education pursuits. The student must also exemplify Mr. Miner’s characteristics of optimism, strength and commitment to disability issues and making a difference.

Iammatteo received his undergraduate degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management at Commencement on May 28. He has proudly maintained a strong grade point average despite his struggles with his disabilities, and is recognized as being extremely good at learning about and using UD’s resources to help support his academic pursuits. Upon graduation, Iammatteo has been offered a job in his field.

The awards were presented at an event held in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Keynote speaker Lydia Brown, a disability rights activist, spoke to a mixed audience of faculty, staff and students on the topic “Tear Down These Walls: Demand Disability Justice as/in Liberation.”

Recalling powerful stories about people in the disability community, Brown referred to the “problem of disability” as a social question of what do people do about disability, how do they understand it, and how do people, as a community, understand and respond to disability.

“The stories that we tell, who they’re about, whose lives they center, tell us a lot about whose body, and whose mind we value in society, about whose lives we actually believe matter and whose lives we do not believe matter, individually and as a society,” said Brown.

During the talk, Brown stressed the importance of understanding that the stories and ideas of people with disabilities are of real people and not abstracts that have no connection to people’s material realities. Further, she discussed the ways in which stories about disabilities are told, specifically through inspiration, charity, moral, medical, social and diversity, advocating that people should challenge themselves to look at disabilities in a different manner.

For a complete view of the talk, contact vpd@udel.edu.

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