Lead News Writer
The ninth State System Summit on Inclusive Excellence and International Education was held Wednesday through Friday at IUP, and it included three IUP students who presented their original research.
The theme for this year’s summit was “Rising to the Challenge: Making Inclusion Matter.” The summit consisted of breakout sessions, speakers and panels that were all themed around inclusion, education, advocacy and dialogue, especially on college campuses.
Robert Matchett (graduate, sociology/special education), one of the panelists and IUP student presenters at the summit, said there are many purposes to holding such an event.
“Goals [are to] encourage inclusive practices on campus through the use of concepts of Universal Design in classroom instruction and in campus activities and functions, eliminate negative stigmas and stereotypes in relation to disability status that can be harmful to a student’s self-image and remove social barriers that prevent students from identifying as an individual with a disability so that they can receive accommodations and services that will aid them in their pursuit of a degree from a four-year institution,” Matchett said in a Wednesday email.
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was the keynote speaker Thursday.
He is a consultant on science and math education with an emphasis on minority participation and performance, according to the IUP website. He also offered book signings while at IUP.
In addition to the panels and breakout sessions, there will be a student poster forum at the summit. Each of the 14 state schools selected two or three students to present their research related to inclusion and diversity within education.
The two posters from IUP were “Who are You @ IUP Campaign” by Cameron Craig (sophomore, history education) and Peter Gillece (graduate, sociology) and “Perceptions of Disability: The Impact of Visibility” by Matchett.
“My poster and research is focused on educating students on tobacco, drugs and alcohol,” Craig said.
“I am researching this topic because I want to decrease the number of alcohol- and drug-related deaths in the IUP community. My hope is to someday have the opportunity to reach out to students at other colleges and universities.”
Craig said diversity and inclusion are very important to him and that he is very proud to be part of organizations at IUP, including the local chapter for NAACP and the organization Creating Higher Standards.
Matchett’s research is focused on exploring the relationship between the visibility of a student’s disability and perceptions of faculty and staff. It considers stigmas around disability as well as the implicit biases of university employees who are the main group of participants within the study.
“I am researching this topic because negative labels that are applied to individuals with disabilities can have really bad consequences,” Matchett said. “When you get to college you no longer are covered by IDEA, and you have rights under ADA, but you have to advocate for yourself.
“Understanding perceptions helps us become aware of implicit biases so that we can eliminate those and create a more inclusive environment.”
Matchett said the next step for his research includes turning it into his master’s thesis.
In addition to his poster, Matchett served as one of the panelists during the discussion led by Todd VanWieren, assistant director of Disability Support Services. The panel consists of former recipients of the Ray Coppler Disability Awareness Award, including Matchett, who won the award in 2015.
Panelists discussed what they are doing now related to disability advocacy and what inclusion means to them.