By Meghan Rakus
In the past year, Holy Family has been the host of several clubs and organizations intent on making students feel accepted and welcomed on campus. The goal of these clubs is a common one, which is to strive to create a more diverse and inclusive environment on Holy Family’s campus. The newest club to tackle this topic is IDEA— Interdisciplinary Disability Education and Acceptance. Founded by Communications Major Caitlyn Connelly, IDEA aims to make Holy Family a more accepting environment for people of all abilities.
To help accomplish its goal, IDEA hosted Greg Hannah, Assistant Director of Disability Services at Villanova University on November 15. The husband and father of three has a long list of accomplishments pertaining to his involvement on raising awareness for students with disabilities. Throughout his career, he has wanted to change how people see disabilities. His work goes beyond Villanova, as he has achieved national acclaim for his work with Fox Sport’s Mission Possible and the documentary, Coming of the DL. He also helps facilitates Villanova’s student group, Level, which helps bridge the gap between students with various abilities and disabilities.
Hannah left the Holy Family audience with three main items to think about.
- It starts with “Hello”
Some fundamental ways of making an environment more inclusive are not always exclusive to grand actions and gestures, such as running a 5k to help raise awareness for a disability or an illness. Events like this will help eradicate stereotypes and fund much needed research, but when you pass someone with a disability on campus, do you say hello? Or do you awkwardly look the other way and walk at a slightly faster pace? Do you hold the door for them? These simple acts may seem insignificant, but for students of all abilities, they may impact their day or even their week.
- “Do it better”
One of the most important pieces of advice Hannah gave was to simply “do it better.” Whether it’s your role as president of your club, your relationships, or your academic work, just “do it better” and “find ways to reinvent yourself.” He claims this to be the reason he has accomplished so much in his career. This motto can be said for acceptance of all communities. Is there any way you can be more accepting? Can you do it better? To Hannah, asking these questions is the first step toward improvement.
- Professors, you may need to change too.
Holy Family professors are what brings the students together at the university through their teaching strategies and their mission to represent and uphold the University’s core values. They are willing to work on a personal level with their students to not only achieve greatness, but also encourage them to pursue their careers as well-informed individuals. However, during the Q&A portion of the night, Greg Hannah pointed out that making assumptions, pointing out stereotypes, and focusing on students’ inabilities as opposed to their abilities are very real pitfalls that any professor can be potentially in danger of falling into. It is important for teachers to reflect every so often and ensure they are not guilty of any of things and if they are unsure, they must keep reflecting.