In celebration of access and inclusion week, in conjunction with leadership Rowan and the Academic Success Center, a ProfTalk was held to bring awareness to the importance of inclusion.
During the event, four Rowan students spoke on the impact of inclusion, and why they strive to incorporate it into their daily lives. The event opened up with a discussion question posed to challenge the audience to think of a product or system they encountered that enhanced inclusion. For many students, it was hard to think of an answer immediately.
One student spoke of Starbucks’ grand opening of a store created specifically for deaf customers. The store, which opened Tuesday, allows customers to order using sign language, as well as a screen that displays the customer’s name when their order is ready. The Starbucks also features artwork created by deaf artists.
Back on Rowan’s campus, students also mentioned how the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion And Conflict Resolution provides safe spaces for students who identify within marginalized groups. The office holds several programs throughout the semester aimed to educate others about the experiences of those who identify within these groups. Other students noted services that are often used on a daily basis, such as subtitles and wheelchair ramps.
The first student to speak was Kevin McCarthy, assistant vice president of governmental relations for SGA. He reflected on a summer where he worked at an Eagles Scout camp and an experience he had with a special needs camper. McCarthy admitted that he attempted to treat the camper the same as every other camper, however, internally he gave him special treatment because he spent more time with the camper.
“If you give a little extra to people it goes a long way,” McCarthy said, in closing.
Kaitlee Francisco, co-president of Unified Sports and senior elementary education major, spoke of her freshman year experience at Rowan. She described her transition as tough, saying she often felt excluded. Francisco said that when she tells others that she works with special needs athletes, they often commend her for being kind and including the athletes in her program. However, she says that they actually included her on their team and made her feel as if she found a home on campus. This experience encouraged her to participate in more activities and become more involved at Rowan.
Last to speak was Steve Solkela, who spoke on the importance of being an individual, and how inclusion allowed people to be themselves.
Solkela is a performer, musician, comedian and even a ventriloquist, saying that his ability to believe in himself allowed him to become all of these things. After walking around the audience asking people if they liked themselves, Solkela encouraged students to go far beyond what they thought their limits were.
“Knowing your limits is not necessarily smart or wise,” Solkela said.
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Featured image courtesy of Mahoney Media.