Ashish Sahni discusses the challenges facing disabled students at the D.R.C. Faculty/Staff appreciation reception. Photo by Rosario Serna.
Ashish Sahni discusses the challenges facing disabled students at the D.R.C. Faculty/Staff appreciation reception. Photo by Rosario Serna.

UCSC showed appreciation for the achievements of disabled students and the instructors and staff who go out of their way to help them succeed at the first ever Disability Resource Center Faculty/ Staff Appreciation and Student Recognition Reception Wednesday.

“In light of the economic challenges of the state, the higher fees all students have to pay, and the challenges of life in general, the disabled community has more challenges to overcome and this is a chance to celebrate all that they have accomplished,” said Ashish Sahni, Assistant Chancellor/Chief of Staff and Co-Campus Diversity Officer.

Students, staff, faculty and alumni gathered at the University House overlooking Monterey Bay on a clear and sunny afternoon to receive awards and enjoy refreshments at the ceremony.

The event was the brainchild of Sahni, who emphasized that the reception was a rare chance for instructors, students and other members of campus to celebrate together.

“Diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity- disability, sexual orientation, religion — this is a chance for staff, faculty and students to celebrate all the diversity UCSC has,” he said.

Faculty and staff members received awards for contributing to an inclusive campus community or using Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) in their classes. Universal Design of Instruction is a style of teaching designed to address a wide range of students’ learning needs, by using methods that are flexible, equitable and easy to use.

Carolyn Martin-Shaw, a professor of Anthropology, was honored for providing accessible classroom space, and being especially accommodating to students whose disabilities caused absences and fatigue.

“I am being honored for working with one of the best students I’ve had in years,” she said. “When you get to know the students, you ask yourself, ‘what’s it going to take for this student to succeed?”

Alumni, student leaders and graduating students were also honored.

Nichol Baxter, a 2007 UCSC Neuroscience and Behavior alumna, received an award for her role in starting the first on-campus group for students with disabilities while at UCSC.

Baxter began the group, which is now called Disability Alliance, to promote advocacy and tolerance. She also wanted to raise awareness on campus as 40 percent of learning disabilities are diagnosed after students arrive at college.

“A lot of people who don’t understand learning challenges may have them but not know it, and may be struggling in school- I wanted to raise awareness that it’s not just ADD and ADHD,” she said, “We each have our own ways of learning”.

Baxter’s presence was a reminder that despite the challenges all graduates, and especially those with disabilities face, with hard work and support, success is attainable.

She said: “I’m proof that if you put you mind to it, you can do anything.”

Baxter, after years of working successfully in the Biotechnology industry, was recently accepted to the prestigious School of Pharmacy at UC San Francisco.