Alumna’s passion makes Expo reality
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 10, 2017) — Without ever hearing a human voice, Kelly Stockdale (’14) has spent her entire lifetime listening.
As a deaf woman, she has faced numerous challenges and obstacles throughout her life, but her own desire to advocate for and empower those with disabilities has brought new light to the conversation.
Stockdale, who earned her psychology degree from Kennesaw State after a 20-year career working in government, found her passion for helping others while a KSU student. She was a member of Kennesaw State’s Presidential Commission on Disability Strategies and Resources, an affiliate of the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an organization in which she’s still involved.
This fall, Stockdale and members of the Presidential Commission, along with the campus and community leaders, in collaboration with the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, organized the first “Diversability: Strategies, Resources, Awareness” Expo, which was held Oct. 6 during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The daylong Expo featured more than 15 workshops on topics such as creating accessibility, assistive technologies, cultural implications and employment issues for individuals with disabilities.
Prior to the Expo, as a student, Stockdale helped to orchestrate three similar events that focused on the deaf and hearing-impaired community, and explored the linguistic and cultural characteristics of American Sign Language.
“The Expo represents a place for the community and campus to come together to create awareness and a space for conversations about those who are living with different abilities,” said Kennesaw State’s Chief Diversity Officer Erik Malewski. “It’s also an opportunity for presenters to push us to think in more nuanced ways about disability and ability, address questions and bring more awareness to these topics.”
About 20 percent of KSU students, staff and faculty self-identify as having a disability,
according to a 2014 Kennesaw State University Campus Climate Study. For Malewski, this was a surprising statistic, but one that helped shape the Expo’s
goal and mission.
Stockdale’s leadership brought a broader focus to the large-scale expo, focusing more on diversability, a term coined by Tiffany Yu in 2009 to acknowledge the many abilities a diverse community of people bring to their community and to their work.
“For me, I want to advocate and educate as a means to empower people of all abilities,” said Stockdale, who now works in vocational rehabilitation counseling services with the State of Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.
Stockdale said she is happy to be in a position that supports the delivery of services to qualified clients.
“My career path has opened my eyes and confirmed my concerns about how the deaf and individuals with disabilities are perceived within professional work environments,” she said. “I have learned so much about the state's services – what we do well and where we need to improve. There is a difference between what we are doing, what needs to be done, and what we could do to improve the services and the delivery model of the services.”
If Stockdale’s ongoing work professionally or as a volunteer on behalf of those with disabilities is any indication, she will likely continue to listen to her own inner voice and draw on her own experience of self-advocacy as she empowers others.
- Tiffany Capuano
Photos by Lauren Kress
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers close to 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.