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College of Education > News and Publications > News: July - Sept. 2011 > College Diversity Committee Focusing on Disability as Diversity

College Diversity Committee Focusing on Disability as Diversity

"Disability as Diversity" is the 2010-11 theme of the College's Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee.

by Gail Boldt (August 2011)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The College of Education’s Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC) has chosen its 2011-12 theme: Disability as Diversity. The key goal of the Disability as Diversity theme is to examine and provoke discussion about the values and assumptions involved in the various ways people think about both “ability” and “disability.”

“The message for the larger Penn State community is that this world would be less interesting and less fulfilling if everyone was ‘normal,’” DCEC theme subcommittee co-chair Joseph Valente explained. “Diversity in all its various representations expands and enriches our lifeworlds.”

DCEC theme co-chair Kathleen Collins added, “Highlighting this theme will inform discussions in the College of Education community aimed at understanding and appreciating how disability is a natural part of human diversity. This notion of bodily difference is a matter that impacts everyone—those labeled able and disabled. The theme allows us to question the illusion of the perfect body/mind and to argue that a just and inclusive society must provide for the full and equal social participation of all individuals, regardless of their place in the continuum of abilities and disabilities.”

Plans are under way for events organized in relation to the theme. Possible events include a resource fair; guest speakers who are disability experts; and training for students, staff, and faculty. Collins and Valente are currently involved in efforts to house Penn State’s Center for Disabilities Studies in the College of Education, which makes this theme especially timely and productive.

The exploration of this year's theme reflects the mission of the College’s DCEC, which is to support and enhance diversity through discussion, education, and the promotion of an environment that is conducive to scholarship and learning that is respectful of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.

In the 2008-09 academic year, the DCEC began soliciting nominations and has selected themes to focus its educational efforts. Past themes have included:

  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual issues in education;
  • Penn State’s American Indian Leadership Program; and
  • outreach efforts to inform community members through Connections.

The planned 2012-13 theme is Linguistic Diversity.

For more information about the Disability as Diversity DCEC theme committee or to volunteer to be a part of upcoming events, please contact Collins at or Valente at