Celebrating strength and creativity

Disability Center graduation celebration recognized the lasting impact of students with disabilities.

Photos by Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

The Disability Center invited spring and summer 2023 graduates with disabilities to a ceremony April 26 in Memorial Union.

“We’re here to celebrate you,” said Disability Center Director Ashley Brickley. “Your accomplishments and successes and the contributions you’ve made to our campus. You’ve served as leaders and teaching assistants, and you’ve engaged in classes and made a lasting impact on campus.”

All graduates received blue and white cords from Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students — with blue representing disability justice and white representing invisible disabilities.

“A life lived with a disability is a life of creative problem solving,” said Amber Cheek, MU/UM System director of accessibility and ADA coordinator. “That gives us, as people with disabilities, a unique advantage. Creative problem-solvers are the people we need most in the world right now. Ask anyone. I think the world needs people with disabilities because of them, and not in spite of them.”

“Having a disability is a superpower,” said Drew Fabricius, president and founding member of the Disabled and Allied Law Student Association and a spring 2023 graduate of the School of Law. “The creativity it allows us to express is wonderful. We can express empathy because we’re thinking about the world around us and the settings we engage in.”

Graduates wrote advice for incoming students on notecards, which will be posted in the Disability Center office for incoming students to read over the summer and fall.

“Graduation is not only a celebration of my success and a step toward the future, but also a celebration of the hard work and challenges I had to overcome to make it here,” said Hunter Bushnell, who will soon receive his bachelor’s degree in biological engineering. “There were many obstacles, seen and unseen, that I faced throughout. Graduation is a great reminder that life’s obstacles do not have to define us or control the outcome.”

“Graduation means a lot to me because it means I overcame every single time where I thought I wouldn’t make it — which was a lot of times!” said Nishat Shah, who has earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. “My advice to incoming students is to keep persevering no matter what. You’ll survive. Also, get involved!”