Lawrenceville – Georgia Gwinnett College was recently named the most diverse college – public or private - in the Southern region for two consecutive years.
The U.S. News & World Report ranking underscores what scholars and businesses have known for years, that graduates of highly diverse colleges become uniquely prepared as both citizens and leaders in their local, state, national and international communities. In a world that is becoming smaller and smaller as technology advances, it’s safe to say that graduates of GGC have a critical edge.
There is another area of diversity in which this crown jewel of Gwinnett earns high marks, and that’s in the area of inclusion. According to Sally Ramey, GGC’s Assistant Director for Publications, the Department of Disability Services assists about 500 enrolled students with special needs of many types – mobility, vision, hearing, dyslexia, comprehension and more; that number increases every year. The school’s approach to including all students who wish to attend Georgia Gwinnett College, and who meet the same criteria academically as other students, is one more way in which this progressive, fast-growing institution values the individual.
What may have been considered a disability even ten years ago is today addressed as a mere difference at GGC. While this attitude of welcome acceptance of individuals with differences – not necessarily disabilities - has been slow to emerge in many educational institutions, today both the students and the schools are reaping the benefits. Jack Power, a third-year student at GGC, speaks highly of the staff in the Department of Disability Services, as well as the faculty and students. Jack, who moved here from California when he was still in high school, uses an electric wheelchair to navigate from class to class, and to wait in line at a coffee shop or in-school restaurant like any other student. The wheelchair is a permanent part of his life, on campus and off, and he must always figure out a way to get around. It’s something that most of us take for granted.
There is always room for improvement, however, and Power suggested a couple of changes that would make things easier for him and for other students. “I’d really like to see the ‘automatic door’ button on every door of every building. As far as I know, there’s at least one in every building, but it would really make things easier if I could use every door in a building.” Of course most times, another student will hold a door for Power if he’s entering or exiting a building, but he can’t always depend on that.
“I’d also like to see an ‘accessible’ line for every food and coffee vendor on campus, too,” Power said. “It can look – and sometimes be – awkward for me to carry a drink and my food.” Even with a fancy wheelchair, having a cup holder is not a given. Having a line that’s reserved strictly for people in wheelchairs or even on crutches would make life a little easier. “I’d also like to see more wheelchair accessible restroom stalls, and it’d be really nice if they were wider to accommodate a chair like mine,” Power added. “It’s dismaying to have to wait for a stall to become available, only to see an able-bodied person come out of the one stall reserved for wheelchair accessibility.” In other words, a little consideration goes a long way.
What’s the most important thing Power has learned as he has advanced his academic career? “I had a teacher tell me once that if I need help, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it because chances are, I can get it.”
For more information about Georgia Gwinnett College, visit www.ggc.edu.
Below: Jack Power in the Building B computer station