KSU students to discuss stigmas toward disabled

Hannah Reed

Students with differences will have a reason to come together at the U-Night to End Stigma event hosted by the Psi Chi International Honors Society Monday night in the Student Center ballroom.

The event will run from 5 to 9 p.m. and is free and open to the public. 

Senior psychology major Morgan Shields, president of agenda of Psi Chi, is in charge of the event.

“The purpose of this event is to provide a platform for students and advocates and professionals to speak about stigma as it relates to mental illness and difference, cognitive and physical disabilities and differences and sexuality and gender,” Shields said.

Shields said the event will start with opening remarks, poetry readings and a student panel. Sascha DuBrul, co-founder of the Icarus Project from New York City, will speak at 6 p.m. for an hour.

“The Icarus Project is an online support network, but it’s also growing outside of the online community,” Shields said. “The objective is to provide a support system that’s filled with compassion and non-judgment and to redefine the language used to discuss mental illness.”

At 7 p.m., Barbara Verlezza, an associate professor in the School of Dance at Kent State, will speak about dance and disability. Shields said Verlezza does work with individuals who are physically disabled and choreographs dance routines and does workshops with them.

“After Barbara speaks about her work, there will be a short performance by students from the dance department,” Shields said. “It’s going to be about equality, and they are not going to use any words; they are just going to dance, and they are going to show this message.”

Shields said the major speaker coming to the event is Dr. Morton Gernsbacher, a research professor from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gernsbacher is a neuroscientist and has studied linguistics, autism and cognition. Gernsbacher will speak at 8 p.m. about brain differences. She will also discuss when neuroscientists should focus on individuals’ differences and when they should try to embrace them. Shields said Gernsbacher will have a meet-and-greet before the event begins.

“She’s pretty prominent in the field of psychology and has been the president of many different organizations,” Shields said. “She’s a big advocate, and she is the mother of a son with a disability, so that’s sort of her motivation.”

Shields said she is excited for this event to bring individuals together who wouldn’t normally come together.

“All these various groups that are coming together at this event are stigmatized because they are outside of the majority in some way,” Shields said. “I think it can be very challenging for us, as humans, to have this awareness that we all have our differences and our struggles. I think it’s difficult for individuals, within their different groups, to recognize that we’re all kind of fighting the same battle.”

Contact Hannah Reed at [email protected].