Making Sure Opportunities Are Open to All

January 1, 2011

When asked about his mobility challenges, Christopher Rosa, the University’s assistant dean for Student Affairs, is forthright.

“I have muscular dystrophy,” he says. “I use a power wheelchair.”

But, as Rosa would be the first to say, not every story about him needs to mention it. This one, though, is about the University’s annual diversity reception in September which focused on disability issues. Rosa was honored along with two others who have served as role models and have offered support.

CUNY has more than 9,000 students with disabilities and many disabled individuals among its 37,000 full and part time employees.

The other honorees were Roberta Adelman, Project Director for CUNY LEADS (Linking Employment, Academics and Disability Services) and Robert Greenberg, acting dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Hunter. Greenberg’s biography mentions that he is blind. Adelman is not disabled, but has been a staunch advocate for students with disabilities.

Rosa emphasized that the central message emanating from the reception was “the need to ensure that talented individuals with disabilities are considered for all positions at the University.”

Gloriana B. Waters, vice chancellor for Human Resources Management says that the “discussion regarding diversity has often focused on gender and race.  But people with disabilities are our nation’s largest minority – a minority that anyone can join at any time. Those of us without some type of disability have a 20 percent chance of becoming disabled at some point in our lives.”

The University hopes to provide more education and training for supervisors of disabled employees, she says, and more mentors and role models for individuals with disabilities are needed.

Rosa, although known for his scholarship and advocacy regarding the disabled, currently works on behalf of all students. He has, for example, stewardship of the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy, which strives to give students the skills to become global leaders.

Earlier in his career he was, he says, proud to have mentored an individual without a disability who enrolled in a course on the subject, nevertheless.  In turn,  Rosa says, that student taught him a great deal about leadership and diversity in other areas. “He’s now a member of the New York State Legislature,” Rosa says, and  “he never misses an opportunity to tell me how much our work together influences his approach to constituent issues and public policy. It is indescribably affirming and humbling to hear that.”