St. Cloud State University announces the launch of the Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy at the USA Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.
President Robbyn Wacker made the announcement Nov. 29 at the International Women’s Disability Summit at the World Expo in Dubai, where the Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy was participating in its first major advocacy event.
The center’s mission is to promote the rights of people with disability both locally and globally. The center will serve as the hub for interdisciplinary collaborative research with faculty, domestic and international students, community members and visitors at St. Cloud State University. The university is dedicated to playing a role that addresses the unique needs and challenges in the region and beyond through the creation of centers that promote positive change through the It’s Time initiative.
“To embrace this expanded initiative of diversity, equity and inclusion within higher education and across the globe I am honored to formally announce the launch of a St. Cloud State University Center for International Disability Advocacy and diplomacy,” Wacker said. “The Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy will develop global academies, strategic network partnerships, leadership training programs, and conduct interdisciplinary research and development and promote disability policy and advocacy.”
The Center institutionalizes the work of Dr. Kathy Johnson and Dr. Amy Knopf have been doing independently to establish a strong global network of partnerships for promoting inclusion, accessibility and the rights for people with disabilities since 2014 such as the ABILITY Event, the Assistive Technology Lab and bringing international sign language experts to work with Minnesota deaf and hard of hearing students. The Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy will recognize and elevate these partnerships for promotion of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
- The center’s mission is focused on five pillars of development:
strengthening cross-cultural knowledge and understanding through global academies
- developing strategic networks and partnerships for advancing the U.S. CRPD
- promoting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities through education and training
- promoting scholarly research, training and development
- promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility at all levels of public policy and diplomacy
“Today opens a door for our university and our partners across the globe to be even more inclusive more accessible and more determined to join us in leading the change that is crucial for ensuring that accessibility is not left behind in any DEI initiative,” Wacker said. “It is our hope that today’s program has inspired us all to harness the power of networking, of working together to make our world more welcoming, safe and peaceful place. Not just for the privileged few, but for everyone.”
Johnson is a special education professor and the director of the K-12 and St. Cloud State Chinese Language and Culture Programs. She has worked to ensure inclusive and accessible programming for Minnesota Chinese language learners. As a past deaf and hard of hearing teacher, she has worked for years to bring Chinese visiting scholars and interns who are deaf to the United States to share Chinese sign language and culture with students at schools for the deaf globally. Johnson is also a parent of a child with a disability.
Knopf is an associate professor and graduate director of the Rehabilitation Counseling and Rehabilitation and Addiction Counseling programs. She is a George H.W. Bush Fellow with the Harkin Institute. Throughout her tenure at St. Cloud State, she has been the driving force behind St. Cloud State’s ABILITY Event, working collaboratively with a team of students, faculty and community members, on hosting this event which has reached a global audience. She also drove the development of St. Cloud State’s Assistive Technology Lab, which gives students and the community access to assistive technology that can be used by schools, businesses and individuals to improve the lives of people with disabilities. As a faculty member with a disability, she was instrumental in establishing the FA Disability Caucus on campus and serves as the IFO Disability Advocate.