Dr. Jenelle Pitt, a Fresno State associate professor, earned national attention after winning the Sylvia Walker National Multicultural Award in September for her research and efforts to expand opportunities for people with disabilities, especially those from a minority background.
Pitt said winning the award is an honor and represents to all of the hard work she’s done with her research.
The award is named after professor, researcher and director of the first Research and Training Center, Sylvia Walker. Walker’s work focused on minority issues and disabilities. She was also a long-term advocate for multicultural issues in rehabilitation.
Assistant professor Alicia B. Becton said she is extremely excited for Pitt and the acknowledgement she’s received for her work. Becton said the award Pitt won is much more than just an award. It gives people a chance to reflect on, acknowledge and display the work she’s done.
Becton has hopes the research done in this field of study advances the issues of race, diversity, age and gender and will change on state and national levels.
Pitt said studies have shown people with disabilities who are of color such as – Latinos, African-Americans, and Indians – tend to have a different set of circumstances and opportunities that are not equal to those from a caucasian background.
Pitt took interest in this field of study when she witnessed firsthand the seriousness and importance of disability research.
“One morning my mom couldn’t talk, and we didn’t know why,” Pitt said. “My father had a very thick accent, and he was getting upset because we weren’t understanding what was going on. We weren’t understanding the urgency to get my mom to the hospital.”
Her mother was immediately taken to a hospital. There she saw her mom. Her speech was incomprehensible, and half of her face was contorted. Pitt said at that moment she became interested in disability research and what a person with disabilities goes through as well as what families go through.
Pitt is honored that her work hasn’t gone unnoticed and hopes every minority group gets treated equally.