WSU professor honored for promoting disability rights

Baker,-Dana-2014-80VANCOUVER, Wash. – For her work advocating for people with disabilities, associate professor Dana Baker will receive Washington State University’s 2014 Faculty Diversity Award.

Baker, who works in the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at WSU Vancouver, will be presented with the award at the Celebrating Excellence Recognition Banquet on March 28 in Pullman, part of WSU’s annual Showcase celebration of faculty, staff and student excellence. Reservations are being accepted at through Wednesday, March. 19

The award recognizes distinctive and outstanding teaching, research, creative work, service or outreach by faculty that advances diversity in the university and the communities it serves.

Research, teaching, service

As a Diversity Faculty fellow, Baker is spearheading the “Enhancing Neurodiversity at WSUV” project. She serves on WSU Vancouver’s Diversity Council, a group she once chaired.

Since graduating with her doctorate from the University of Texas-Austin in 2001, she has published 23 articles and book chapters about disability policy. She authored a peer-reviewed book published in 2011 that explores policy addressing neurological differences. She is working on a book that addresses incorporating individuals with neurological differences into formal educational settings.

In 2005, Baker developed a new course, “Disability, Aging and Public Policy,” which she continues to teach. In the fall she unveiled another new class, “The Sociology of Disability.” She actively recruits students to work on disability-related research in her lab.

In her community, she chaired the Clark County mental health advisory board and served on the board at Inclusion Inc., a Portland, Ore., organization providing resources and education to adults with disabilities.

“Dana’s unique combination of research expertise and deep personal engagement in the active promotion of disability issues at WSU makes her particularly deserving of this award,” said Amy Mazur, Baker’s colleague who nominated her.

Institutional priority

“In advancing institutional change for diversity, she is implementing our vision of an inclusive educational environment for all,” said Daniel Bernardo, WSU interim provost and executive vice president.

“While it is nice to receive thanks and recognition from colleagues, even better is knowing that one works at an institution that values and appreciates diversity,” said Baker.

The “Enhancing Neurodiversity at WSUV” project includes creating the campus’ first formal program for Disability Awareness Month, developing an online training module and working with students to create and deliver a series of training workshops for faculty and staff.

“During her time as chair (of the Diversity Council), Dana successfully fostered a strong sense of inspiration and purpose and initiated ongoing traditions such as the Diversity Film Festival and the council’s annual report,” Mazur said.

Dedicated to her discipline

“During the course of my life and work, I have had the opportunity to directly engage disability issues, to witness discrimination rooted in responses to disability and to enjoy positive aspects of neurodiversity in my relationships and community,” said Baker. “These experiences continually reinforce my passion in these areas.”

Baker also serves as associate director of academic advising and students in the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU Vancouver.

In addition to the awards banquet, WSU Showcase includes the Distinguished Faculty Address on March 27 plus the Academic Showcase display of faculty, staff and student work and SURCA, the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, on March 28.



Alex Tan, WSU Diversity Faculty fellow, 509-335-3648,

Steve Nakata, director of communication, WSU Student Affairs and Enrollment, 509-335-1774,

Brenda Alling, WSU Vancouver Office of Marketing and Communication, 360-546-9601,