At the time Robert Matchett was recognized in spring 2015, his bio and
background information for why he received the Coppler Award were as
“Robert Matchett is an undergraduate student at IUP. Originally a biology major throughout his first couple of years, he then switched his major to disability services (through the Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services). When he did so, he says he found his passion. He is also pursuing minors in both sociology and educational psychology.
“Robert, himself a person who has disabilities, has ambitiously pursued disability education and awareness-raising efforts at IUP.
“Most notably, through IUP’s Phi Sigma Pi national co-ed honor fraternity, and co-sponsored by IUP’s Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining, Robert recently lead the organization and delivery of an Autism Awareness Week on campus. The events that Robert planned and oversaw throughout the week of April 4, 2015, were designed to raise campus and community awareness about people who have autism. These events included: a ‘Pin it Blue’ day when blue autism awareness pins, information, and ribbons were distributed; a ‘Piece by Piece’ day when fraternity members distributed puzzle pieces for people to write messages on about autism; a faculty panel discussion about autism; the showing of a documentary movie about Temple Grandin; a special photography project to create a mosaic of individuals wearing blue shirts or with faces painted blue; an autism awareness walk around campus; and the coloring of Stephenson Hall’s rotunda windows with blue cellophane. Robert hopes to develop Autism Awareness Week into an ongoing tradition at IUP.
“Robert has also been instrumental in helping to restart the campus American Sign Language Club, and is presently serving as the active student president. In this role, he has helped to plan campus and community awareness raising efforts related to deaf and hard of hearing individuals and to sign language. He has also helped to coordinate a new interactive partnership between the IUP ASL Club and the Indiana County Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
“Last year, Robert developed and hosted a smaller campus program called ‘It’s not What you Think,’ which was designed to raise awareness about individuals with invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, and hearing loss.
“Academically, Robert is working closely with professors in his major and two minors on undergraduate research and other projects related to disability and inclusion. His career goal is to one day work as a professor in the area of disability services.
“Robert is also presently serving the IUP Office of Housing, Residential Living, and Dining as a head community assistant in Stephenson Hall.
“In all of these service and disability awareness raising efforts, as well as his future career aspirations, Robert has said that his ultimate goal is about giving back to the community and sharing knowledge so that others can become educated about people with disabilities.
“For all of these reasons, Robert has been named the fifth annual recipient of the Ray Coppler Disability Awareness Award, for the 2014–15 academic year. He has demonstrated exemplary contributions to disability education, awareness, and inclusiveness at IUP and the greater community.”