On April 8,
2015, the fifth annual Ray Coppler Disability Awareness Award was
presented to Robert Matchett.
The Coppler Award was
developed in the 2010–11 academic year to annually honor and give special
recognition to an IUP student, faculty, staff, or administrative member for
exemplary contributions to disability education, awareness, and/or inclusiveness
at IUP. Each year, the Division of Student Affairs and the Advising and
Testing Center seek campuswide nominations for the award. The nominations are
then reviewed by a committee made up of both IUP students and employees.
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
Matchett, 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 coed honor fraternity, and cosponsored by IUP’s
Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining, Matchett recently led the
organization and delivery of an Autism Awareness Week on campus. The events
that he 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. Matchett hopes to develop Autism Awareness
Week into an ongoing tradition at IUP.
Matchett has also been
instrumental in helping to restart the campus American Sign Language (ASL)
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, Matchett
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, Matchett 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.
Matchett 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, Matchett has said that his ultimate goal is about giving back to the
community and sharing knowledge so that others can become educated about people