RCPD Spirit of Ability Awards Presented to CAL Faculty Members

Two CAL faculty members recently were awarded Spirit of Ability Awards by MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). The awards recognize contemporary leaders who continue the MSU tradition of creating vibrant environments that welcome, fortify, and compassionately challenge each person to reach their fullest ability.

Paul Kotula, Associate Professor of Ceramics in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and Johanna Schuster-Craig, Assistant Professor of German and Global Studies, received their awards at the annual RCPD Awards and Appreciation Reception on April 7. Faculty members are nominated for the award by a student in the RCPD and then selected by a jury.

Paul Kotula
a man wearing glasses and a black suit jacket

During his time at MSU, Kotula has successfully rethought how to teach the art of ceramics primarily through touch for a student who is legally blind.

“The finished works reaffirmed the importance of our reception of touch, not only in the making of works of art, but in the many ways in which it establishes human connections and understanding,” Kotula said. “We need to understand that a disability does not limit one’s ability to succeed. The path to get there may simply be unique.”

Working with this student also gave Kotula the courage to confront his own hearing disability by getting hearing aids and taught him to respect that not all disabilities can be assisted quite as easily.

We need to understand that a disability does not limit one’s ability to succeed. The path to get there may simply be unique.

“The song, The Golden Palace, from the musical Now. Hear. This. describes a place where creative people gather. It includes the words ‘We all belong here.’ I firmly believe that in all its manifestations, but particularly in the classroom. I hope my colleagues do as well,” Kotula said.

Johanna Schuster-Craig
person with short hair wearing a black button up

For Schuster-Craig, one of the best parts about winning this award was the opportunity to attend the RCPD Awards and Appreciation Reception.

“One of the things I really enjoyed at the award ceremony was seeing the variety of ways in which people can be of assistance,” she said. “There is no one way to serve your students.”

Schuster-Craig is grateful for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that requires teachers to provide accommodations to students who register their disabilities. On top of this policy, however, Schuster-Craig says that all professors should seek more training on accessibility in the classroom.

“Awareness of your students is a big deal; paying attention to policy is a big deal,” she said. “One of the things that was so apparent at the RCPD award ceremony is that we as teachers are aware of the accommodations that we are asked to provide our students, but I think that most of us can benefit from more training on how to do that most effectively.”

Awareness of your students is a big deal.

Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major