Residence don praised for 'mighty advocacy work'
By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
Over the course of her university career, Rebecca Wallace (Artsci’13, MA’14) has faced challenges living with an invisible disability. Her personal experience led her in second year to Queen’s InvisAbilities, a student group that promotes awareness and provides support for young adults living with hidden, chronic illnesses.
“I really became passionate about advocating on the behalf of others after connecting with InvisAbilities,” she says. “Seeing some other students and learning about their struggles on campus and their experiences with the social and academic communities, I knew it was something we needed to talk more about at Queen’s.”
Ms. Wallace focused her efforts in residences as a don the past two years. She provided quality learning opportunities for residents and staff members to help them understand and empathize with students who live with invisible disabilities. Whenever asked, she visited residence floors to share her experience with other students. She also gave a presentation on the topic with a friend at the annual Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers residence life and student leader conference.
Ms. Wallace’s advocacy work earned her a student leadership award from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services. The honour recognizes students whose exceptional contributions enhance the quality of life for students with disabilities. Stacey Kiefer, Assistant Manager, Residence Life, nominated Ms. Wallace for the award.
“Rebecca is a student for whom I have much respect,” Ms. Kiefer says. “She has received the highest honour in Residence Life for community development, and her quiet but mighty advocacy work in this area merited further recognition from this national organization.”
Ms. Wallace will return to Queen’s this fall to begin her PhD in political studies under the supervision of Keith Banting and Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant. She anticipates continuing to offer “invisAbility” training to staff and students this coming year as a senior don.
“We can always use more accessibility training and awareness in any capacity on campus, so I am really looking forward to working with Residence Life again,” she says. “I think it’s really beneficial especially for first-year students to hear about the issues and understand how university can be really different for a person with a disability.”