President Brian Sandoval speaking at the 2022 Neurodiversity Alliance Kickoff Reception
In 2018, the Disability Resource Center (DRC) Peer Mentor Program at the University of Nevada – Reno decided to create a student-led group that would support and address issues impacting students from all different backgrounds, majors and disability groups. The goal of the Student Working Group would be to provide a safe, accessible and equitable campus that enables all students to succeed in their education and everyday life. The DRC peer mentors and mentees decided to promote neurodiversity, as a part of diversity and inclusion, and requested a resolution from the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) to recognize accessibility by supporting a lilac graduation tassel and chord. The ASUN leadership unanimously supported and adopted the Resolution. The University Faculty Senate Diversity Committee is working on a neurodiversity initiative for faculty and staff. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is supporting neurodiversity.
Following the student working group, faculty awareness and support grew, resulting in a presidential diversity initiative and the creation of the Neurodiversity Alliance. The Alliance defines neurodiversity as: The idea that people with neurological and/or psychological conditions deserve respect, should not be pathologized and are entitled to live full and satisfying lives. The Neurodiversity Alliance is working to grow awareness of neurodiversity at the University and support and build community for neurodiverse members of the UNR family.
The University joins dozens of peer institutions across the country formally recognizing neurodiversity as part of larger inclusion, diversity, equity and access initiatives. With a mission: To raise awareness, promote access and ensure equity for the neurodiverse population at the University of Nevada, Reno, the Alliance has its sights set high – for good reason. “Neurodiversity affects far more than the neurodiverse population,” Assistant Director of the Disability Resource Center Mary Anne Christensen said. “It impacts the entire University.”
Over the past few years, the Neurodiversity Alliance grew out of a paragraph of approved language worked on by a diversity subcommittee into a vibrant community. They recently held a meet-and-greet event (in person!); will be hosting a neurodiversity ally training during the 2022 Northern Nevada Diversity Summit; and this spring, the first-ever survey of faculty and staff mental health at the University will be sent out.
“By supporting Universal Design for Learning, the Alliance is advocating for an educational approach that affords all students an equal opportunity to succeed,” said Christensen. “The Alliance works to bring awareness of neurodivergence and its prevalence in the university community, encouraging a more equitable education experience for its students. By bringing awareness to, and challenging potential barriers to learning, by providing more accessible resources, the Alliance hopes to maximize learning for all students.”
Learn more about the Neurodiversity Alliance.
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