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Staff and Alumnae Named KU Women of Distinction

Front: Ranita Wilks. Back, from left: Katerina Birge,  Martha Hodgesmith and Jean Ann Summers.

Front: Ranita Wilks. Back, from left: Katerina Birge,

Martha Hodgesmith and Jean Ann Summers.

Kansas University has honored Center staff members Jean Ann Summers and Martha Hodgesmith and KU alumnae Ranita Wilks and Katerina Birge as disability advocates. They are featured on the 2015-16 Women of Distinction calendar produced by the Emily Taylor Resource Center for Women & Gender Equity.

They were recognized at a reception on Aug. 31, 2015, where these comments were read.

Summers is research director at the RTC/IL. A nominator said of her commitment to disability research: “Dr. Summers is the essence of a reliable ally. She is a superb collaborator who consistently goes ‘above and beyond’ in doing more than her usual, assigned role in grant preparation and execution, in part by offering positive, but critically constructive advice to her colleagues to exceed their self-constructed sense of capacity. It has been a delight for us, and for our other colleagues and many doctoral students to rely on Dr. Summers.... She has been invaluable as a colleague.”

Hodgesmith is the Center's associate director. Of her impact on others, a nominator shared, “There are rare people among us whose purpose, passion and perspective provide the rest of us with direction, meaning, hope and the ability to drive and persevere. These mentors guide us by example, as well as by lesson, and they refuel the fire of our pursuit of something to contribute to the greater good.... It is a result of their precious gifts of strength, leadership, guidance, wisdom and friendship that we become and achieve far more than we could have ever imagined possible or achieved without them. Martha Hodgesmith is undeniably one of these people.” 

Wilks is Peer Counseling Specialist and Youth Employment Program Coordinator for Independence, Inc., the center for independent living in Lawrence. Of her a nominator said, “Ranita is a dedicated, committed advocate for those with disabilities, expanding opportunities and choice for many. Her efforts have challenged barriers and opened doors. She always goes the extra mile and will not stop until she finds a solution for someone’s need. She is inspirational.”

Birge is currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado in Public Administration. A nominator said of Katerina's commitment to disability issues: “When she was a KU student, she really took the lead in mobilizing students to bring about change by beginning AbleHawks [the student advocacy group].  Very few were talking about these issues – she got the ball rolling and left an important legacy. She continues to motivate, help and give hope to others through her blog and her personal example.” Birge blogs in English and Spanish on Creaky Joints.





More About the Center

In addition to our News page, we publish two newsletters for disability advocates and stakeholders of our work:

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