A building can be more than just a structure that stands permanently in once place – the case for Mott Academic Center, the 50-year-old heart of The University of Olivet learning and development. Nearly every student’s educational journey includes Mott at the core, but more importantly, the relationships and memories that were created within. The building is named for Charles Stewart Mott, an engineer and entrepreneur, but also a philanthropist and public servant. Like the founders of The University of Olivet, Charles Mott was forward thinking and dedicated to helping others be more and do good.
In the spring issue of Shipherd’s Record, a special collection of stories shared more about Mott Academic Center’s past and future in “If These Walls Could Talk.” Mott has not stood still. It is alive, and it’s moving toward the next 50 years.This piece was written by contributing writer Jackie Bounds. It shares more about how the Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders campaign will help Mott become a comfortable center of learning for all students. Read the full magazine online now.
Imagine heading to class with your friends and you have to part ways outside the Mott Academic Center because your motorized scooter can’t go through the main entrance. Your friends go straight up the steps and off to class. Meanwhile, you maneuver around the building to the ramp closest to the Shipherd’s Hall entrance of Mott to get to class on the second floor. Whether temporarily or permanently disabled, the current main entrance to Mott Academic Center is anything but welcoming.
As the The University of Olivet community celebrates nearly 175 years, a few renovations are needed to make the historical campus more inclusive to all. A portion of the new comprehensive campaign will renovate the main entrance to Mott Academic Center and make it accessible for all.
“It’s a beautiful campus,” said KayDee Perry, assistant professor of health and human performance. “However, many of the structures were built prior to 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. Many of the buildings have ramps, elevators and handicapped parking, but not all areas of campus offer easy access.”
“Most would be surprised at the number of athletic injuries that happen to our students,” said Perry. “I hear a lot of concerns from students. These injuries often lead to temporary mobility issues.” Nearly 60 percent of Olivet students compete as college athletes. Unfortunately, sports injuries can happen, and sometimes a student’s mobility becomes limited.
“A normally active student may be temporarily disabled for several months,” said Perry. “It can be an eye-opening experience for students trying to navigate campus walkways, bathrooms and even entering buildings.”
Perry has a natural desire to be inclusive for persons with special needs. She has a master’s degree in adapted physical education and previously taught K-12 physical education before coming to Olivet. She teaches the Sports/ Recreation Management 400 class, which studies leisure activities for special populations. As a class assignment, students visit each campus building and measure accessibility for persons with disabilities. They check for barrier-free hallways, bathrooms and drinking fountains, among other things.
“I challenge them to think about where a wheelchair-bound person sits to watch a basketball game,” said Perry. “Sure there are a couple of designated spots, but does it feel inclusive? What about where they parked their car? Was it easy to maneuver through the sidewalks to get inside the Cutler Event Center? What about visiting the book store in the basement of the Kirk Center? How could a wheelchair-bound student go there?”
Accessibility accommodations are anything that can help students safely navigate campus to learn more effectively. “We often think of physical limitations, but there are many other kinds as well,” said Perry. “If a student has visual impairment, they might need materials provided in tactile or audio format. Braille accommodations were recently added to Olivet’s campus. If a student has a learning disability, they might need more time on tests. Olivet offers accommodation services for all students.
“Olivet is a good place to have a sense of community, but how does the special-needs population know that Olivet wants to be inclusive? We want to welcome everyone to our music, art and sporting events. We need to intentionally invite and engage this population and let them know they are safe and welcomed here. Updated facilities will allow us to do better.”
Not only students, but faculty and staff could benefit from making campus buildings more accessible. “At least four faculty and staff have been temporarily disabled due to various surgeries, and I know they struggled getting from point A to point B,” said Perry.
John Homer, Ph.D., professor of economics, spent at least two years using a motorized scooter to get around campus and had his foot in a walking boot for an extended period of time. “The scooter worked great on concrete and asphalt but not on gravel or over any sticks,” he said. Homer became aware of parts of campus that were more accessible than others.
“To be honest,” he said. “I didn’t get out much and that’s probably true of many disabled persons. I brought my lunch rather than ‘walking’ or driving to the Kirk Center for lunch.” Homer utilized the handicapped parking all around campus and entered Mott on the south side where he could get straight into the building.
“The University of Olivet defines itself by who we include, not who we exclude,” said Perry. “Our campus wasn’t designed to be exclusive to some, it just wasn’t intentionally inclusive either. The buildings are old, and I realize change doesn’t happen overnight. The comprehensive campaign will provide funding to modernize parts of campus. Addressing and improving accessibility issues will benefit Olivet as a whole and make the campus more inviting for prospective students, their families, and area residents.”