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2015 Golisano Foundation Move to Include Award

Julie J. Christensen, PhD

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Our Move to Include award is being presented to Dr. Julie Christensen for her work expanding workforce opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities through the Project Search program and other initiatives.

Julie is Director of Employment Programs at the UR’s Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, which includes directing the Project SEARCH employment program.

Project SEARCH is a one-year transition-to-work program for students ages 18-21 with IDD who are interested in increasing employability skills

Julie has worked tirelessly to expand the program increasing job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities at a growing list of employers in our region.

Congratulations Julie!

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Julie J. Christensen, PhD, LMSW, is the Director of Employment Programs at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Dr. Christensen is the Project Director for the New York State (NYS) Partnerships in Employment Systems Change initiative, a Project of National Significance funded by the Administration for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, that aims to improve employment outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

She is also the NYS Director of Project SEARCH, a one-year transition-to-work program for students ages 18-21 with IDD who are interested in increasing employability skills during their last year of high school. Dr. Christensen also collaborates with the EquiCenter, Inc., a therapeutic equestrian center in Upstate New York, where she currently serves as the Director of Research.

Prior to coming to the University of Rochester, she worked in local schools and not-for-profits, focusing on increasing options and access to leisure and recreation programs for at-risk youth, including youth with IDD. Her research interests focus on improving access to and outcomes for employment, as well as leisure and recreation, for people with IDD.

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About the Award
An Award that challenges its very name

Samuel Beckett, the novelist and poet observed, “Words are all we have.” If that is true then we need to be mindful of those we use.

The disability field is fond of the word “include,” believing it refers to society embracing and celebrating value in human diversity.  The reality is that the word is derived from the Latin word meaning “to shut in, enclose.” It can mean to “make room for,” “take into account,” “work in,” “accommodate,” and “admit.” All of which, does not describe the Golisano Foundation’s Move to Include Award.

This Award is not given to individuals and organizations that strive to “fit people in,” and “make room” for people with intellectual disabilities. The Award is not intended to honor the movement to include people despite their disabilities; and certainly not because of their disabilities

The Golisano Move to Include Award was designed to demonstrate that inclusion should never be an afterthought, a “make room” effort or a “do over” effort in social justice. The Award points out that in our society there are individuals and organizations that understand that inclusion, true inclusion is not something that is created through a mission statement, a tagline or a bumper sticker. The Move to Include Award celebrates the “movement” - the arduous and tenacious movement  -  that strives to embrace people, not as an afterthought, and equally important to move the psyche of individuals, systems, communities and societies that will one day eliminate the need to offer awards noteworthy for succeeding in “allowing people; people with novelties” to be welcomed into the fold.

We do not learn anything by simply “including,” “allowing,“ or “permitting” others to live and work alongside of us. We do not profit or grow by “accepting,” or even “welcoming” people with disabilities.

We, as a neighborhood, community and society learn, grow and profit by “believing” in the sanctity, value and merit of “together.” The essence of “together” transcends “inclusion.”  The Golisano Award belongs to those who believe that being together, not by mandate, statute or fiat; is the only way we can benefit from the joys, challenges and perspectives that “believing in being together” can be promoted and realized.

The Golisano Move to Include Award is given to those who both “believe” and “act” in the purest realm of the essence of “move to include.” It is given in the hope that the understanding of “include” can be elevated, promoted, ingrained and demonstrated at the highest levels of human behavior.

Award narrative written by Rick Rader, MD, Co-Founder, American Association of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry