Alumni Spotlight

Jim Lawler '74, '02

From 2007 the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems has been empowering people with disabilities in the city of New York with state-of-the-art-technologies. Under the leadership of Professor Jim Lawler, Lubin School of Business, M.B.A., 1974, and Seidenberg, D.P.S., 2002, students of the university have been mentoring people with disabilities at AHRC New York City, a family non-profit organization. The mentoring has been part of an AOK CIS 102W course and an associated outreach program, in which undergraduate students have been one-on-one partnering with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities on life planning skills, practicing with localized i-pad, smartphone and speech technologies. The people with disabilities have been improving their productivity and sociality skills with these technologies. The course and the program have been benefiting both the people with disabilities, in improving their skills with mobile technologies, and the students, in learning about a frequently neglected population of society.

 
The course and the program have been especially helpful to the students that have been engaged with the people with disabilities. Most of these undergraduate students in the Seidenberg School, and in the Lubin and the Dyson School of Arts and Sciences, have never engaged people with disabilities on personal projects. They have learned in the program that persons with “dis-abilities” have abilities like those without disabilities and have desires to be included not isolated in society. They have learned moreover that the persons with disabilities in the course and the program have foundational skills in mobile smartphone tools, notably younger people with disabilities. The course and the outreach program have been helping the students in gaining learning opportunities on personalized projects with the people with disabilities.

 
The course and the program have been an exceptionally high incentive for students interested in positions at non-profit organizations, such as AHRC New York City. Students have been involved in paid part-time positions in the semesters and full-time positions upon graduation from the university. Hope Goldfard, Dyson School of Arts and Science, B.A., 2011, has been involved in positions at the non-profit organization since joining Professor Lawler’s CIS 102W Web Design for Non-Profit Organizations course as a psychology student:

 
"As a major in Psychology, I attended basic courses at Pace that prepared me for my career as a counselor. My actual experience however came when I was in Professor Lawler’s course in 2010, where I partnered with AHRC New York City people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I guided them in sociality skills with visual resume storytelling. This offered immediate opportunities with this non-profit organization, part-time and full-time; and I am now at the organization full-time. These experiences were enriching and rewarding and inspired me to pursue this profession."

 
Students have moved into paid positions at other non-profit organizations in New York. Throughout the semesters, students have been involved in numerous other projects with people with disabilities sponsored by Professor Lawler, such as the Third Annual AHRC New York City – Carnegie Hall 2015 Concert Program, the Second Annual Bullying and Sexual Assault: Perceptions and Realities in 21st Century Society 2015 Symposium and the Third Annual Disability Film Festival 2015 Marathon: Celebration of People with Disabilities in Films – that have further motivated them to move into the field of developmental disabilities, as a profession in the health sector.

 
Since 2007 Professor Lawler has involved more than 900 students in his courses and programs at AHRC New York City. The students have helped more than 600 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities at the organization in the semesters. The program has been moving now into the field of inexpensive but interactive mobile and remote technologies in the homes of those with disabilities – consumer fitness, generic health, medication, nutritional and weight monitoring tools - for those desiring to be independent with the power of these tools. The research into specialized tools, such as Google Glass and smart watch state-of-the-art wearables, has been especially exciting for the undergraduate students. The growth of innovation in new smart home “Internet-of-Things” technologies, supporting those with disabilities, will have infinite possibilities for the students and those with disabilities, as the market for managed care technologies is forecasted to be in millions of people with or without disabilities.

 
This outreach course and program has been a powerful proposition for all undergraduate students at the university. Upon joining the projects of the semesters, students have been initially reserved when they have heard that they will be partnering with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, not only professional staff. When the students have interacted with them, they have learned that they will be influential partners to them on practicing with life strengthening technologies. “To be in the course or the program provides reward and satisfaction to students at a young age,” concludes Professor Lawler. Overall, this course and program in the Seidenberg School has been part of the movement for disability rights in society and have been recognized with Community Partner Awards and the national Jefferson Award for Community Service.

 
Pace alumni interested in mentoring people with disabilities at AHRC New York City as non-paid volunteers may contact Professor Lawler at lawlerj@aol.com.