IUPUI alumna receives Kennedy Center leadership award for arts accessibility program

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Kristina Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS — An IUPUI alumna recently received a prestigious national award for a project helping to open the world of cultural arts to people with disabilities.

Kristina Johnson, a 2013 museum studies graduate in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is the recipient of a Kennedy Center Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Award in recognition of her work with AcessIndy.

Part of IUPUI’s Cultural Heritage Research Center, AccessIndy is a program designed to unite museum and cultural arts professionals as they work toward improving access and inclusion within their organizations. In addition to developing a Web-based resource library, AccessIndy has been offering a series of roundtable discussions for museum and cultural professionals about access and inclusion in the Indiana arts.

“I had discovered NYC’s Museum Access Consortium at the (2012) LEAD conference and used that group as a model for what we’re doing in Indianapolis,” Johnson said. She also credits conference presentations by Betty Siegel, president emeritus of Kennesaw State University, and Lynn Walsh, manager of guest access and inclusiveness at Chicago’s Children Museum, as inspirations for AccessIndy.

Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Awards are given to “outstanding arts administrators and institutions whose leadership and work furthers the field of accessibility.” Johnson was one of four recipients honored during the 14th annual LEAD conference held Aug. 1 to 6 in Chicago.

“To the extent that a LEAD Award recognizes not just impact in the community, but outstanding professionals in the field, I can think of no more deserving recipient than Kris Johnson,” said Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, associate professor of museum studies and director of the Cultural Heritage Research Center. “Her work in Indianapolis is a classic example of what happens when seeds are planted in fertile ground. … It has been a catalyst for sharing information across institutions and for individual organizations to build their capacity to be more inclusive and accessible to all audiences.”

Johnson launched AccessIndy in November 2012. She plans to expand the program as a statewide resource for all cultural arts professionals in Indiana and continue promoting the program as a model for other regions across the U.S.

The LEAD Award “is probably the most meaningful award I could have received because it’s a big ‘thumbs up’ from people whom I deeply admire and validates that I’m on the right track in my career,” Johnson said. “That being said, I’m not doing this work all by myself. I have the support of the Cultural Heritage Research Center, the museum studies program, the Indiana Arts Commission and many museum professionals in Indianapolis. I see this award as a spotlight on Indy as an emerging epicenter of progress in the movement to broaden access and inclusion in the cultural arts.”

IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI recognizes three with alumni awards

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAINDIANAPOLIS — Sheila Gilbert dedicates her life to helping the poor. Charity Counts brings educational opportunities to Indianapolis. Brian Denton puts his statistical skills to work in the medical field.

Their accomplishments are unique, but they are connected by their liberal arts education. And on May 9, Gilbert, Counts and Denton were honored with IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI Alumni Awards.

“Sheila Gilbert, Charity Counts and Brian Denton are three wonderful examples of liberal arts alumni making a difference,” said William Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts. “It’s a joy to recognize their career and community achievements and add them to the rolls of accomplished alumni of the school.”

Each year the Liberal Arts Alumni Association recognizes alumni and friends of the School of Liberal Arts for their achievements and service. The Distinguished Alumni Service Award recognizes outstanding alumni who distinguish themselves either professionally or by giving extraordinary service to the school/university. The Early Career Achievement Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in a profession or for service to the school/university; graduates within 15 years of degree completion are eligible for this award.

Gilbert received the Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Service Award for her work with people in need. Counts and Denton received the Early Career Achievement Award for success in their respective career paths and contributions to their alma mater. The awards were presented as part of the school’s annual celebration of its graduating classes, which took place at the Indianapolis Arts Garden.

Honorees were nominated by faculty, community members and alumni, and selection was made by the Alumni Association Board.

More information about the honorees:

Sheila Gilbert (BA sociology, 1978; MA public and environmental affairs, 1983)

Sheila Gilbert is the national president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She is a past president of the society’s Indianapolis Council and currently facilitates its educational program, Changing Lives, a 26-week training and educational program that helps low-income families exit poverty.

She was a St. Mary of the Woods College adjunct faculty member and previously served as director of Project CLASS, a career development and work experience program of Indianapolis Public Schools for more than 800 economically disadvantaged adults.

“She is the unpaid servant leader of an organization that yearly provides more than half a billion dollars’ worth of goods and services to people in need in the United States,” said Robert White, professor and chair of sociology. “I cannot conceive of an alumna who brings more honor to the IU School of Liberal Arts than Sheila Gilbert.”

Charity Counts (MA museum studies, 2008)

Charity Counts is the associate vice president of exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Since receiving her master’s degree, she has been active with the Museum Studies Program as a donor, guest presenter and internship mentor.

While a student, she published the article “Spectacular Design in Museum Exhibitions,” which became a cover story in Curator: The Museum Journal, the top peer-reviewed publication in the field.

“Ms. Counts embodies the spirit and purpose of the liberal arts and brings that knowledge to her everyday work,” said Elizabeth Wood, associate professor and director of museum studies. “Her attention and commitment to intellectual pursuits and leadership in the field indicate the strength of an early and distinguished career.”

Counts is credited for developing strong relationships for the Children’s Museum with content providers such as Lego, National Geographic and Nickelodeon, as well as negotiating exhibitions such as the Terra Cotta Warriors from Xi’an, China.

Brian Denton (BA economics, 2002; BA German/political science, 2003; MA economics, 2005; BS mathematics, 2009)


While working on his master’s degree, Brian Denton discovered a passion for statistics and computer programming. Since then, Denton has used his extensive training to build a career as a statistician.

He spent two years as a statistical research assistant at the prestigious Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in New York. While there, he helped develop new techniques to predict and classify genetic mutations and liposarcoma subtypes based on clinical and gene expression data.

“Brian has made impressive strides early in his career,” said Paul Carlin, professor of economics. “He has been and remains a strong supporter of the Department of Economics’ mission.”

Denton currently works as a computational statistician for Eli Lilly and Co, and serves on the Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council.

 

Jane Pauley to discuss new book

Former NBC “Today” show host Jane Pauley will bring inspiring stories of mid-life reinvention featured in her new book to the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus on March 14.

A familiar face on morning, daytime and prime-time television for more than 30 years, Pauley, an Indiana native who graduated from IU Bloomington, will sit down with fellow IU alumna Megan Fernandez, Indianapolis Monthly executive editor, to discuss her new book, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life.”

Pauley has become one of broadcasting’s most respected journalists — most recently, for the award-winning “Your Life Calling” segment (now titled “Life Reimagined Today”) on the “Today” show. In recent years, Pauley has crisscrossed the country meeting and profiling men and women in their 50s and older who see the future as an opportunity for reinvention rather than retirement.

Since the first episode, “The Joy of Socks,” aired in 2010 on NBC, Pauley has profiled 25 remarkable people whose personal reinvention informs and inspires. Now she brings these stories to the page, looking to inspire others to imagine their own future in powerful and positive ways.

“The people Jane writes about exemplify the spirit of the liberal arts tradition,” said Larry Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, where Pauley received a degree in political science in 1972. “When students prepare, in the liberal arts tradition, to question critically, act creatively and live ethically, they are ready to succeed at any number of careers and at any juncture in life.”

The event will take place at noon on March 14 in Room 450 at the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd. A light lunch will be provided. Pauley will sign copies of her book after the interview.

The event, sponsored by the IU College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Board, is free to Indiana University Alumni Association members and $10 for non-IUAA members. Registration is required, and attendance is limited to the first 150 people who register.