In 2000, as I savored the sights and smells of an apple orchard in the Massachusetts countryside, a truck hurtled around a turn and smashed into me. When I opened my eyes, I saw my amputated left leg and knee lying 10 feet away, and my right leg crushed beneath me. The driver of the truck had left me to die in the middle of that quiet, rural landscape. Two hikers trained in wilderness medicine stumbled across me, and one kept me alive while the other contacted emergency medical services. With their help, I fought to survive until reaching the hospital. Once there, I endured the first of 15 surgeries to save my life and my right leg. After seven months in the hospital I reentered a now totally unfamiliar world to begin my new life as a visibly disabled person. Since then I have continued my efforts, first relearning to walk with a prosthetic leg and knee, then learning to live independently, and finally working to diversify the American university by making issues of disability central to my scholarship, and by attempting to make higher education accessible to all. It is essential that students see their experiences with disability, trauma, or other challenges reflected in their faculty.
My commitment to diversity is both very personal, and an integral part of my professional perspective. I have seen that disabilities of all types are often hidden, rather than recognized as a means of providing valuable new perspectives in the classroom and through scholarship. This serves as an inspiration to action. Making the public university accessible to all is more than a moral imperative; it is also a crucial step towards enriching our institutions of higher learning by meeting the need for excellence, as well as for equity. An accessible university is of benefit to all, because it can attract the most exceptional students and faculty. I have worked to increase access at multiple public universities through mentorship, scholarly work, and a proven record of securing external funding for research. My efforts help to ensure that no barriers stand between the very best candidates and undergraduate and graduate-level history programs.