Gayle Bartilow Staff Photo

Dr. Bartilow receives Cooter Social Justice Advocate Award and dissertation of the year

Dr. Gayle Bartilow was not prepared for how much of an effect her dissertation research would have on her. 

When she traveled to South Africa to do research on how apartheid had affected educational opportunities and how modern South Africans are working to decolonize education to build a better system, she expected that she would hear some difficult stories, but she had no idea exactly how intense it would get. 

“I was not prepared for the level of, hardship, violence, and the heart wrenching stories that came out,” she said. “I did not expect to hear that some of the people that I interviewed actually engaged in warfare. I didn’t know that it was that intense. I wasn’t prepared for the number of people that had died during that time. And I found out about how violent that period…the bloodshed, and the people that I interviewed were students. They were children when this happened.” 

Though the work may have been difficult, Bartilow feels it was important – and Bellarmine University, the school where she received her doctorate, agrees, given that it recognized Bartilow with its Dissertation of the Year and Robert and Kathleen Cooter Social Justice Advocate Award. Bartilow said she was honored and humbled to receive the award – and driven to honor the stories that her participants told her.

“The participants are really entrusted in me a lot when they shared those very personal stories,” she said. “I feel as if I have a responsibility to share that.”

Bartilow said that confronting such difficult subject matter had a profound effect on her. The stories were often difficult to hear. 

“I had to check my own mental health,” she said. “While I was interviewing the participants, I started to struggle. with my own mental health. I was having bad dreams, and I could feel the tension and the stress in my body, headaches and trouble sleeping. So I had to just be really mindful about caring for myself as well.”

But Bartilow’s work was ultimately focused on life beyond those difficult stories, on how the people who lived them changed the world in response. She specifically focused on educators who were in school during the apartheid era, and on what they had done to offer today’s students opportunities they had been denied. 

“One of the themes that came through was the need to build up others, support community,” she said. “My participants made the point of telling their students that they need to support others, they need to create a pathway for others to succeed as well.”

That’s ultimately what the Cooter Social Justice Advocate Award celebrates – a dissertation that works towards a more equitable world. Bartilow is joyous that she got the chance to do research that was found worthy of it – and to learn about people pushing past hardship to make the world a better place. 

“It’s about creating positive change,” she said. “Social change and social justice for people who have had extraordinary difficulties, circumstances that limited them and denied them opportunities.” 

Fowler names Rehabilitation Technologist of the Year

Fowler named Rehabilitation Technologist of the Year

Josiah Fowler, a Rehabilitation Technologist for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, thinks of his job like a puzzle. Luckily, he’s good at puzzles. 

Though the title of Rehabilitation Technologist might suggest cutting edge advancements, sometimes his ultimate solution is no more advanced than a simple color alteration. In one case, which the OVR specifically cited when it named Fowler the Rehabilitation Technologist of the Year, a person with low vision was working at a sandwich shop and could not see the instructions on how to put together certain orders.

“I downloaded Photoshop on my personal computer and created a large contrasted version of those sandwich cards and then had them printed out and laminated, and I clipped and together with a ring and delivered them to the person,” Fowler said. “Then they were able to flip through the laminated sandwich recipes and see them. So I just had to create that from scratch for them.”

In his work, Fowler has to do a lot of that kind of creative problem solving.

“We have to really be able to put together the puzzle of what someone needs for their job and how that fits with the puzzle of their disability related functional limitations,” he said. “I’d say a very large part of my job is actually just researching or testing out or experiment with new products to try with people.”

And Fowler loves the creative challenge of solving these puzzles – and the rewards that come with his insights. 

“It’s always great to just see the happy smiles on people’s faces once they’re able to do something they were struggling to do before,” he said. 

Though Fowler has blossomed in the role of a Rehabilitation Technologist, it’s not where his background was. He actually studied history at Western Kentucky University. But he does have a connection to disability services. 

“I’ve always actually been relatively, passionate and interested in disability services. I’ve grown up with people with disabilities. I’ve worked with people with disabilities, gone to school with people with disabilities. I’ve always had a drive to help give people what they need to achieve what they want to do,” he said. “I view helping people who need it the most as the greatest calling that we can do in life…It gives me a great reason to wake up with a smile on my face and be happy to go to work every day.”

As proud as Fowler is of his achievement, he made a note to thank his colleagues at the OVR. 

“I think everyone on the team deserves an award,” he said. “I couldn’t do what I do without the other Rehab Techs on the AT team. I couldn’t do what I do without the great Assistants we have and our Branch Manager. Together we all help guide each other through the complex cases we often find ourselves working on.”

Woman with blond hair and fair skin is petting a dark brown horse that is standing in front of a black fence and green grass.

Sheppard-Jones receives 2021 APSE Award

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute – HDI congratulates Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, recipient of the Kentucky APSE Willie Byrd Legislative Award 2021. This award is given to a person who has supported & promoted the employment of people with significant disabilities through legislation and/or legislative & policy efforts.

Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, PhD, CRC, has worked in the field of rehabilitation for the past 25 years, with an emphasis on systems change and community building through participant and data drivers. She leads 275 staff working on projects around inclusion with an emphasis of people with disabilities, is the Lead Administrator for Employment First in Kentucky, and collaborates with state agencies, employers, and communities. Dr. Sheppard-Jones also serves on the University of Kentucky Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Team and teaches in the UK College of Education.

Woman receiving award from another woman

Lindsey Mullis receives 2019 APHA Student Member Award

The American Public Health Association (APHA) has selected Lindsey Mullis to receive the 2019 Disability Section Student Member Award presented at their Annual Meeting and Expo in Philadelphia, PA. The Disability Section Award recipients join a distinguished group of achievers who have made significant contributions to the disability field and to improvements in the lives of people with disabilities nationally and internationally.
Lindsey is the Program Director for the Health and Wellness Initiative of the UK Human Development Institute (HDI). The mission of the initiative is to ignite positive change to address the significant health disparities for individuals with disabilities across the lifespan. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI says, “Lindsey’s passion and drive for the work are evident in all of her efforts. She has been instrumental in making health and wellness programming more inclusive by: 1) building key collaborations with state and local partners, 2) incorporating universal design strategies that makes data collection systems more inclusive, and 3) ensuring that people with disabilities lead and are in partnership with all health and wellness work. She is a guru at resource development. From creating comic books to exercise videos, Lindsey’s leadership has grown the Health and Wellness Initiative to be a real model of quality inclusive health promotion for the Kentucky.”
Lindsey is pursuing her doctorate in Health Education. Learn more about the Health and Wellness Initiative at