Matt Roloff to speak Monday

By The Beacon | February 23, 2011 9:00pm

Matt Roloff (courtesy of Matt Roloff)

By Amanda Blas, Staff Writer --

The second annual Diversity Dialogues Week kicks off next week with a less conventional look at diversity with a presentation by "Little People, Big World" reality TV star Matt Roloff.

Roloff will speak Monday at the Buckley Center Auditorium at 9 p.m.

Born with diastrophic dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism that affects cartilage and bone development, Roloff has made a career out of helping people understand that being physically different does not make a person less of a person.

"We recognize ethnicity and sexuality as diversity within the community," Student Diversity Coordinator Megan Brown, a sophomore, said. "It's important we recognize disability as diversity as well."

This year, the Diversity Dialogues Committee chose to include disability in its efforts to raise awareness of diversity on campus.

"The first thing we think of when it comes to diversity is different color skin and culture," Student Diversity Coordinator and sophomore Stephanie Rodriguez said. "We sometimes miss the big picture."

"It will definitely bring social awareness," Brown said. "It's a diverse topic to recognize."

Roloff is known for his presentations on diversity, resiliency, leadership and awareness. He typically speaks about how he has managed to overcome obstacles imposed on him by his condition. He encourages others to overcome their own personal obstacles as well.

"I think that it will affect students by being more aware of how disability can be diversity," Brown said. "I think students will recognize this is an event to appreciate."

Roloff's fame will also help students embrace disability as diversity.

"I'm excited because he has this reality television stardom that allows other people to recognize his ability and be able to communicate that," Brown said.

The committee is also sponsoring a "Who's Your Hero?" panel discussion on Thursday, March 3, in Saint Mary's Lounge to reinforce the topic of disability as diversity.

The panel discussion, which will look at the perspectives of people both with and without disabilities, will consider what it means to be a hero.

"It'll basically include different life stories," Rodriguez said.

The different perspectives on diversity have brought positive reactions among students.

"This is the first time that it's been about more than just race, ethnicity or religion," sophomore Cynthia Oceguera said. "The fact that they're bringing something new to the table is refreshing."

Some students have even emphasized the importance of this new outlook on changing their perspectives.

"I never really thought about disability as diversity, and I think a lot of other people don't either," freshman Zach Baza said. "It's nice to know that they're making us realize there's more to diversity."