First-ever diversity scholarship awarded to Isabelle Pisani for essay on disability

By Dora Totoian | March 4, 2017 3:05pm

Senior Isabelle Pisani gave a brief speech after being awarded the Diversity Scholarship.

Media Credit: Meah Ortiz / The Beacon

“Mike is a 28-year-old part-time student who volunteers at the SPCA, works one day a week at a local goat farm and has Down’s syndrome.”

This is how Isabelle Pisani described her older brother in her winning Diversity Scholarship essay.

ASUP’s first-ever diversity scholarship was awarded to Pisani, a senior nursing major, at the International Night celebration on Friday. In the essay, Pisani responded to the question: “How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual? How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion?”

Pisani’s essay centered on the experiences of Mike, and how the everyday use of the word “retarded” can be offensive to people with disabilities. Her essay discussed why the word can be derogatory and encouraged people to change their vocabularies.

“Do you know how that could actually be offensive to people? When you use that word, what do you mean by it?” Pisani asked in her speech Friday night. “Because it’s used in a variety of ways, and it’s so engraved in our millennial vocab that it’s not really thought about.”

ASUP President Brandon Rivera says he was inspired to establish the scholarship as a way of continuing discussions on diversity started on campus last spring. ASUP met with a variety of clubs to determine how to continue promoting dialogue, and the Black Student Union suggested creating a scholarship.

The committee, consisting of students, Human Resources staff and one professor, received 10 essays that were kept anonymous from committee members. The committee chose Pisani’s essay because it thought it best answered the prompt and conveyed a unique and heartfelt message.

Rivera said Pisani was chosen for the scholarship, although she does not represent racial or ethnic diversity, in part because the essays did not have names on them at the time of selection, and also because committee members felt she represented a different type of diversity.

“It was just really personal, it was about her own brother. That was something where I never would have thought of inclusivity,” Rivera said. "This group I felt like, it was something different than anything anybody else had written. It was just such a unique essay, and it had a lot of heartfelt messages. I felt it really kind of drew the committee to decide it as the winner.”

At International Night, committee member and sophomore Lydia Heye awarded Pisani with the scholarship and explained why the committee chose it.

“Her story was very personal and heartfelt, and the committee really realized that and really appreciated that. We thought that her essay brought a different light to diversity, and so we are really excited to give this scholarship to her,” Heye said.