Living with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue, gave Nicole Palmer empathy for people with disabilities. It also led her to want to work on their behalf. “I really want to allow people the opportunity to learn from my experience. I also want to help make people’s journey more accessible,” says the U of M Morris (UMM) senior. Palmer even designed a major with a concentration on disability issues and advocacy to help her achieve that goal.
“Before I came to Morris, disability advocacy wasn’t really on my radar,” she says. Palmer credits her mentors at UMM with encouraging her to pursue her interest.
Two years ago, she served on a task force to make education more accessible for students with disabilities. “The opportunity led to other opportunities because I was able to form connections with faculty and staff who had a passion for social justice,” she says.
Palmer, who recently received the President’s Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, credits scholarship support for allowing her to take on such work. “I want to help the people I work with at the highest level possible, and philanthropy has allowed me to take a necessary step back to understand what they need and desire most,” she says. Palmer’s goal is to one day work for a non-profit or even create her own advocacy organization. “When working to create change, it’s important to remember that a small change can make a big difference,” she says.