2020 Award Winners

Ronald E. Blosser Dedicated Service Award

A photo of Jamie Axelrod in a blue shirt, smiling at the camera
Headshot of Kristie Orr, white woman with shoulder length, straight blond hair and hazel eyes wearing a cranberry colored sweater and long gold necklace

Jamie Axelrod is immediate past President of the AHEAD Board of Directors and longtime director at Northern Arizona University. Jamie’s nomination highlights his service to AHEAD through teaching, leadership and mentorship. Jamie has instructed many classes and workshops on disability law, engaging hundreds of participants over the years on how to effectively interpret the ADA. His leadership and commitment to mentorship is evidenced not only by his service on the Board but in his consistent support of colleagues via the online communities and personal relationships. 

Dr. Kristie Orr serves as our current Board Presidents and director at Texas A&M University. Kristie’s nomination highlights her leadership nationally and internationally. In addition to her Board service, Kristie developed a relationship between AHEAD and FARE and helped to recognize food allergies in the disability context. Recently, she helped formalize AHEAD’s relationship with the Global University Disability and Inclusion Network, elevating AHEAD’s presence internationally.  Kristie also supports individual colleagues at her institution and across AHEAD in their understanding of disability resources.

Both Jamie and Kristie are incredibly deserving of the Blosser Award, AHEAD’s highest honor. They both work tirelessly with AHEAD, AHEAD affiliates and with individual colleagues to promote good practice and progressive thinking on disability access.

AHEAD Honor for Meritorious Contribution Award

Pictured is J. Andrew Zeisler in the foreground wearing his iconic Miami red glasses and matching red tie, white shirt, and black velvet sport coat. In the background is Miami University's beautiful campus.

Andrew Zeisler recently retired from Miami University where he worked for 32 years. His contributions made a profound impact on campus and more broadly on the Disability Resources profession. During his tenure at Miami University, Andrew promoted an inclusive campus climate, created infrastructure to support accessible technology, established a disability cultural space, and mentored new professionals. 

Duraese Hall Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Award

Older Asian woman with long black and grey hair draped around her neck, smiling at the camera. She is wearing a pink and purple patterned shirt. Behind her is a backdrop with cherry blossoms.

Dr. Mary Lee Vance, California State Sacramento, is longtime leader within AHEAD and worked to initiate the Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Disability (REDD), now, Knowledge and Practice Community. She has supported diversity in AHEAD membership and mentored and encouraged many professionals of color toward leadership roles in the organization.

JPED Reviewer of the Year Award

This photo shows Dr. Melinda Burchard processing with faculty in the 2019 Commencement of Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Melinda Burchard is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Messiah University in Pennsylvania, where she coordinates both the Special Education Program and the Minor in Speech and Language Pathology. Her career includes previous work as the Learning Strategies Coordinator through the Disability Services office of James Madison University in Virginia. Her research includes studies of effectiveness of learning strategy interventions for college students with disabilities. Melinda has served as an editorial reviewer for the Journal for Postsecondary Education and Disability since 2007.

AHEAD Professional Recognition Award

image of a female Disability Resource Professional standing outside wearing a blue and white striped shirt and yellow cardigan.

Dr. Michelle Rigler, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, was nominated specifically for the innovative ways she promotes the inclusion of students on the spectrum and ensures their equitable experiences inside and outside the classroom, including opportunities to study abroad. She is known for her work with Mobility international USA and developed a course on international perspectives on disability. Michelle is director at UT Chattanooga where she is committed to mentoring students and colleagues.

Student Recognition Award

A picture of Heather Schmoll outside smiling at the camera.

Heather Schmoll is an undergraduate student at Cal State Long Beach majoring in Speech and Language Pathology and minoring in Sign Language Linguistics and Deaf Culture. Kristen promotes disability community and access on campus, locally and nationally. On campus, Kristen serves as Commission for Disability Affairs and advocated for resources to increase access and inclusion. Kristen serves on the CSU Systemwide Advisory Committee on Services to Students with Disabilities where she represents the interests of disabled students across the CSU system.