Office of Equal Opportunity hosts lunch panel on neurodiversity

April 5 discussion to celebrate neurodiversity, highlight services

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 14, 2023 – The Office of Equal Opportunity is presenting a dynamic panel of speakers from the University of Rhode Island on Wednesday, April 5, in honor of Neurodiversity Awareness Month. The event is presented in collaboration with the offices of Community, Equity and Diversity and Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion.

“This event will inform, inspire and challenge the audience,” said Dorca Paulino-Smalley, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. “Our goal is to celebrate neurodiversity and the contributions of the neurodiverse community while highlighting services offered to students and staff and raising awareness of our institutional compliance obligations.” 

The virtual discussion, “Neurodiversity: Moving Beyond Autism Awareness and Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance,” will be held from noon to 1:45 p.m. To register for the WebEx event, click here

Opening the main discussion, Paige Ramsdell, Ph.D., assistant dean for Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion, will give a brief overview of neurodiversity and discuss appropriate social tips for engaging with neurodiverse individuals. Hannah Sears, secretary of Student Advocacy for Disability Awareness/Action, will introduce and outline the focus of the group. 

A panel of URI officials will discuss such topics as employee accommodations, best practices and compliance tips, and, if time permits, answer questions from the online audience. The panel will be made up of Nina Schiarizzi-Tobin, assistant director of Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion; Lauren Jensen, associate general counsel; Vanessa Harwood, Ph.D., assistant professor in communicative disorders; and Laura Kenerson, director of personnel services. Kara Larsen, assistant vice president of enterprise risk management, will moderate the discussion.

Sean Edmund Rogers, Ph.D., URI’s chief diversity officer and vice president of Community, Equity and Diversity, will offer opening remarks, and Tre Hamlin, a representative of the Native American Students Organization, will provide the land acknowledgment.

Audience members are invited to submit questions in advance by emailing Paulino-Smalley at

URI encourages all members of the community to participate in programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about accessibility, please contact Paulino-Smalley or TTY via RI Relay at 1-800-745-5555.