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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Special Emphasis Program Manager -

Disability Employment Program





Research Leader


Root Disease & Biological Control Research Unit       

POBOX 646430 - 367 Johnson Hall, WSU

Pullman, WA  99164-6430


Phone:  (509) 335-6210

Fax:  (509) 335-7674 



Greetings!  Welcome to the Disability Employment Special Emphasis Program website.  As a Special Emphasis Program Manager, I work to identify and eliminate barriers present in the recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities and individuals from other traditionally underrepresented groups. I also serve as Director of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach and education program, "Pumping-Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College.  Please contact me if you have suggestions, questions, or would like help finding resources or opportunities for increasing diversity at your location. I can also help you locate opportunities for STEM outreach and education in you local communities.   




USDA-ARS has had a long-standing commitment to increasing workforce diversity within the Agency by seeking, recruiting, hiring, training and mentoring employees from all segments of American life and culture. Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs) have a special role in Agency efforts to enhance diversity at all levels of employment. In addition, ARS provides employees with opportunities, time and resources to participate in a wide variety of outreach and education activities directed at underserved Americans.  Within USDA, our Agency continues to be a leader in proactive approaches to promote a diverse workforce. 


As the SEPM for the Disability Employment Program, one of my responsibilities has been to provide you with information on how to enrich recruitment efforts so as to insure that individuals with disabilities are included in pools of qualified candidates for USDA-ARS positions in the Pacific West Area.  I have talked with many of you throughout the PWA about outreach activities to underserved and underrepresented groups of Americans and encourage you to continue to contact me about your recruitment efforts.  I can help you identify local agencies and organizations that can distribute PWA position announcements, identify qualified individuals with disabilities, and sharpen skills needed by applicants for particular positions.  For example, the Pullman, Washington Location continues to expand our partnership with Palouse Industries, a local non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of people of all ages with disabilities.  Palouse Industries helps identify potential candidates for ARS positions, makes recommendations about reasonable modifications of the workplace for the new employee, and provides other services that support our research mission.  Most locations in the PWA have non-profit organizations that are anxious to partner with USDA-ARS.  I cannot stress enough the stunning transformation that we can bring about in the life of a person with a disability by providing a job in USDA-ARS, even if that position is only for a few hours per week.  It is the feeling of being part of a larger team involved in work of national importance that can so enrich a person's life.  Ultimately, all of our outreach efforts enrich and broaden pools of qualified candidates by tapping into human resources with unique skills and abilities but little knowledge of the opportunities within ARS.


October of each year is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Therefore, it is especially appropriate at this time for me to ask each of you to use all of your resources to help increase the diversity of our workforce, and especially to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  I strongly believe that within our Research Units and administrative offices, a robust commitment to diversity enhances the vitality of the workplace and the richness of thought needed to complete the ARS mission.


Our Agency has excellent outreach programs and outreach specialists who are deeply committed to promoting diversity within ARS.  However, Agency programs are only part of a successful outreach effort to enhance employment of minorities, women and persons with disabilities.  ARS outreach programs also need a commitment by all of us to talk regularly, "face to face," with members of our local communities, both about the world-class research conducted by USDA-ARS and career opportunities in our Agency.  Too often our friends and neighbors have no idea about our research responsibilities to "feed and fuel" America and to protect our natural resources.


I would like each of you to consider and to act on President Obama's call for greater public service.  ARS employees have many unique skills that can benefit organizations devoted to improving our communities and people with special needs.  Last year, I asked you to make a commitment to devote 10 hours throughout the year to visiting a school, an Easter Seals or State Vocational Rehabilitation office, a Native American reservation, a minority organization, a school or other organization, and then return to that place several more times, each time talking about USDA-ARS research and employment opportunities.  In FY2011, I ask you to increase your commitment to community service. Repeated "face to face" contacts in our communities will help to insure that the USDA-ARS "Pipeline" of potential new employees remains full and reflective of the rich diversity of American society that makes our country unique and strong!   





David M. Weller, Research Leader, and Kathleen D. Parker, Program Assistant, USDA-ARS, Pullman, WA, established and now direct a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach and engagement program involving scientists, engineers, staff, and students of USDA-ARS, Washington State University (WSU), Bellevue College, USDA-NRCS, and members of The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. The goal of the program, "Pumping-Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College," is to enhance the flow of students from underserved and rural communities into STEM professions.  The program currently focuses on students on the Colville Reservation and in rural regions of north central Washington state.   


The "Pipeline Program" has six components: 1) science and math education in reservation and rural schools by USDA-ARS scientists and University faculty and students; 2) organization of on-reservation summer science camps; 3) support of high school Summer Research Interns in USDA-ARS labs; 4) mentoring undergraduates students from groups that are underrepresented in STEM professions; 5) connecting students to employment opportunities in STEM professions; and 6) development of a biofuels program on the Colville Reservation.


The "Pipeline Program" initially enhances students' interest in science and math through monthly visits to Nespelem School and Paschal Sherman Indian School on the Colville Reservation by scientists who present science and math modules. Next, student interest is cultivated during the Skwant Life Science Summer Camps (Skwant is translated "Waterfalls") held at the Paschal Sherman Indian School.  High school students are then offered paid Summer Research Internships in USDA-ARS labs, with WSU providing on-campus housing for the interns. The "Pipeline Program" also partners with the WSU College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) to mentor and promote the success of CAMP undergraduate students in STEM majors. The Pipeline Program is underpinned by the commitment of world-class scientists and engineers to not only mentor, train and employ young future scientists, but more importantly, to teach in the communities of these students.  Past experience has shown that introducing students early to the "culture" of science, math and engineering is a strong stimulus to pursue a career in a STEM profession.  Our program is a portable platform that can be used for science and math outreach and education to other groups of Americans, who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM professions.  Our mission: "extending the benefits of science and math to all Americans."   


Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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