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Erin McGladrey Chapman


I grew up in Beaverton and initially learned about GIS through the Beaverton City Library and Oregon Public Radio in the same week. OPB had a story on air about how GIS started the school year with Schultüte for the first graders, giant decorated paper cones filled by their parents with school supplies, gifts and treats. Since no one could open their Schultüte until the parents left, most of the kids were eager to see their parents “GO AWAY” on their first day of school. As someone who grew up loving school and still goes back to school for the fun of it, I thought this was a great tradition. Around the same time a friend who works at the library told me about some joint events GIS was doing with them, which sounded like fun involvement in the community.

Fast forward a few years, finishing graduate school and getting married, my husband and I had a tiny human of our own. Liam was deaf for the first couple years of his life but was learning American Sign Language faster than I could teach him. When he got his bone conducting hearing aid, he learned English in six months. We had a language monster on our hands! We knew we wanted to find a language immersion program for our son to study in given how interested he was in the exact way things sounded (don’t ask me how many times he’s corrected my speech) and how often he was asking us to give him the word for something. My husband and I are of Scottish and Norse ancestry so we were looking for a program that had a good learning environment (play and exploration based) with great staff and teachers. I like to be prepared so before he was two, I knew I wanted our son to go to GIS. They had everything we were looking for in a school and were set up well for working parents.

When my son started preschool, he noticed he was different than the other students and told us he wanted to stop using one of his classroom tools because they made him look different. With the support of his teachers, our son is now comfortable being who he is. But that was when I decided I needed to stop hiding my disabilities because I was setting a poor example. When someone asked about my service dog, I would give a vague answer as to why he was with me and my son saw that almost every day. I began to discuss my disabilities specifically within my professional organizations I’m a member of and the barriers they raise. I was nominated by my peers to serve as a forming member of the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association (ASA). 

I’ve been involved in a number of other awareness campaigns and efforts to make people aware of the resources available to them on the state and national level. As part of these roles, I’ve attended a lot of courses and workshops on DEI topics but I’m particularly well studied in universal design and disability resources. When I heard GIS was looking for a board member with DEI experience, I volunteered my time. I also wanted to become more involved in my son’s school because COVID had limited those opportunities. This school has been an amazing experience for him and I wanted to help pay it back. The also wanted to be available as a resource to the board and the school, whether that be for DEI concerns, computer security, statistical knowledge or my mad spreadsheet skills.

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