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Event Series Event Series: DEIB

Disability Justice: Driving Authentic Change Towards Action

March 27 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Are we doing enough within our policies to not just accommodate, but also uplift people with disabilities?

On Wednesday, March 27,  join the Bloustein School for an important conversation as we collectively work towards dismantling barriers and building a society where everyone can thrive. Attendees will gain valuable insights into creating spaces celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion, and ensuring that we all play a significant role in developing an inclusive and just society.

Our annual DEI Lecture will critically assess the systems that seek to build inclusive communities. From access to health equity, discussants will navigate the landscape of inclusivity, shedding light on areas that demand attention and reform.

The lecture will serve as a call to action for students, organizations, and policymakers to examine their roles in driving authentic change. It seeks to foster a deeper understanding of disability justice and its impact on health equity, policy development, and community building. By giving voice to the lived experiences of people with disabilities and examples of disability justice at work, we aim to catalyze tangible strides toward a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Guest Speaker: Jashar “Shar” Banks ’23, Advocate and Mental Health Specialist, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care

  • “Life has taught me important lessons, and sometimes the best way is the hard way.” Raised by a a single mother,  Jashar “Shar” Banks used his upbringing to grasp a better understanding of the value of earned rewards, learning to accept failures as lessons and as a part of success. A wheelchair-bound paraplegic, Shar has focused on personal growth in all areas of his life including work ethic, social skills, and leisure activities. He continues to strive towards success by acknowledging the lessons disguised in inevitable failures as his goal to remain a lifelong learner. Although no longer able to pursue a career path as a firefighter, he hasn’t halted his aspirations to serve others. Pursuing a career as a developmental psychologist with the goal of help youth from troubled and underprivileged communities, the 2023 Rutgers alumnus is currently employed as a Mental Health Specialist for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Panelists: Recipients of Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant 2021-22, 2022-23: 

Jennifer M. LeComte, D.O., Associate Professor, Rowan-Virtua SOM, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and Medical Director, Rowan-Virtua Regional Integrated Special Needs (RISN) Center

  • Dr. Jennifer LeComte is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her Med-Peds residency in Delaware at Christiana Care Health System and Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children and is double board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She served as a pediatric chief resident at Nemours, as she initiated her career in providing primary care for patients with complex conditions in childhood across the lifespan as the founder of the Center for Special HealthCare Needs. She is currently an Associate Professor at Rowan-Virtua SOM in the Internal Medicine and Pediatrics departments and is the Medical Director of Rowan-Virtua Regional Integrated Special Needs (RISN) Center. Dr. LeComte volunteers with Rowan Unified Sports. She is the PI for several grants including a HRSA grant to improve access to primary care for people with different abilities.

Wendy F. Aita, Ph.D., Co-Director, Rowan-Virtua Regional Integrated Special Needs (RISN) Center and Behavioral Health Lead

  • Dr. Wendy Aita is Co-Director of the Rowan-Virtua Regional Integrated Special Needs (RISN) Center and Behavioral Health Lead. She is a Clinical Psychologist who received her Ph.D. from Farleigh Dickinson University and completed her internship at Friend’s Hospital. She is licensed in New Jersey. She joined Rowan in 2010 and is currently an Associate Professor at Rowan-Virtua SOM with appointments in both Psychiatry and Psychology. She has worked with individuals who are dually diagnosed with intellectual disability and mental health issues for several years and formed RISN Center with Dr. LeComte in 2019. Dr. Aita is an expert in Trauma Informed Care and treatment with a specific interest in complex trauma and helping individuals who have experienced medical trauma access routine medical procedures. She has significant experience in psychological testing, individual and family therapy, and integration of behavioral health into primary care. She serves on the Rowan University Neurodiversity Task Force, and she is the Clinical Director for the Strong Minds Program through Special Olympics.

Additional comments will be provided by Patti O’Brien Richardson, Bloustein School Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer / Committee Chair and Associate Teaching Professor; Roni Woitovich, Bloustein School MPAP Student with Disability Studies concentration; and Javier Robles, professor, Rutgers Kinesiology and Health Department, Co-chair of the Rutgers University Disability Studies committee and director, Center for Disability Sports, Health and Wellness at Rutgers University.



March 27
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Categories:


Gov. James J. Florio Special Events Forum, CSB
33 Livingston Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901 United States


Gov. James J. Florio Special Events Forum