Villanova University Holds First Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Conference

The Inaugural Conference was held at the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts on December 6, 2022.

Villanova University students attend inaugural Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Conference.

Recent studies have demonstrated the positive business, economic and social impact of hiring people with disabilities. Yet the unemployment rate for people with disabilities and a Bachelor’s degree is more than double that of people without disabilities with the same level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability, the jobless rate for those with a disability was about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and all of us are responsible for undoing this kind of exclusion,” said Kevin Grubb, Associate Vice Provost, Career and Professional Development at Villanova University.

To better address these inequities, Villanova brought together more than 200 students, employers and disability inclusion advocates to examine and address the issue at the University’s first Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Conference in December.

The conference—a cross-University partnership between Villanova’s Career Center, Learning Support Services and Office of Disability Services—was created with the goal of educating employers about how to build disability inclusion into the ways they recruit and retain interns and entry-level hires across the ability spectrum. The event was offered free of charge to participants thanks to the generous support of the event’s lead sponsor, Ernst & Young LLP (EY), as well as additional support from J.P. Morgan Chase, SAP, UiPath and ServiceNow.

“At the center of driving transformation is the cultivation of an inclusive and empowering environment for all individuals,” said Hank Prybylski, Brand, Marketing & Communications Leader, Global Innovation at EY. “As EY Executive Sponsor for Disability and a proud Villanova parent, I’m thrilled to see Villanova leading the charge in disabilities inclusion, not just for the benefit of today’s students, but for the workforce of tomorrow.”

Caroline Casey, an internationally-recognized leader in disability inclusion and founder of The Valuable 500 and President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, gave the conference’s keynote address in which she spoke about the power of inclusion, the positive business impact that employees with disabilities create, and the importance of storytelling in advancing disability inclusion across teams and cultures.

The conference is already having an impact on students and employers alike.

“As a student, it made me more aware of current disability issues within the workplace,” said Rose Crist ’24 CLAS. “The experience has helped me realize how passionate I am about making our community more inclusive for those with disabilities. I hope through more opportunities like this, classes at Villanova and continuing to work with LEVEL, I am someday able to work in an environment that aids those with disabilities, as well as continue to educate others on disability inclusion.”

Rebecca Wuhl, Director, Talent Acquisition at Global Strategy Group (GSG) reflected on her experience at the event.

“After attending the conference, we decided to add accommodation language to our job postings as well as to emails to our candidates that are in the interview process,” Wuhl explained. “GSG has always been accommodating to hiring employees with disabilities, but we felt that publicizing the language would encourage those candidates who may not normally apply to a role to feel comfortable in doing so from the start.”

"The experience has helped me realize how passionate I am about making our community more inclusive for those with disabilities.”

Rose Crist ’24 CLAS