Advancing Inclusion and Health

“Golisano Training Center is another important step forward”

by Marisa E. Geitner ‘92, ‘95G

interior rendering of the Golisano Academic Center

Since graduating from Nazareth — first in 1992 with a degree in education, and again in 1995 with a master’s in education speech and language pathology — I’ve spent my career serving people, all people, including those with disabilities. I entered the field as a direct support worker, then became a speech language pathologist, and now have the honor of serving as president and C.E.O. at Heritage Christian Services.

In my years of service, I’ve seen the impressive difference education and relationship can make to health, wellbeing, and community. Nazareth’s new Golisano Training Center is another important step forward, not just because it will provide excellent facilities for athletes, but also because it serves as an illustration of the next great move toward inclusion.

Make no mistake: this is more than bricks and mortar. It is more than a facility to promote the fitness and wellness of Nazareth students and provide first-class indoor track and field facilities for intercollegiate athletics. It is more than a place to educate the health professionals of tomorrow. The Center couples a world-class education with tremendous community impact. It provides a new foundation, a new welcome, for a community where we are all valued and where we all belong.

In partnership with Special Olympics and the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, the training center will create opportunities for Nazareth to actively promote a Healthy Communities effort: to improve the health status of people with disabilities.

This experiential learning opportunity will complement many areas of study offered at Nazareth. Nursing majors and allied health program participants will have a state-of-the-art facility in which to learn about the powerful result of interdisciplinary work. They will examine and reduce healthcare and wellness disparities among those with and without intellectual, physical, and emotional disabilities. Bridging these disparities is key to achieving better health outcomes.

By offering this elite training center as a resource both for students and for Special Olympians, Nazareth once again demonstrates its commitment to community and belonging by standing against ableism and being a voice of influence alongside those living with disability.

We can no longer remain stalled in welcoming those different than ourselves to be near, it is time we welcome all to be with. It is time to offer opportunities that allow choice, promote respect and welcome the contribution of all. Much of this powerful outcome starts with simply sharing common places. That means being with one another, not just near to one another, and getting closer to those who seem different from us. Prior to the Center’s groundbreaking ceremony, Tim Shriver, chair of the International Board of Directors for Special Olympics, observed that no one is better positioned to lead our country through the healing outcome of inclusion than those with disabilities, those who themselves have felt the enormous pain of exclusion. The new Center will allow the Nazareth community to access and amplify that resource.

As an alumna, a parent of a current Nazareth athlete, and a professional whose life work embraces inclusion and equality, I am grateful to Nazareth and thrilled about what is happening through the Golisano Training Center.

Geitner is president & CEO, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.