UC Santa Barbara recognized a campus chapter of Delta Alpha Pi — an academic honor society for students with disabilities — on May 1. 

Delta Alpha Pi (DAPi) is a national organization dedicated to recognizing high academic achieving university students who identify as having a disability. The UCSB chapter is being funded through the Disabled Students Program (DSP) R.I.S.E. grant, according to DAPi co-adviser and DSP disability specialist Mark Grosch.

DAPi recognizes high academic achieving university students with disabilities. Courtesy of DAPi Honor Society

Students do not have to be registered with DSP to join. The organization is open to all students who meet the grade point average requirement of 3.1 and identify as having a disability of any kind. Documentation is not required to apply.

Fourth-year physics major and DAPi president Emmeline Sears initially learned about the organization through DSP. 

She said she became interested in joining the UCSB chapter because she was familiar with the obstacles in applying for classroom accommodations on campus and wanted to advocate for more campus accessibility for community members with disabilities.

“I’ve had a lot of experience navigating through not only applying for accommodations, but also working on integrating those into curriculums and finding ways in which DSP accommodations can be used in the classroom,” Sears said. 

“Once I heard about [DAPi], and I heard its mission for promoting both activism and disability awareness alongside academics, I knew it was gonna be a great fit for UCSB,” she continued.

As a new campus entity, Sears said the current goal of the organization is to build a community through hosting workshops, providing resources and holding social events. 

“It’s very important to maintain a sense of community not just as an organization, but also as a disabled individual because it’s something that can be rather isolating, especially if you’re one of the few physically disabled individuals in your class and you don’t know any other disabled individuals,” Sears said.

Second-year chemistry major and DAPi Vice President Coleman Forth added that the organization also hopes to connect members to academic and professional resources like scholarships and networking opportunities.

“One of the issues [in the campus community] is access. DAPi aims to provide extra opportunities to people with disabilities,” he said. “It can be hard to find good opportunities, so to filter them out and show people with disabilities what they can do is really important.”

Forth said communities like the DAPi honor society are important because they celebrate the achievements of those with disabilities with other students who understand the efforts it may have taken to meet those academic goals.

“Having other students with the same experience of putting in extra work and working around or working with your disability, and getting recognized for putting in that extra effort that a lot of other students don’t necessarily have to put in, and then still reaching your academic goals — I think that’s super important,” he said.

Sears added that as an honor society, DAPi also helps highlight achievements despite adversity for its members who come from a disadvantaged community. 

“It highlights that these students have been working hard and have been succeeding due to their efforts. That’s something that we as a university community should be very proud of,” Sears said. “Simultaneously, it’s highlighting a marginalized or typically disadvantaged group who has been fulfilling that excellence.”

Sears said that they aim to make membership more accessible for those who are interested in joining but may not meet either the national GPA requirement of 3.1 or the general UCSB requirement of 3.75 for other honor societies by allowing applicants to submit a supplementary letter to explain their circumstances.

“Yes, there is a GPA cut off, but we aren’t trying to exclude you. We want to include you and we want to help reach a point where you’re proud of yourself. We want everybody to succeed at UCSB,” she said. “We understand that everybody’s journey is different through UCSB, and also through your disability journey, so we strive to be as understanding and as open as possible.”

There are plans to hold an end-of-the-year ceremony for interested members to join, to learn more about the organization, and to honor graduating students who identify with disabilities and meet the organization’s requirements. Sears said they also plan on holding virtual events throughout the summer. 

“We’re hoping to not only support each other academically in the pursuit of academic excellence, but to establish connections between our members and individuals from the community,” she said. 

Sears hopes the honors society will provide a space for individuals to find pride in their identity and foster a sense of belonging on campus.

“Disabled is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a fact of existing, and there will always be disabled individuals,” she continued. “We want to help our members establish footholds in both the disabled and just the campus community, and to help them feel like they really belong at UCSB.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the May 25, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.