Kelsey Chapman returns to campus for Young Alumni Series presentation

By Emma Reilly


The Dignity Project — a research and citizen science initiative headed by Griffith University’s Hopkins Centre Ambassador Council in collaboration with Menzies Health Institute and Metro South Health in Queensland, Australia — is a wide-reaching effort to better understand what dignity means to people with disabilities.

Dignity Project Research Lead and Researcher Kelsey Chapman ’12 spoke to Washington College students on Nov. 2 as a part of The Louis L. Goldstein ’35 Program in Public Affairs’ Young Alumni Series. “The Dignity Project: Human Rights and Dignity at the Intersection of Disability” took place at 5:30 p.m. in Litrenta Lecture Hall.

Chapman was introduced by Chair of the Political Science Department and Professor of Political Science and International Studies Dr. Christine Wade. Dr. Wade is also curator of the Goldstein Program of Public Affairs and Chapman’s former senior capstone advisor.

According to Dr. Wade, Chapman majored in political science and minored in English as an undergraduate.

Now, Chapman “specializes in human rights research, disability research and rights, critical disability theory, and dignity theory,” Dr. Wade said.

Chapman spoke about The Dignity Project’s goals and presented her team’s research methods and findings before turning to the audience for questions.

“Our mission is to embed dignity into the way we build things, treat people, and the way we work to disrupt…the status quo for the one billion plus people living with disability globally,” Chapman said.

According to Chapman, The Dignity Project seeks to center voices of lived experience above all else. As a part of the project, researchers collect stories from people with disabilities in order to craft a working definition of dignity.

During the presentation, Chapman asked audience members to share what dignity means to them.

“[Dignity] is one of those things that I don’t feel comfortable ending with punctuation. It’s ever-evolving; it’s individualistic…certainly it’s an opportunity for us as a community to investigate what our shared values are. It has to be a larger conversation we revisit on a frequent basis,” Research and Instruction Librarian in Science and Mathematics Alex Baker said.

The importance of community-driven conversations — like that which Baker mentioned — was elaborated on by Chapman, who explained that the research her team conducts is heavily reliant on the participation and engagement of individuals from the local and online community.

Chapman’s presentation emphasized the fact that people should have an interest in the Dignity Project’s findings, since they have the potential to impact anyone and everyone.

“Disability is the world’s largest minority and it is the only minority you can join at any time in your life. So it’s not just a ‘them’ problem anymore…it could be a real part of your future,” Chapman said.

Chapman, who is now deeply involved with research and critical theories surrounding dignity as it relates to disability, did not necessarily foresee herself becoming involved in activism.

“It has not been a clear trajectory. For a while, I just said yes to everything,” Chapman said.

According to Chapman, she hopes current WC students remember to take advantage of the opportunities life presents them with.

Junior Mackenzie Boughey was drawn to the talk as a political science and sociology major also interested in pursuing research in the future.

“I was recently diagnosed with narcolepsy,” Boughey said. “So it was cool to learn about how to become a better advocate for others, myself, and whoever may need it because it’s all about leveling the playing field.”

For more information on The Dignity Project, visit

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