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051210 emily lund
University of Montana undergraduate Emily Lund has a long list of academic achievements that go with her when she graduates with honors Saturday with majors in psychology and social work and a minor in biology. Lund, who was born with cerebral palsy, says she always wanted to show people she could do anything she set out to do. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

University of Montana student Emily Lund's academic resume is six pages long, with no fluff or repetition.

It details her research projects, volunteer work, internships, teaching and research assistant positions, thesis papers, scholarly publications, scholarships, honors and grant awards.

Oh, and the 22-year-old is only an undergraduate.

"Emily stands out among other intelligent, amazing, creative, energetic and engaged honors students for the range and depth of her research interests and projects," said Laure Pengelly Drake, director of external scholarships and advising at the Davidson Honors College.

Lund graduates this week with majors in psychology and social work and a minor in biology. Much of her research focuses on people with disabilities, especially people with sensory and physical disabilities.

If you ask why she's interested in the subject, Lund will go on and on about how the topic is under-researched and how it positioned her well for acceptance to graduate school. Not once, however, does she mention the fact that she may have a personal, as well as an academic, interest in the subject.

Lund was born with cerebral palsy, which affects the movement of her arms and legs and, to some degree, her speech. She gets around campus with the use of a walker. Her speech is clear to those willing to listen carefully. But unless asked, Lund doesn't talk about it. She expects people to pay attention to what she's saying, not to how she says it.

"Emily has helped everyone to see her first and foremost as a human being and not someone with a disability," Drake said.

***

One of several research posters Lund submitted to the UM Conference on Undergraduate Research won first place in the social sciences division.

She often carries a 21-credit class load, and has even tried to convince her advisers to let her take 25 credits some semesters. She argued she has many academic interests.

Often, Lund has been involved in multiple research projects simultaneously.

"As an undergraduate, her work resembles more of a graduate student and she hasn't even gotten there yet," said Rosemary Hughes, a senior research scientist at the UM Rural Institute on Disabilities. "Her writing is on par with professional writers and researchers. She's one of the students who really has a dedication that exceeds my expectations."

Lund's academic success has not come without its challenges.

In high school, Lund studied Japanese and spoke proficiently. At the Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest, Lund placed among the top three contestants two years in a row.

She had hoped to continue her studies of the Japanese language at UM, "but the department wasn't open to having me," she said. "My handwriting wasn't good enough by the department's standards" to write the Japanese language.

Then Lund declared biology as her major, with intentions of applying to pharmacy school. It wasn't long before she realized that she could not perform all the physical requirements of a pharmacist.

Coping with those realities was not easy.

"Generally, if you tell me I can't do something, I find a way around you," she said.

Learning aikido is a perfect example. Growing up, Lund figured out ways to perform the martial art despite her limited mobility. She also skis and rides horseback.

Lund is a Delta Gamma, though she wasn't able to live in the sorority house. It wasn't accessible, but she cherishes the many friends she made.

"I fell in love with the people in the house," she said. "It was good to have a consistent group of friends."

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Looking back, Lund is happy with the direction her academic career has taken. She enjoys studying disability issues and wants to eventually become a practicing psychologist who also does research.

Lund wrote two undergraduate thesis papers in the past couple of years. The most recent one stemmed from a personal curiosity. She studied whether college students' exposure to people with disabilities while growing up affected their attitudes toward people with disabilities now.

"I wanted to know if I may have impacted my friends," she said. "I answered a personal question scientifically."

There's much still to learn in the field of disabilities, and Lund is excited to begin the next chapter of her academic career. She has been accepted into a doctoral psychology program at Texas A&M. Through her research, she looks forward to making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

When asked if she sees herself as a role model for other people with disabilities, Lund shakes her head no.

"I always wanted to show people I could do anything, and I set out to do anything," she said.

"I hope to influence others whether I have a disability or not. I hope to influence all people."

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

 

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