Professor DePoy Exemplifies UMaine’s Three-Part Mission

A review of Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” DePoy’s academic profile might give some the impression that she never sleeps.

DePoy, the April recipient of the Faculty Excellence Award, has accumulated a remarkable list of accomplishments relevant to UMaine’s mission of teaching, research, and public service. As a result, she is well regarded by students and colleagues on campus as well as by academics and practitioners throughout the country.

Her various titles underscore her dedication to her academic fields and interests:  UMaine professor of Interdisciplinary Disability Studies and Social Work. Cooperating faculty member of Mechanical Engineering and of the university’s School of Policy and International Affairs. Former faculty associate with UMaine’s Canadian-American Center. An equestrian. Co-founder of a company that develops assistive and protective equipment for individuals with mobility limitations. And more.

A member of the UMaine faculty since 1989, DePoy is highly respected as an innovative teacher, scholar, and real-life-problems solver. In fact, she was recognized for her efforts in 2007 when she received UMaine’s Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award, one of the university’s most prestigious faculty honors.

The integration of those roles is perhaps best exemplified by her co-development of AFARI, a fitness device that enables individuals with mobility limitations to walk and jog in challenging terrain. The device has a lightweight framework within which the user stands while holding arm-supporting handles similar to those found on a bicycle. The frame glides along on three wheels—one in front, two in the rear. DePoy and her husband, UMaine Professor Stephen Gilson, collaborated with UMaine Mechanical Engineering Professor Vince Caccese to design and produce it.

AFARI, which is now available for purchase through Mobility Technologies, was featured in “Access + Ability,” an exhibit of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.

“[It’s] pretty cool to have our work in the Smithsonian,” DePoy acknowledges.

DePoy is quick to note the value and relevance of collegial, interdisciplinary teaching and research to her work as a faculty member.

“One does not do scholarship in private, so my accomplishments are not just mine,” she explained. “They involve students, faculty, and the ideas of scholars who pen their works before and adjacent to mine.“

When not on campus, DePoy and her husband care for their seven horses and their adaptive farm. Her advice to students is to read and interact with ideas and people with diverse perspectives, stretch their imaginations, and enjoy the opportunity to learn.

Her faculty page can be found here

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.