As Student Body president Alejandrina Guzman entered the quiet auditorium, dimly lit in an orange glow, she saw her custom-made lectern for the first time.
Crafted in UT’s carpentry shop, the lectern, or podium, is modeled after the one used by President Gregory Fenves and former student body presidents during commencement ceremonies.
“My whole life, I’ve learned to just adapt, so I did not expect this,” said Guzman, who uses a wheelchair. “I know being inclusive is a standard, but the fact that you are all here, and you took the time to meet me and make this, is amazing.”
Doug Bolin, associate director for University Events, said the University got the idea for the lectern when faculty realized Guzman needed a custom-made piece to accommodate her as a physically differently-abled person. Although he needed to change the size of the lectern, Bolin said he wanted the style to match the original.
“We wanted to make sure that she had something that shows her as the president in the way that other presidents have been given that platform, literally,” Bolin said.
Bolin approached the supervisor of the carpentry shop, Armando Blanco, to draw up plans for the piece. Blanco made a plywood prototype in early October and met with Guzman weeks later to verify the measurements were correct. Blanco said it took him one week to craft the lectern for Guzman.
“This is the most meaningful thing I have done at UT,” Blanco said. “She deserves this. She is the president of the student (body) of a major university. How many people can actually say that?”
Guzman said she has used a music stand for past speeches and is touched by the determination of Blanco and others to accommodate her.
“That’s really powerful to me, to see that it’s beyond a job description,” Guzman said. “It’s what they wanted to do, and the fact that they took time to do this is really meaningful.”
When Guzman graduates, the University seal will be removed from the lectern and she can use it as a gift for further public speaking, Bolin said.
“I’m here, in this position, in this moment of time,” Guzman said. “But I know that when I have left UT, if there is another student who wants to do this kind of stuff and they also happen to be differently-abled physically, then they know it can be done for them too.”