Elise McMillan and Gov. Bill Haslam receive 2017 Freedom Awards (TN UCEDD, LEND, IDDRC)

December 14, 2017

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD, LEND, IDDRC) UCEDD co-director Elise McMillan and TN Governor Bill Haslam were both honored with the 2017 Freedom Award from Disability Rights Tennessee (TN Protection and Advocacy). The Freedom Award honors Tennesseans who through their leadership have advanced the rights of people with disabilities.

The awards were given during the Fourth Annual Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon. The annual event brings together almost 300 business, nonprofit, government, and community leaders to network and learn how to create and strengthen diverse and inclusive workplaces.

"It is an honor to present Freedom Awards to this year's honorees," said Lisa Primm, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) executive director. "Elise is one of the most prestigious disability rights advocates in our state. Her contributions to DRT and this community are numerous, and they all embody her commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. Elise's leadership also reflects this principle, connecting and bringing stakeholders together from every direction."

McMillan has dedicated more than twenty years to advocacy excellence in promoting inclusion of people with disabilities. She serves as co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and is an outgoing board member at DRT. McMillan has led local, state, and national programs and coalitions to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, among them Next Steps at Vanderbilt and TennesseeWorks. McMillan also serves as Board President of The Arc US.

In July 2013, Governor Haslam signed Executive Order 28, which created the Employment First Taskforce to identify barriers and to recommend strategies to increase employment for Tennesseans with disabilities. His leadership has been pivotal in the success of public-private partnerships that spurred various initiatives including the creation of the Employment and Community First CHOICES program.

"Through their leadership, both Governor Haslam and Elise have brought together multiple private agencies and State departments that had been working for years to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. It's amazing what vision and collaboration can accomplish," said Primm.