Meet Denise Decker: Senior Program Analyst for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation ServiceFebruary 06, 2009
I am always in awe of people who not only face adversity, but who, through their adversity, create something larger than themselves. This is the case of Denise Decker, a 1975-76 American Fellow, who has been blind since birth and who sees public service as a way to give back to the many family, friends, co-workers, and mentors who provided support and assistance to her throughout her life.
Currently, Denise is a senior program analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, where her duties include leading the Farm Bill public comments team and translating conservation guidance from English to Spanish. Denise was also recently appointed to the Washington, D.C., Commission on People with Disabilities, an appointment to which she brings extensive knowledge about the use of technologies such as Braille printers and touch-screen-refresh Braille that works with Excel and other programs to help people with visual and other disabilities.
Denise applied for the commission after advocating for a D.C. Office of Disability Rights for several years after an incident involving two police officers who refused to assist Denise out of fear of her seeing eye dog. Looking ahead to the future, Denise plans to participate in her agency’s National Leadership Program, continue using her foreign language skills in French and Spanish, and write and publish on behalf of people with disabilities.
The American Fellowship Denise received allowed her to complete her doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris in the mid-1970s. “The AAUW fellowship helped me develop strong skills in leadership and management as well as lots of good experience in research, writing, and analysis,” said Denise. After completing her degree, Denise went on to serve as an AAUW People to People delegate to the former Soviet Union and as an AAUW diversity trainer and diversity coordinator. Additionally, she has held various officer positions within our organization, including one on the AAUW Board of Directors. Currently, Denise is membership co-vice president for the AAUW Arlington (VA) Branch.
Denise began her career with the federal government around the time she joined AAUW. In the 1980s, Denise worked for USAID as a disaster assistance officer helping organizations like Partners of the Americas in providing disaster training. Several years later, Denise was awarded an international fellowship with POA for which she wrote and implemented a workshop to teach independent living skills to people with disabilities living in Brasilia, Brazil. Denise worked with 25 Brazilian trainers from eight different service organizations who then went on to use the workshop to train hundreds of Brazilians with disabilities to live independent lives. POA used Denise’s workshop in eight other Latin American countries and later gave Denise a Program Development Award. Having both national and international experience as a speaker and workshop facilitator, Denise has been called a “developer of leaders.”
The common thread throughout all of Denise’s many accomplishments is the way she is continually working to help others live more independently or training those in leadership positions to be more aware of the contributions people with disabilities can make to society. She has found the inner strength to enable those around her to better themselves and others.