For the past several months, 21-year-old Devon Adelman has served as an ambassador for Special Olympics, and she won a gold medal in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in stand up paddleboard. “As an ambassador I love to talk about Special Olympics. I encourage people to reach for the sky and believe you can get there,” Devon explained. “The sky’s the limit.”
Devon, an office/lab aide, shares her positive attitude with her co-workers at Universal Cells in her hometown of Seattle. In February Astellas Pharma Inc. announced it had acquired the company to become, as Universal Cells CEO Claudia Mitchell described it, “…an intrinsic part of Astellas’ effort to fulfill the promises of regenerative medicine to treat diseases.”
Devon has been advocating for people with Down syndrome for several years. At age 18 she delivered the 2015 keynote address to the United Nations on World Down Syndrome Day (click here to watch Devon and her parents’ presentation). Later Devon visited the White House, where she met First Lady Michelle Obama and heard President Obama deliver remarks.
In his address to the U.N., Devon’s father, Sean Adelman, M.D., said, “Inclusion is a two-way street, and we all benefit from learning about diversity. Being different is not a disability!”
Colleagues throughout Astellas and Universal Cells strongly agree with Dr. Adelman.
“Inclusion and acceptance for each person’s unique abilities is a key cornerstone to how we work together and how we have built our company,” said Claudia Mitchell. “Devon has been a great inspiration to the entire Universal Cells team and a reminder that people shouldn’t be constrained by what could initially be seen as limiting factors. While we lean on her for her endless enthusiasm and good nature, she also teaches us all to push our boundaries, to exceed expectations. We hope more differently abled people can find fulfilling employment.”
Diversity recognizes all of the ways that make a person unique. Inclusion takes all that makes Astellas employees unique and harnesses those diverse qualities in a way that contributes to the success of the company.
Astellas’ employee resource group known as LEAD (Leadership, Education and Allies for Disabilities) embodies the company’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion. Through advocacy, education and volunteerism, LEAD members strive to create and sustain a strong support network and culture of empathy towards those with different abilities within the company.
“For Astellas to progress and achieve our business goals, we must engage in a culture that thoughtfully includes diversity of gender, ethnicity, color, thought and abilities,” said Collette Taylor, senior vice president, Human Resources and Facilities Management. “It is an honor and a privilege for us to have Devon as a member of the extended Astellas family.”
Devon, Claudia and Collette share similar perspectives. “We all have different skills and viewpoints that are important in building a company and a better future,” Devon said. “When companies hire people with challenges, it helps them become more than they or others might think is possible. I think companies get super-loyal and interested employees. And co-workers get to learn from each other and respect each other’s needs.”
The world continues to learn about Devon, the lover of science, the advocate, the competitive athlete and the valued colleague. Click here to see a recent profile of Devon produced by the Seattle Channel.