I have enjoyed working with people with intellectual disabilities ever since college when I was College Buddy Director of Colby's chapter of Best Buddies. The emphasis on facilitating peer-relationships made an indelible impact on how I approach research and is part of what led me to pursue Disability Studies. Correspondingly, Disability Studies has informed how I approach intellectual disability in theory, method, and practice. Here I could list buzz words such as self-determination, person-centered, and empowerment, but at the heart of these issues is the concept of voice. People with intellectual disabilities have historically had their voices neglected, silenced, oppressed, and suppressed within a society that systemically segregated and disenfranchised them. For this reason, it is essential that researchers and scholars facilitate the inclusion and recognition of these voices so that when decisions are made about best practices and policy, they can be informed by the experiences and perspectives of people who those decisions will affect.
EMPLOYMENT & SOCIAL POLICY
Disability is at the heart of many issues in employment and social policy. Issues, such as poverty and unemployment, fall disproportionately on people with disabilities. Recently I have been doing a lot of work in this area, which stems from an increasing interest in citizenship theory. This includes work on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship (below) as well as in the area of employment and underemployment more generally. Such work requires an understanding of the service system and contemporary advancements in policy, such as the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Employment First policy and legislation, the Ligas Decision, and the ABLE Act. It also involves a critical understanding of how these advancements affect the every day lives of people with disabilities and their families. In particular, recognizing the potential for both services and policy to act as a either facilitating factor or to impose systemic barriers.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP/ SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The daughter of an intellectual property lawyer, I have been around inventors and entrepreneurs my entire life. I understand the importance of not simply having a good idea, but also being able to develop that idea into a viable business. Entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship have potential to serve as a vehicle not only for empowerment and self-sufficiency, but also for people with disabilities to respond to the needs and problems they encounter in their communities.
I have had the opportunity to work on research that bridges the fields of Disability Studies and Entrepreneurship with regards to theory, policy, and practice (PTI). This project explored the experiences of people with disabilities and barriers they encounter in pursuing social entrepreneurship, while my dissertation focused on how people with intellectual disabilities are participating and supported in social entrepreneurship.
Currently, I am working on the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CEED) project, which builds upon this previous research to provide access to entrepreneurship education and training for people with disabilities and service provider staff in both Small Business Development Centers and disability community agencies.
Dyadic interviewing is an interdependent methodology, informed by Critical Disability Studies, which involves interviewing the individual with intellectual disability and the person they identify as their key support. I developed this technique for conducting in-depth interviews with people who would be considered as having mild to moderate intellectual disability. Read more ...
MIXED METHODS RESEARCH
Quantitative and qualitative methodologies have such potential to provide complementary and supplementary information. However, which methods to use, to what extent, and in what combination depends wholly upon their appropriateness to the research question at hand. In this way, research design is a subtle but vital artform.
Through working as Staff Assistant for the Institute for Mental Health Initiatives (IMHI), I amassed considerable experience with event planning and project management that has served me well as project coordinator, editorial coordinator, and in grant-writing. With five years combined experience in project management, I know how to balance research with administrative tasks and have a great deal of respect for the importance of organization, preparation, systematic record-keeping, and accountability. When I manage projects I always try to address immediate needs, but also to anticipate and prepare for the next steps and to consider the long-term needs.
JOURNAL & PEER REVIEW
For two and a half years I worked as editorial coordinator for the AAIDD journal, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This was a wonderful experience that provided an invaluable opportunity to learn more about academic publishing, about the peer-review and editorial process, to gain an appreciation for the scope of research being done in the field, and to connect with scholars doing intellectual disability research internationally. I have also had the honor of serving as a reviewer for the Qualitative Research journal, the Journal of Homosexuality, and the Society for Disability Studies annual conference.
During the course of my Master's program at the University of Chicago I studied autonomy and medical paternalism as well as how the process of medicalization affects healthcare interactions and the healthcare disparities facing people with disabilities. For my Masters' thesis I analyzed data collected through interviews with parents who had children with severe intellectual disability, who were non-verbal and non-ambulatory, as they were being discharged from the hospital.