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Past Disability Studies Graduates

2015

Bethany Jones headshot

Bethany Anne Jones

  • May 2015 Graduate – Speech Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Attending master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology

Bethany Jones fell in love with the way her Gender and Disability course took a critical look and approach to the world. After taking this course she immediately declared the disability studies minor.

Jones did her practicum with the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (WGCDD in Cheyenne. There she analyzed data of DD councils across the nation and compared them to Wyoming’s.  She said it helped her discover ways each state works to move forward with people’s rights. It shaped her as an activist and has effected the way she understands herself in a professional context of Speech-Language Pathology. 

Brooke Mason headshot

Brooke Mason

  • May 2015 Graduate - Communication Disorders
  • Attending the University of Wyoming for Masters in Speech Language Pathology

Brooke Mason did her practicum at Head Star during her senior year. She worked with several children with disabilities, including one with a severe speech impairment. She said, “My practicum solidified my desire to work with children. I am now comfortable working with children with disabilities; I found that it was easy for me to build relationships with them.”

Mason is excited to begin the master’s program in Speech Language Pathology so that in the future she will be able to dedicate herself to helping improve individual’s communication. 

Jessica Gran headshot

Jessica Gran

  • December 2014 Graduate – Elementary Education
  • Attending the University of Wyoming for the Counselor Education program

Jessica Gran was initially interested in the minor because of her extensive work with Special Olympics. She said, “I wanted to provide my most efficient, effective and beneficial education for all my students.”

Gran did her practicum at the Developmental Preschool and Daycare. There she learned a lot about IEP’s and IFSP’s, structured play, and learning activities. She explained, “I learned how to productively work with various professionals within the Special Education field along with multiple therapists. I constantly apply what I learned through this practicum and within the minor in my classroom.”

The minor solidified Gran’s decision to be an elementary school teacher and counselor. She is continuing to work as lead teacher at the Developmental Preschool and Daycare. 

Kat Darden headshot

Kat Darden

  • December 2014 Graduate – Dance Science
  • Working full time at a day program for individuals with disabilities and teaching dance to children with down syndrome

Kat Darden fell in love with working with individuals with disabilities as soon as she graduated high school. She was so excited when she heard about UW’s disabilities studies minor program because of how it would allow her to increase her knowledge about disabilities.

Darden did her practicum at the Cathedral Home during the fall of 2014. She worked in two special education classrooms. During this experience she learned a lot about working in an education setting, which was different than the day programs she had previously worked for. It increased her awareness of stigmas and reminded her of how important relationships are. It took a while for the students to open up to her, but by the end she had established great relationships with the students. The minor further supported her plans for considering working in an educational environment. 

Nicole Finnesand headhsot

Nicole Finnesand

  • May 2015 Graduate – Communication
  • Moving to California to work for Golden West Swim Team as a coach

Nicole Finnesand knows she is a hands-on learner, therefore, she wanted to begin getting experience as soon as possible. She began teaching swim lessons to visually impaired boy while still in school. She said, “He talks about swimming all the time and loves the water, it is because of the smile on his face that makes me love what I do and want to offer that to more young children.” This is also what led her to her plans to bring swim lessons to children with disabilities after graduation.

Finnesand did her practicum experience at the Cathedral Home in fall of 2014. There she was a teacher aid and even taught a few classes. She learned a lot about relationships during her experience. She also learned that sometimes disabilities are not visible, like we think. Sometimes they can be really well hidden and is a reason why building relationships is so important. 

Hannah Young headshot

Hannah Young

  • May 2015 Graduate - Speech Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Attending Pennsylvania State University for Speech Language Pathology

Hannah Young became interested in the disability students minor after taking the Introduction to Disability Studies course.. Through her work in Special Olympics and Challenge Rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days, and just a general passion for people, she saw the importance of this component to a degree in Speech Language Pathology.

Young did her practicum at the Cooper Center for Creative Arts in spring of 2014. There she helped facilitate and planned classes, but said the most important part of her job was, “building relationships.  I realized a disability does not define people, but instead their strengths and personality define them.” This experience also helped Young also realized her passion for working with adults with complex disabilities and those using augmentative and alternative communication (ACC), which what led her to Penn State’s program with a ACC Traineeship. 

Young said, “[the Disability Studies minor] is a great program. I wish all speech pathology majors were required to take it, but it is also beneficial to anyone who is working with people.” 



2014

Rachael KnoxRachel Knox Headshot

2014 Graduate-Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Attending graduate school for Occupational Therapy at Creighton University

For her Disability Studies practicum experience, Rachel Knox shadowed two occupational therapists in Albany County School District. Here, Knox learned the value of a long-term one-on-one relationship with the families she served.

“I learned a lot about advocacy and the ethical sides of cultural acceptance,” said Knox.  “The minor reinforced treating the students with dignity and respect.”

Knox’s interest in pediatric disability and brain injury grew throughout the minor and her practicum, experience. She plans to attend Creighton University of Occupational Therapy.


Bethany Materi headshotBethany Materi

2015 Graduate-Elementary Education

Plans to teach in Wyoming

Bethany Materi learned the value of a disability studies perspective while working in the classroom at the UW Lab School. An elementary education major, Materi’s practicum experience had her working closely with students with disabilities and thinking about inclusion.

“I originally wanted to be in special education, but now I want to stay in general education. I can bring those principles to a general classroom and help more students,” said Materi. “The disability studies background is so important for inclusion in the classroom because caring about students can make all the difference in the world.”

Upon graduation, Materi plans to teach in Wyoming, hopefully in Gillette.


Dannika West HeadshotDannika West2014

Graduate-Kinesiology


Attending graduate school for physical therapy at University of St. Mary

Dannika West knew she wanted to be a physical therapist.  Since she was 10 years old, West watched her cousin, who has cerebral palsy, receive physical therapy services. The minor and her practicum experience in a classroom setting showed West that there is no single approach to helping students with disabilities be successful.

“You can’t make the student fit the environment, but you make the environment fit the student,” said West. “The knowledge the minor gave me, like the concepts of normalcy and misfitting, are now the background of my personal and professional perspectives.” 


Carolyn WallaceCarolyn Wallace

2014 Graduate-Speech Language Pathology

Occupational Therapy school

Carolyn Wallace explored several unique therapeutic approaches with her Disability Studies Minor practicum—hippotherapy with the Ark in Laramie and occupational therapy at the Laramie Care Center and Hospital.

“In all my settings, it was nice to see everyone work as a team. People stood up for their patients, and others really paid attention to their recommendations for the safety of the patients,” said Wallace. “I was happy I took many classes in the minor before my practicum so I could apply those theories to real life.”


April Streff photo

April Streff

2014 Graduate-Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education

Plans to teach

April Streff saw one of WIND’s disability infusion units in a class where the presenter mentioned the Minor in Disability Studies. “I was interested in diverse students and learning more about their lives to become more accommodating in my own classroom. The minor was complementary to what I was already learning,” said Streff.

In the minor, Streff completed her practicum at the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie. “The Cathedral Home taught me a lot about inclusion in the classroom by being more integrated than a regular public school. I also learned about the emotional support side of teaching. For many kids, therapy is first, and school is second. I got better at listening and comforting students, and I learned about being accommodating in my own classroom.”


Meghan Hill photo

Meghan Hill

  • 2014 Graduate-Elementary Education
  • Plans to pursue a Special Education Master’s at UW

Meghan Hill found out about the Disability Studies Minor before beginning her first class at UW at freshman orientation. Hill came to UW with a strong interest in disability; her dad was a special education teacher and she had experience working with people with disabilities in high school. The minor allowed Hill to continue exploration into disability studies.

During Hill’s practicum at the UW Lab School, she was an aid to a student with a disability. She was able to take part in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and learn about the accommodations and process for providing supports for students with disabilities. “The UW Lab School is a great environment and very open to disability. They work hard to help dispel stereotypes. Students with disabilities are not treated differently, and I learned how to work with accommodations.”


Whitney Reese PhotoWhitney Reese

2014 Graduate-Elementary Education

Teaching at preschool with plans to apply for a sign language program in Colorado

Whitney Reese discovered the Minor in Disability Studies while taking WIND’s Gender and Disability course.  The course resonated with Reese, so she signed up for Introduction to Disability Studies and the Minor.  As an elementary education major, Reese could see the impact of her studies to the real world during her practicum experience at the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie. In the classroom, Reese noted, “Everyone is not that different and bad behavior does not equal bad kids. I learned the importance of team building with peers and teachers. These strategies should be in every school.”


Kelsie Edwards headshotKelsie Edwards

2014 graduate-Speech Language Pathology

Attending graduate school for rehabilitation counseling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kelsie Edwards decided to change her major to Speech Language Pathology and to add the Disability Studies Minor after Dr. Jarman spoke in her Introduction to Health Sciences course. The talk sparked an interest in disability she never considered. “I didn’t realize all of the stigmas that people with disabilities face, and it opened my eyes to issues I had never seen before,” said Edwards.

Because of the minor, Edwards has fully embraced disability work as a future career path. Currently, Edwards is completing her practicum at Wyoming Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities, where she does writing, including an article in WyAbility, researches current disability issues, and helps organize workshops for self-advocates.

“During my practicum I learned it is possible to make a change, and it was nice to see the knowledge from my classes applied.”

Edwards plans to pursue a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling with hopes of working with transitioning high school students.


2013

Sean Miller photo

Sean Miller

2013 Graduate-Gender and Women’s Studies

Plans to fulfill ten months of service with City Year and then graduate school for Education, Social Work, or Counseling

Sean Miller knew the Minor in Disability Studies was a perfect fit after signing up for the course Gender and Disability Studies. “The readings Michelle gave us were making connections not only to my personal life but also to my academic life,” said Miller. “While I was enrolled in the course I decided to become a minor added to my Gender and Women's Studies major. During my entire time at UW, they both have really complemented each other. It was the perfect fit.”

Miller did his practicum at the UW Lab School. The practicum experience was so influential, Miller completely changed his future plans. He said, “I was originally planning on attending graduate school to receive an MA in Gender and Women's Studies. However being in the Lab School every day changed my career plans to City Year and to go into an education career. When I told Michelle, she was not at all surprised that I was following this path. I am now excited for my new plans to be a future education staff member, and I that hope to use inclusion and social justice in my career.”


Ashley Eller

  • 2013 Graduate-Speech Language Pathology
  • Attending graduate school in Speech Language Pathology in Boise, Idaho

Ashley Eller’s major in speech language pathology led her to taking classes in disability studies. “I took class as an elective, and I really enjoyed it. It fit so well, so I just kept taking classes!” For her practicum experience, Eller worked at Spring Wind, an adult care center in Laramie in the Memory Care Unit. “I shadowed many occupational and physically therapists and even took part in come evaluations. At first, I felt uncomfortable in the Memory Care Unit, but I learned that everyone is really the same, and I grew to love working there. As a speech language pathologist, your relationship and trust between you and the client is huge,” said Eller.

As a result of her practicum, Eller developed an interest in dementia and dementia care.


2012

Jordan Purdy headshot

Jordan Purdy

2012 graduate

Attending The University of Nebraska Kearney for graduate studies in speech language pathology

Jordan Purdy saw Introduction to Disabilities Studies in the class registration booklet while looking for a diversity credit and immediately wanted to sign up for the course. Her advisor recommended that she focus on other areas instead. However, Purdy decided to take the intro course anyway—and she believes it was one of the best choices she made in her undergraduate coursework in speech pathology.

“I was immediately interested taking the course because I have two siblings with disabilities. Also, as a speech pathology student, I saw disability from a medical standpoint. The minor introduced me to more views, aspects, laws, and a wider look at the field,” said Purdy.

After the taking the intro course, Purdy enrolled in the full minor, which requires a practicum experience. Purdy’s practicum was at the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie, Wyoming where she helped teach science to the special education class. The experience, she said, was great for learning to work with adolescents and younger children.

“The minor is great. The stories you hear in Michelle’s classes really change people’s attitudes. Lots of people sign up for the course to earn a diversity credit, and most end up surprised with everything they learn. The minor helped change my point of view and learn how large disability culture is. I feel as if now I can be a better advocate for my family and my future clients,” concluded Purdy.


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