34 UMaine Students Honored in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies Celebration of Achievement

In their virtual welcome to thirty-four University of Maine students being honored as part of the 2021 Interdisciplinary Disability Studies Celebration of Achievement, Professors Elizabeth DePoy and Stephen Gilson acknowledged the trials and tribulations of the year brought on by the pandemic and world events. “In such a contentious and unfamiliar climate, you nonetheless all have accomplished the completion of degrees and credentials at various levels of study.”

The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies is celebrating the academic achievements of these students in three online galleries of honorees: Minor in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies; Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies; and Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies. 

“Disability studies courses challenge our thinking about difference,” said Gilson.
“[Students] are asked to read/watch some dense and unfamiliar resources and consider ways of thinking about disability that are not widely held.”

Marybeth Colby is an elementary education major with a specialization in child development. “My perspective of disability has grown and evolved throughout the completion of my minor [in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies],” said Colby in an email. “I have come to comprehend the importance of the social model of disability and the variations of this from the medical model. IDS has shifted my perspective to ensure I investigate beyond the surface level disability. This assists my awareness of the needs of the individual while understanding the role that disjuncture plays in the individual’s disabilities.”

Christina Calabro is the executive director of an association that advocates for people with disabilities and their families in western Connecticut. She’s completed the Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies, a program in which individuals from a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds can study with students and professionals from other fields, to acquire specialized knowledge in disability theory, policy and research.

“The largest way the IDS courses have shaped my perspective of disability,” said Calabro in an email, “is when identifying situations, to determine which model of disability is being applied. I believe this has been an important step that I haven’t incorporated in my work as an advocate until I started taking these courses. While it may not necessarily change certain outcomes, it can assist with the larger picture at times.”

Cavenaugh Kelly, an Assistant Professor at Husson University’s School of Occupational Therapy, completed his Doctor of Philosophy with a concentration in Interdisciplinary Disability Studies. His dissertation examined the role of literary narrative in fostering empathy in health professional students. Given the health care climate and the significant positive outcomes of empathic care in a system that is often difficult to navigate, his work begins a critically necessary agenda in health educational reform.

In their closing comments to the honorees, DePoy and Gilson wrote, “Many of you came into the courses thinking about disability as a medical phenomenon, and have left with vastly different views. . . . You’ve acquired skills on which to build such that your own academic, professional, and personal lives are accessible to the widest range of people. We are honored by your work and presence in our lives and in our own learning.”

Photo credit: Congratulations image by HowLettery (istock.com). Standard license