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Team Accolades: Spring 2024

By May 16, 2024No Comments


A celebration of the impact and accomplishment of our Student Fellows, Faculty Cadre, and Leadership Team in Spring 2024.

A square composed of nine squares, with a National Disability Center for Student Success logo in the center square, surrounded by 8 squares of headshots of 8 people (3 men and 5 women) of various races, ethnicities, and ages.

From top left to right: Jen Moon, Denisa Gándara, Desirée Lama, Ryan Mata, North Cooc, Earl Huff Jr., Alison Kafer, and Stephanie Cawthon.

The National Disability Center’s Leadership Team, Student Fellows, and Faculty Cadre have received a number of awards, acknowledgements, and honors in the past six months — reflecting their impact and accomplishment in their respective fields and among their peers. 

Jen Moon Inducted Into Academy of Distinguished Teachers

On January 12, Faculty Cadre member Dr. Jen Moon was inducted into The University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers, the only system-wide academy of its kind in the U.S. Founded to reflect a deep commitment to providing high-quality, comprehensive learning experiences for all students, the Academy is composed of a diverse group of talented scholars with sustained distinction as teachers and mentors. Dr. Moon is a Professor of Instruction in the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin. She has received several teaching awards such as the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the Natural Science Council Faculty Service Award. 

Denisa Gándara Achieves Promotion with Tenure

In March, Faculty Cadre member Dr. Denisa Gándara was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at the College of Education, recognizing her commitment  to making an impact in her field, conducting world-class research, and providing exceptional teaching and learning opportunities for students. Dr. Gándara studies higher education finance and policy, with a focus on equity in policymaking processes and the effects of policies. 

Desirée Lama Appointed Columnist at MS News Today

Student Fellow Desirée Lama was appointed a national columnist for Multiple Sclerosis News Today in March. In her column, Authentically Human by Desirée Lama, she shares personal stories of being a disabled, bisexual Mexican woman in an overcritical world and hopes the column will capture the “burdensome feelings of human existence,” especially for those with MS. A doctoral student in Educational Psychology, Desirée was spotlighted by the Center in April.

Ryan Mata Receives Doctoral Fellowship

In April, Leadership Team member Ryan Mata, MA, Coordinator of Student Partnerships, was awarded a Graduate School Continuing Fellowship in recognition of his major accomplishments and well-defined program of research. Selected by a faculty review committee, fellowship recipients must be nominated by their graduate advisor and provide several letters of recommendation. Currently, Ryan is pursuing his doctorate in Educational Psychology at the College of Education. 

North Cooc Receives Research Grant

Faculty Cadre member Dr. North Cooc, Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education at the College of Education, and Dr. Grace MyHyun Kim, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, recently received a research grant for their study, “Addressing the (In)Visibility of Asian American Teachers: Racial Identity and Cross-Generational Support.” Awarded by the Spencer Foundation, the grant will fund research toward supporting the recruitment and retention of Asian American teachers in K-12 education. Dr. Cooc’s focus is on how background, family and culture can influence decisions and trajectories in special education.   

Earl Huff Celebrates TexCEP Scholars with Presentation

On April 23, Faculty Cadre member Dr. Earl Huff joined his fellow faculty affiliate at the Texas Center for Equity Promotion, Dr. Sarah Woulfin, presented “Virtually Equitable? A Review of the Literature on Virtual Tutoring Accessibility” at the TexCEP Scholars Research Symposium & Celebration. Dr. Huff is Assistant Professor at the School of Information. 

Alison Kafer Presents Keynote at the E4Texas Graduation

On May 4, Faculty Cadre Member Dr. Alison Kafer gave the keynote address at the E4Texas Graduation Ceremony. Dr. Kafer is the Embrey Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the College of Liberal Arts. Housed at the Texas Center for Disability Studies, which is a Communications Network member, E4Texas is a postsecondary educational program for employment-focused people with or without a disability over the age of 18 with a high school diploma.

Stephanie Cawthon Awarded for Distinguished Community Impact and as Accessibility Champion

In recognition of her distinguished record of addressing educational disparities, Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Cawthon was honored by The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education with the Dean’s Distinguished Community Impact Award at a ceremony on April 30, 2024.

“I am honored to receive this award. It is an external sign of what I strive for on the inside — that people and relationships matter, access and opportunity for all, and research that serves others,” said Dr. Cawthon. 

Last December, UT Austin’s Disability Cultural Center recognized Dr. Cawthon as an Accessibility Champion for her demonstrated commitment to fostering an accessible, inclusive, and welcoming campus for people with disabilities. Faculty and staff members are nominated by students with disabilities. 

Dr. Cawthon has earned recognition as an Accessibility Champion for the second time. In an excerpt from the first nomination, a student wrote, “The compassion and empathy [Dr. Cawthon] showed me in our accommodation meeting made me feel understood and supported.”

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