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Spotlight: Desirée Lama, Student Fellow

By April 8, 2024No Comments

It will be hard to miss Student Fellow Desirée Lama (she/they) if you engage with the National Disability Center for Student Success this month. They are: 

All of that is in addition to her recent appointment as a national columnist for Multiple Sclerosis News Today. Her column, Authentically Human by Desirée Lama, already has two published entries: Unraveling my “authentically human” multiple sclerosis story and How a support system helps me persevere on my MS journey

From Student Fellow to the Leadership Team 

Motivated by her personal journey with disability and a passion for ensuring that all students have equal opportunities inside and outside the classroom, Desirée joined the launch of the National Disability Center in August 2023 as part of its inaugural cohort of Student Fellows — a small group of graduate and undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Austin who receive interdisciplinary training experience, assist with research, and collaborate with the Leadership Team and the Faculty Cadre.

In June, Desirée’s role at the National Disability Center will change when they shift to the Leadership Team as the Coordinator of Student Partnerships for 2024-2025. In addition to managing the Student Fellows cohort for the Center’s Year Two, they will work closely with Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Cawthon and the communications team and continue to be involved in research studies

Research Focused on Access and Equity

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Desirée has studied at UT Austin since 2017, earning their BSA in Human Development and Family Sciences in Fall 2021 with a minor in Educational Psychology and a certificate in Applied Statistical Modeling. 

She is now a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology with a specialization in Human Development, Culture, and Learning Sciences, studying under Dr. Cawthon and Dr. Marie-Anne Suizzo. 

Many of her research interests include access, equity, and academic retention in higher education for queer, disabled students of color, and academic socialization within Mexican-American communities. 

At AERA 2024 in Philadelphia, Desirée will present her research at the world’s largest gathering of education researchers. Their presentations are:  

  • Sharing Stories and Imparting Values: An Observational Study of Father-Adolescent Conversations about School | Paper co-presented by Desirée Lama and Ryan Mata in the session “Family Ecosystem and Its Relationship to Positive Adolescent Functioning” 
  • The Power of Names: Exploring Student Perceptions of Professor Name Learning in the College Classroom | Paper co-presented by Desirée Lama in the session “Broadening Perspectives on Belonging” 

A Commitment to Collaboration

At the National Disability Center, Desirée collaborates with faculty members, other researchers, and national partners to ensure: 

  • The Center’s research studies reflect the lived experiences of disabled students
  • Research translation for and with the disability community
  • She and other Student Fellows gain professional experience and mentoring opportunities to build future careers 

Desirée’s innovative work and research in collaboration pre-dates the National Disability Center. When she was a fifth-year undergraduate, she joined the Student Coach Team of Dr. Cawthon’s Collaborative for Access and Equity (Pilot) — designed to improve accessibility, equity, and inclusion for disabled college students through vibrant cross-campus collaboration — and worked collaboratively with a faculty member from the Moody College of Communications. 

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