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Team Spotlight: Ryan Mata, Doctoral Research Affiliate

By May 29, 2024No Comments


Learn more about Ryan Mata's transition from Coordinator of Student Partnerships to Doctoral Research Affiliate at the National Disability Center for Student Success, highlighting his ongoing projects and recent achievements.

A man with curly brown hair and a beard is wearing a blue plaid blazer over a white dress shirt. He has a small pin in the shape of a longhorn on his blazer's left lapel. The background is dark, creating a professional and formal look for the headshot.

Ryan Mata, MA (he/him) was essential to the launch of the National Disability Center for Student Success as a member of the Leadership Team. Now that we’re moving into our second year, he’s busier than ever in a new role. This month he is:

  • Conducting dissertation research that’s focused on improving access to higher education for students with disabilities
  • Preparing two co-authored studies for publication on parent-adolescent conversations in Dr. Marie-Anne Suizzo’s lab
  • Working with National Disability Center Student Fellows and Faculty Cadre members on a systematic literature review of disabled student experiences with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Furthermore, he was recently awarded the Graduate School Continuing Fellowship at The                                        University of Texas at Austin. This prestigious fellowship is awarded to graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence and a strong potential for contributing significant research in their fields.

When asked to provide a nomination letter for the fellowship, Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Cawthon had this to say — “I trust Ryan to represent me in rooms without hesitation – he lives up to the task on a repeated basis, bringing collaborations to a higher level than I could ever do on my own. He is actively involved in translating research into practical, applicable strategies that are needed to improve the academic experience for all students.” 

Transitioning from Coordinator of Student Partnerships to Doctoral Research Affiliate

Ryan joined the launch of the National Disability Center in August 2023 as the Coordinator of Student Partnerships. He managed the inaugural cohort of Student Fellows, creating a structure for them to collaborate and learn from each other. He also worked closely with the communications team and heavily participated in research studies.

In June, Ryan will transition to a new position as Doctoral Research Affiliate. In this newly established role, Ryan is committed to deepening his dissertation research into systemic obstacles that hinder educational equity. 

“Ryan’s mixed methods dissertation will focus on large-scale data sets and focus groups that explore the effects of accessibility on disabled student enrollment, persistence, and completion. He will use both his community leadership prowess and his well-established research skills as he engages with centers and departments across the country to complete these essential analyses,” said Dr. Cawthon.

A Journey of Dedication and Impact

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Ryan has studied at UT Austin since 2016, earning his M.A. in Human Development, Culture, and Learning Sciences (HDCLS) in 2022. 

Currently he is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology with a specialization in HDCLS, studying under Dr. Stephanie Cawthon and HDCLS Associate Professor, Dr. Marie-Anne Suizzo

His research interests include inclusive learning in higher education and how children develop beliefs through their relationships and environment.

At the American Education Research Association 2024 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Ryan presented his research along with his colleagues at the world’s largest gathering of education researchers. Their presentations were:  

  • The CORE+ Mentoring Model: Cultivating Community Cultural Wealth for First-Gen Graduate Students | Roundtable co-presented by Ryan Mata and Dr. Stephanie Cawthon in the session “Engaging Students’ Strengths and Assets to Foster Postsecondary Success” 
  • Can You Hear Us Now?: First-Gen Student Voices and Transitions During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Symposium co-presented by Ryan Mata in the session “Disrupting the Narrative: Diverse Perspectives on First-Generation College Student Transitions across the P-20 Pipeline” 
  • 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” 
  • Climate Justice With Youth: Co-Designing and Researching Arts-Integrated Climate Change Resiliency Curriculum in K–12 Education | Roundtable co-presented by Ryan Mata and Dr. Stephanie Cawthon in the session “Future of learning: Exploring Technological Interventions and YPAR Initiatives for Inclusive EducationClimate Justice, Youth, and Drama in Education”

Looking Ahead

In July, Ryan and Faculty Cadre member Dr. Maura Borrego are collaborating to explore disabled students and postsecondary enrollment. This will be the first in the series that explores foundational concepts of disability research in postsecondary education. As a result, it can provide a better understanding of the disabled student experience. Each review provides concise insights, offering a valuable knowledge base for researchers, educators, and postsecondary leaders.

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