Meet Our Staff
DCC Staff Profiles
I joined the Disability Cultural Center staff as Director in 2019. I identify as a white, cisgender woman who is (little “d”) deaf, which means I grew up mainstreamed in hearing culture.
I received my PhD in English Literature from the University of Chicago, and my academic interests focus around representations of disability and everydayness, particularly the formal choices that build certain concepts of disability in relationship to race. One of my primary questions has been: what can visual representation say, convey, or be ambiguous about that textual representation can’t, and vice versa? These investigations have led me to focus on representation not just in prose novels but also in media like comics and reality tv. (Ask me about the course I taught on reality tv and “anomalous embodiment”!)
Before coming to UIC, my professional background was in writing program administration, where I specialized in academic writing and supporting graduate students–both as teachers of writing, and as writers working in highly specialized discourse communities. While my interests in supporting writers have sometimes felt separate from my interests in disability studies, they come together in two important ways. As an undergrad at UW-Madison, I worked as a peer writing tutor, and being assigned to an Intro to Disability Studies course is how I encountered disability studies for the first time. I thought it “might be interesting,” and it turned out to be a lightbulb moment that nudged me to explore my relationship to disability identity, begin processing my experiences and how they had been narrated to me, and grapple with my own internalized ableism. Also, it was at academic conferences for rhetoricians and writing instructors that I first experienced radical accessibility put into practice. It was hugely transformative to feel, for the first time, that I was invited to ask for what I needed, that I was anticipated and welcome. In these contexts, I learned to think about practices as shaping environments and sending messages.
As I carry these experiences with me, I’m grateful to find a professional home in a cultural center that’s organized around building cross-disability and cross-movement solidarity.
I am a disabled, cisgender, immigrant woman raised on Chicago’s southwest side and am a first-generation college student working towards a PhD in Disability Studies at UIC. My research interests are based on my personal experiences with mental health systems and from the stories shared with me by visitors to the DCC. I long for culturally attuned practices to mental disabilities guided by disability justice principles, particularly in current mental health services.
I am reengaging with my dreams about what support can look like when experiencing mental distress without relying on policing systems that harm my communities. Though I am a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois, I experience a tension about the power and privilege I hold and question how the fields of social work and disability studies can be reimagined for radical liberatory ideologies and practices.
My advocacy emerged through writing and performing personal narratives and poetry; I believe in the power of narratives and subjective experience as valuable tools for social change. As a student, I advocated along with other students, faculty, and staff for funding dedicated to cultural programming and a space for building community at UIC. I have worked on disability cultural programming since 2017 beginning at the Disability Resource Center and have continued coordinating programs in the Disability Cultural Center since its new location opened in 2018. I also was part of the campus committee that created the current mission and vision of the DCC; it informs my goals to proceed with humility and constant self-reflection.
Graduate Student Worker (May 2020-Present)
Former title: Undergraduate Student Worker (August 2019-May 2020)
I am an activist, public historian, and anthropologist. I’m currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Latin American and Latino Studies with a certificate in disability ethics.
I am a member of the UIC Native American and Indigenous Student Organization, Subcommittee of Disabled Student Experiences, and a variety of other campaigns in Chicago. I’m learning to teach workshops on accessibility, disability cultures, and ableism. While starting to embrace my disabilities, I joined the protests as an undergrad student for an accessible disability cultural center. Being a part of the creation of the DCC, I am incredibly proud to have been the first undergraduate student aid and to continue my work as a graduate student.
I’m working towards becoming a researcher and educator in both academia and community. A current project that I am working on is creating a fellowship program for students to improve accessibility within museums. My values are greatly centered by feminism focussed on BIPOC, LGBT , crip, decolonization, abolition, and anti-capitalism. I was born and raised in Chicago and I am disabled/mad, queer, Indigenous/White femme raised in Mexican-American culture.
Graduate Student Worker
I am a white queer disabled educator and activist originally from Boston, MA. I’ve been chronically ill since childhood, but didn’t identify as disabled, or understand disability as a political identity, until reading “Exile and Pride” by Eli Clare in college. I was hungry for connection to politicized disabled community and didn’t know where to find it.
I approached Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha after a book reading and they generously took the time to welcome me into crip culture: connecting me with online groups, advising me on bringing Disability Justice into political consciousness on my campus, giving much needed advice on funding the work, sharing the labor and not burning out.
In 2014 I completed the YP4 fellowship, a fellowship for progressive leaders, where I met activists from all over the country and was paired with a mentor for the year. My mentor was Ki’tay Davidson. He was the first disabled activist I considered a friend, who I could talk to about chronic pain and prison abolition. We worked together on a mutual aid project that I hoped would not only distribute resources, but also encourage people to come into disability identity. He helped me to begin to unravel my internalized ableism and shame.
These deeply influential experiences with crip mentorship have fueled my desire to create formal and informal mentorship opportunities at the DCC, and to focus on ways to welcome more people into disability culture through mutual aid projects.
I am currently pursuing a Masters in Education with a focus on critical special education. I am passionate about care work and political education and have a dream of creating a disability justice based after school program for disabled children.