Meet Our Staff
DCC Staff Profiles Heading link
I joined the Disability Cultural Center staff as Director in 2019. I identify as a white, cisgender woman who is deaf. As an adult, I’ve learned some sign language, but 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 joined the UIC Disability Cultural Center in Fall 2021 as a Graduate Assistant. My role focuses on working with DCC Director Margaret Fink, Ph.D. on developing a virtual conference on disability cultural center development in order to encourage other institutions of higher education to create this necessary space. I’m pursuing my M.Ed. in Urban Higher Education with an emphasis in Leadership, Governance, Organization and Policy and a Graduate Certificate in Disability Ethics at UIC.
I identify as a gender non-binary Indian-American with disabilities. I have Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Dis/order, clinical depression, chronic anxiety, sleep apnea, and several other ambiguous conditions and illnesses.
My disability cultural work began during my college years. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Gender Studies and a minor in Education and Society. I co-founded & co-directed USC’s first student organization dedicated to disability culture and accessibility issues run by and for the disability community. Building this student organization from the ground up was one of the most profound experiences of my college career. Having no prior leadership experience coming into college, my life suddenly transformed: I became a public speaker, a community builder, and an event moderator/organizer. After college, I knew I wanted to work in a Disability Cultural Center. A lifelong Chicagoan, I returned to my hometown to join the University of Illinois Chicago, one of the only universities in the country to institutionalize such an important cultural space. I’m grateful to be part of a center that focuses on unifying the disability community and empowering all of our queer and diverse bodyminds.
My advocacy also derives from my critical disability studies research experience. I conducted and published original research on invisible disability at the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a social sciences & humanities-focused Ph.D. pipeline summer research program for students of color. I also have previous internship experiences working at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles & Planned Parenthood of Illinois as a community engagement and events intern.
Shan Shan Song (they/them) is a graduate assistant and first year student in the MSW program at UIC, specializing in clinical mental health practice. They are a gender non-binary, second-generation Chinese American and community organizer. They have been a fierce, impassioned social justice advocate since 2007 organizing efforts to increase access to affordable education, advocate for the rights of sexual minorities, and support those affected by domestic and gender-based violence. They have organized since 2014 with the street medic collective Chicago Action Medical to support protesters in the local Chicagoland and St. Louis areas. They have done volunteer work to represent, fundraise for, and support the AIDS Run/Walk Team at Heartland Alliance and have also volunteered at the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. They received the 2011 Community Action Award at U. of I. Urbana.
They received their B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2011. From 2011 to 2019, they worked as a mental health worker at Heartland Alliance, working in a residential program for formerly homeless folks with persistent mental illness challenges and substance use issues. From 2019 to 2021, they worked at the Chinese American Service League as a community liaison at Mercy Hospital, charged with running a Community Resource Center serving the Bronzeville and neighboring South Side community. In 2021, they started at the Disability Cultural Center at UIC as a graduate assistant.
Their research interests center on applying queer-anarchist philosophical perspectives and activist intervention models to community service provision practice, from the perspective of an academic, a social services provider, and a peer in recovery. Their writing has been published in Queering Anarchism (2012). In their spare time, they like to spend time with their cat, write poetry, and bake and cook as many delicious things as they can for their friends and polycule.
Febe Frias (She/Her/They/Them)
Year & Major: Sophomore, Public Health major with a minor in Spanish.
Passions and/or research interests: I am passionate about child advocacy, art, and creative writing.
How I connected with the DCC: I connected with the DCC through the Woman’s Leadership and Resource Center when I transferred to UIC. What I most love about the DCC is how they welcome you in with open arms. I love that I can be my most authentic self at the DCC!
Ask me about: Come and talk to me about anything! I enjoy talking to other people especially if it’s art related!
Jasmine Harvey (She/Her/Hers)
I am a fourth-year student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, majoring in psychology, and double-minoring in Public Policy and Civic Analytics. I am a black, Latina woman born and raised in Chicago and a Lane Tech alumni!
My passions include creating and supporting diversity and inclusion while prioritizing an intersectional mindset. I am wildly interested in the human mind, and identifying behavior patterns and thought processes that can help repair the socio-economic damage that’s been done to marginalized people and victims of social injustice. Supporting disabled people is very important to me, as my younger brother is autistic with an intellectual disability. I grew up being his caretaker, and as I got older and learned about the systemic oppression of disabled people, I began to advocate for accessibility in personal and public spaces. It is my passion to be an activist and advocate for people everywhere, and my own personal experiences with disabilities have all added up to create my passion for lifting and supporting disability culture.
I work as an intern at the Disability Cultural Center (DCC) through the Diversity and Community Engagement Program (DCEP), but I also work as a Resident Assistant at the apartment-style dorms at UIC, Thomas Beckham Hall! Over the course of my educational career here at UIC, I have been involved in the Roosevelt Institute Network, a public policy-oriented group of aspiring activists, and the student organization of Students in Palestine!
Ask me about My doggie, Cuddles! Puerto Rican culture, black culture, afro-Latinx culture, salsa dancing!
Nia Sims (She/Her/Hers)
- Year & Major: Junior, Disability and Human Development
- Passions and/or research interests: My passion is learning about other cultures/experiences. Also giving back to underserved communities. I also want to become more active in disability rights/justice.
- How I connected with the DCC: I participate in the Community Care Cohort internship, which informed me about this position. I wanted to work here because I want to help provide a comforting space for people with disabilities, learn more about different forms of access, and further my impact within the community.
- Ask me about: I am always open to conversations about different hobbies, pets/animals, tattoos, or anything else. I love learning and talking!
Gené Jolivet (She/Her/Hers)
Year & Major: I am in my Second year at UIC, and I study Graphic Design.
Passions and/or research interests: My passion is Design because I love to speak to people through my work. I love to create things that people can engage in and relate to. I am also very passionate about spreading awareness for mental health.
How I connected with the DCC: I connected with the DCC because of my fight with Sickle Cell anemia. I have been searching for a safe place where I can be myself, and meet others like me.
Ask me about Sickle cell disease, mental health, and graphic design!!!
Isabel Virgen (She/Her/Hers)
Position(s) at the DCC: Undergraduate student worker
Year & Major: Junior, Psychology major and Art minor
Passions and/or research interests: Exploring intersections of race, sexuality, and disability. I am passionate about mental health, community activism, and books!
How I connected with the DCC: As a disabled student, I was excited that UIC had a cultural center for people with disabilities. I have been involved with disability politics and activism for some time and hope to bring my gifts and talents to others at UIC!
Ask me about My favorite allergy-friendly restaurants in the area! I write reviews online for restaurants based on accessibility for those with allergies and food intolerances.
Paloma Araujo (They/Them/Theirs)
Year & Major: I am a Sophomore majoring in Latin American and Latino Studies and Business
Passions and/or research interests: I am passionate about intersectionality and learning more about other’s identities and cultures that shape their lived experiences. I am interested in the lived experiences of disabled QTBIPOC. My special interests include history, medieval to renaissance, Chicano history, and Neurodivergence and punk.
How I connected with the DCC: During my freshman year, I started to attend some online events the DCC hosted and contributed to the Disabled Latino/a/xs zine. I also participated in the DCC Community Care Cohort.
Ask me about Medieval history, The British royal family, music, food especially vegan food, the Sims, and the show Reservation Dogs. I am happy to talk!
Taryn Nobil (She/Her/They/Them)
Year & Major: I am an Anthropology major pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree. My first degree is in Journalism. This is my first semester at UIC.
Passions and/or research interests: I am passionate about social justice, nature, anti-capitalism, and animal liberation.
How I connected with the DCC: I learned about the DCC through social media, new student orientation, and the Symposium on Disability Cultural Centers in Higher Education. I am inspired by the DCC’s commitment to building a disabled community!
Ask me about neurodivergence, ethical media, anti-Zionist Judaism, veganism, and rescuing pigs!