2018 Graduate Student Scholarship Recipients

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 DCDT Graduate Student Scholarship competition.

Lauren Bruno, Virginia Commonwealth University

Title: Investigating Secondary Special Educator Transition Competencies and Attrition

The purpose of this mixed-methods study is to identify the relationship between secondary special education teachers’ feelings of preparedness related to transition and their likeliness to remain in that position, while identifying training needs of secondary special educators to effectively deliver evidence-based transition practices. This project and related research can provide a deeper understanding of why teachers are leaving the profession and can help policy makers and stakeholders provide better support to teacher preparation programs to enhance teacher recruitment, training, and retention; specifically, for secondary special educators.

Lauren Bruno, M.Ed. is a full-time PhD student in the Department of Counseling and Special Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research interest include transition outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, teacher preparation, transition and policy; as well as has an interest in seeing how assistive technology can improve transition outcomes. Lauren used to be an educator for high school students with severe and multiple disabilities. Lauren obtained her Master’s in Special Education, with an Autism Certificate from the University of Mary Washington as well as her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education & Special Education from Millersville University of Pennsylvania.


Jennifer L. Bumble, Vanderbilt University

 Title: Building Interagency Collaboration: Examining the Personal and Professional Networks of Transition Educators

 The purpose of this mixed methods study is to (a) examine the personal and professional networks and knowledge of transition team members and (b) understand how their social capital shapes the outcomes of the youth they serve. Study components include a survey of transition educators serving students with high- and low-incidence disabilities and semi-structured interviews of a purposive sample of survey respondents. Study findings will inform future interventions focused on building robust and expansive interagency networks.

 Jennifer L. Bumble, M.Ed. is a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University.  Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked as a special educator in Texas and an ESL educator in South Korea. Jennifer also worked as an educational consultant with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center; developing trainings, tools, and resources for transition educators across Tennessee. Her research focuses on community engagement strategies to improve employment, higher education, and independent living outcomes for transition-age youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Christina Gushanas, Texas A & M

 Title: Examining the Effects of Video Self-monitoring on Communication Within an Employment Setting Among Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

 Communication is an essential skill to employment, and loss of employment can result if deficits in communication are not addressed (Wehman et. al, 2012). Within employment settings, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can struggle in the areas of verbal and nonverbal communication. This study will explore: a) the effect of self-monitoring on the frequency of appropriate communication, within community employment settings, among individuals with IDD, b) the generalization of appropriate communication to other settings, c) maintenance of appropriate communication over time, and d) how students with IDD, their coworkers and supervisors view the self-monitoring intervention.

 Christina has been teaching for over 10-years and is currently a special education doctoral student at Texas A&M University. Her teaching experience includes working with students with disabilities in general education, resource and self-contained settings while supporting teachers with implementing transition programs at the secondary level. Her genuine passion for supporting students with meeting their postsecondary goals is evident in her work. Christina’s research interests include exploring the effects of evidence based practices on skills needed for the transition to postsecondary education and employment among individuals with developmental disabilities.


 Sheida Raley, University of Kansas

 Title: Examining Whole-Class Implementation of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction in Inclusive High School Mathematics Classes

 There is a need for research examining the implementation of instruction to promote self-determination in inclusive, secondary general education classrooms targeting students with and without disabilities because instruction in the skills associated with self-determination (e.g., goal setting and attainment, problem solving, decision making) are critical for all students, and students with disabilities would significantly benefit from receiving this content in general education core content areas. Therefore, this study will report on secondary data analysis of the implementation of a teaching model design to promote student self-determination, the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI), in inclusive high school mathematics classes.

Sheida Khamsi is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas and a graduate research assistant at the Beach Center on Disability and Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities. Her research interests include the development of self-determination and strengths-based approaches to inclusive education. She has led and been a part of projects related to validating assessments related to measuring self-determination and examining the implementation of interventions designed to promote the development of self-determination in inclusive environments. Sheida earned her M.Ed. from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School of Education, with an emphasis on Severe Disabilities. She holds a B.S. degree in Severe Special Education with a minor in Math Education from Boston University.


 Tracy Sinclair, University of Oklahoma

 Title: Using Self-Evaluation to Improve Work Performance of Transition-Age Youth in Community Work Settings

 The purpose of this study is to explore the self-management strategy of self-evaluation for individuals with disabilities in community work settings through the incorporation of a technology tool to support development of work skills. Work deficits will be identified by supervisors, and subsequently monitored by both the student themselves and their supervisor. A multiple baseline across participants design (Gast & Ledford, 2014) will be used to evaluate intervention effects.

 Tracy Sinclair is currently in her second year of doctoral studies in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Oklahoma with focus areas in Transition and Applied Behavior Analysis. Before being her PhD program, Tracy was a general education elementary teacher in Michigan and then a special education high school teacher in Tennessee with 15 years of combined experience in the classroom. Tracy earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and her Master’s degree from Tennessee Technological University in Special Education. Tracy was recently elected to the CEC Representative Assembly as the Student Representative for a two-year term. She was also named the 2018 CEC Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year.


 The 2018 competition was organized by DCDT Research Committee Chair Allison Lombardi and Early Career Scholars and Graduate Students Subcommittee Chair John Schaefer.

Special thank you to those who served on the review panel:

Kara Hirano, University of Oregon

Song Ju, University of Cincinnati

Ryan Kellems, BYU

Amber McConnell, University of Oklahoma

Yen Pham, University of New Mexico

Marcus Poppen, Washington State University

Monica Simonsen, University of Kansas

James Sinclair, University of Missouri