Equity and Diversity in Special Education

Two women work on a puzzle during a workshop on multicultural special education

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Area Coordinator
Audrey Sorrells

The Department of Special Education offers a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree with a concentration in Equity and Diversity in Special Education (EDSE). This concentration focuses on issues pertaining to the intersections of disability, race, ethnicity, language, social class, nationality, gender, and sexuality in education and society. Students will be trained to investigate and teach about inequality as it pertains to these intersections, as well as on how to make school more equitable and socially just for students and families. They will develop foundational knowledge in the following concepts that can be applied to their work as researchers and educators: disability studies in education, intersectionality, critical race theory, multilingualism and language acquisition, disproportionality, international comparative education, and social justice in education. 

Students will learn to synthesize and evaluate research pertaining to equity and diversity in special education. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, they will conduct research on: a) social injustices at the intersections of disability, race, ethnicity, language, social class, nationality, gender, and sexuality in education and society; b) how educators, families, and students can resist such injustices; c) equitable teaching, policy, and practices for youth at the intersections listed above; d) international and comparative special education; e) gaps in postsecondary outcomes and trends; and/or f) disparities in access to educational and health services. Students will also develop skills to teach higher education courses on topics related to equity and diversity in special education. 

In addition, students are encouraged to specialize in a disability or policy area. This program focuses on ensuring that children of diverse backgrounds have equal opportunities for special education and interventions.

Affiliated Faculty

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North Cooc

Assistant Professor

Explores how family background, culture, and school contextual factors influence decisions and trajectory outcomes within special education.

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James Patton, Ed.D.

Adjunct Associate Professor

Focuses on adults with disabilities and their participation in higher education, study skills, instruction, and interaction with the criminal justice system.

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James Schaller

Associate Professor

Investigates issues in social justice and rehabilitation systems in relation to gender, race, and disability, and transition into employment from special education.

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Audrey Sorrells

Associate Professor, Associate Dean of Students for Research

Explores topics in ethnically diverse students with disabilities, veteran students with resulting trauma issues, and professional development for disabled students.