Stephanie Cawthon

Photo of faculty member Stephanie W Cawthon
Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Faculty Fellow, Department of Educational Psychology
Graduate Advisor, Department of Educational Psychology

Phone: +1 512 471 0378
Office: SZB 5.714K
Office Hours: by appointment
View Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Stephanie W. Cawthon, PhD, is a Professor in the College of Education in the Educational Psychology department, with a courtesy appointment in Special Education. A faculty member since 2007, she gave the University's first commencement address in American Sign Language (ASL) in 2020.

In addition to teaching and mentoring students, Dr. Cawthon is an internationally-renowned expert for her research that examines the multiple factors that affect how deaf and disabled people succeed in classrooms, workplaces, and at life. She investigates issues of access in education, explores accommodations and accessible learning environments, and challenges systemic standards that may be holding some students back. Her research has been funded by nearly $25 million in federal and other grants.

She was recently named the first deaf editor of Perspectives on Deafness, an Oxford University Press international book series on the leading research and practices with deaf people.

Cawthon is also the Founding Director of the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, which is based at the college's Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, where she serves on the Board of Directors and as Director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Institute. The National Deaf Center is a technical assistance and dissemination center funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs and Rehabilitation Services Administration with the mission to close the substantial gaps in education and employment that exist for deaf people in the United States and its territories.

With her expertise in pedagogy, research design, and systems change, Dr. Cawthon is Director of Research and Evaluation for Drama for Schools, a collaborative professional development program model in drama-based pedagogy. With staff housed in both the Colleges of Fine Arts and Education, Drama for Schools creates intentional partnerships with educators and administrators who seek to increase student engagement and focus on sustainable, whole school change.

In 2017, Dr. Cawthon co-authored the book Shifting the Dialog, Shifting the Culture: Pathways to Successful Postsecondary Outcomes for Deaf Individuals, which a leading journal called “an important contribution to the field.” She also co-edited Research in Deaf Education: Contexts, Challenges and Considerations in 2017. Her first book, Accountability-Based Reforms: The Impact of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students, won the Exceptional Book of the Year Award in 2012 from Exceptionality Education International
Teaching is what originally drew Cawthon to academia, and it is what sustains her 20 years later. Her teaching philosophy rests on three pillars: Integration of theory, research, and practice; emphasis on variety of perspectives; and interactive formats that foster personal connections to the material.

Her most recent course, Culture of Disability in Education, is one she built from the ground up. This new hybrid undergraduate/graduate course uses a dynamic, mixed-methods approach to teaching and learning to encourage students to think across three levels of understanding: Conceptual understanding of the fluid way that disability as a construct has evolved; experiential understanding of what it is like for individuals with disabilities to navigate an able-bodied world; and then applied understanding of how they interact with disabled individuals in their own personal and professional contexts.

Service is a top priority for Cawthon, especially since there is a long history of deaf people being underrepresented in higher education, educational research, and research-to-practice translation. Her service commitments include:

Principal Reviewer for the Journal of Educational Psychology and an editorial board member of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, the American Annals of the Deaf, and the Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities. Active board, task force, and advisory roles with the School Psychology Forum, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Center on Educational Outcomes, ELPA21 Assessment Consortium, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, National Committee on Measurement in Education, Association on Higher Education and Disability, and Advancing ALTELLA. Memberships in the American Educational Research Association, National Council on Measurement in Education, National Association of School Psychologists, American Psychological Association, and the Association of College Educators-Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Raised oral in mainstream schools, Dr. Cawthon's own transition to college was not seamless. She attempted the accommodations strategies she used in high school, then quickly realized they were inadequate in a large university setting. She went on to earn her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology from Stanford University, where her initial line of research in the language development in deaf children launched her career.

Dr. Cawthon received her doctorate in Educational Psychology in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she became a systems thinker focused on educational access, equity, and attainment.