AUCD Scholarship Recipients



Gwendolyn Brown

Photo of Chris BlakeGwendolyn Brown has lived experiences as a person with a disability and is an advocate for and with people with disABILITIES. She has been married for 24 years with three amazing children. For six years she worked as a disABILITY advocate/peer support specialist for Disability Rights and Resources in Birmingham, Alabama. She was the driving force in her county while working side by side with the judge of probate's office concerning accessible voting and the use of the AutoMARK accessible voting machine. She served on the State Interagency Transition Team, The Arc of Shelby County Board of Directors, Special Education Advisory Panel, and the UAB Regional Autism Network Constituency Board. She worked two years as a paralegal and resumed her calling when she accepted a position, August 2021 at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama as the UAB LEND/UCEDD Family Faculty and RAN(Regional Autism Network) Family Navigator.

Kenya Chavez

Photo of Kennya ChavezMy name is Kennya Chavez, a fourth-year nutrition and dietetics student at CSULB. I am also a research intern participating in a nutrition program licensed by the Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) that promotes healthy eating behaviors among teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Through my work and volunteer experiences, I have realized how much I enjoy sharing my knowledge and working with diverse communities. My professional goal is to become a Registered dietitian to help diverse communities improve their well-being through food and nutrition.

Paige Currie

Photo of Paige CurriePaige Currie is a second year LEND trainee from Lockport, NY in her third year studying towards her Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Behavior Analysis. Her background is primarily in basic research involving assessments of risky and impulsive-choice and how behavior changes as a result of drugs. She is currently a member of Dr. Karen Anderson's Behavioral Pharmacology lab and is on a practicum placement at the WVU Neurodevelopmental Center. She also has a new passion for behavioral feeding interventions for treatment of food selectivity as a result of her time with the CED Feeding and Swallowing Clinic.

Fabian Garcia

Photo of Fabian GarciaMy name is Fabian Garcia, I am a first generation Mexican-American and a 4th year student at the California State University of Long Beach studying Dietetics and Food Administration with a concentration in Nutrition & Dietetics. I am participating in a research internship through Children's Hospital, Los Angeles where I am assisting with the creation, administration, and evaluation of an adapted version of their Teens N Fitness program which we have modified to fit the needs of young people with autism. It is my aspiration to become a Registered Dietitian who is an advocate for minorities of all kinds including members of the queer community and people with disabilities.

Amanda Miles

Photo of Cody ClarkAmanda Miles is a third-year student from Alabama working towards her Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Behavior Analysis. She is a first year LEND trainee and has a background primarily in basic research and experience working with children with challenging behavior in the school system. Currently, she is working with Dr. Andy Lattal and is on a practicum placement at WVU Neurodevelopmental Center.




Chris Blake

Photo of Chris BlakeChris Blake has lived experiences as a person with a disability and is an advocate for people with disabilities. He is both a graduate of Partners in Policymaking graduate 2016 and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) graduate 2019 at the UConn Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. He particiaptes on several Councils and Boards including; Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities as a member and as a former Vice Chair, SARAH-Tuxis Board of Directors Member and Legislation and Policy Advisor, Town of Wallingford Community Contact for Disability Advocacy, Connecticut ARC Board of Directors Member, Connecticut Cross, Disability Lifespan Alliance Member, Steering Committee member and Supported Decision Making Coalition Member.

Chris received a scholarship to attend the AUCD 2019 Conference.

Jessica Keefhaver

Photo of Angela MitchellJessica Keefhaver is a Program Coordinator at the University of Nevada, Reno. She provides academic coordination services for students with intellectual disabilities in the Path to Independence (P2I) program. Students in the P2I program are enrolled in university courses aligned with their interests or career goals. Students also attend program specific courses in academic success skills and independent living skills to support them as they transition to college life. Jessica believes in a diverse society that includes individuals with different abilities and experiences, and seeks to learn from others at every opportunity. She has worked in special education for 18 years in a variety of roles, gaining valuable insight that developed her understanding of some of the challenges the disability community faces. A licensed educator, certified to teach in the general and special education settings, she holds a M.S. in Education, with a focus on Secondary Transition Services from the University of Kansas. She joined the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities in August of 2018 to serve in her role with the Path to Independence program.

Jessica received a scholarship to attend the AUCD 2019 Conference.

Jonathan Jensen

Photo of Jonathan JensonJonathan Jensen lives in Lebanon, Oregon and participates in IMPACT (Individualized Movement and Physical Activity in the Community Today) and for Life Program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Jonathan was in a car accident when he was 10 years old which resulited in a severe brain injury that has left him without the use of his left arm and hand. For the last 20 years, he have been participating in IMPACT for Life. It is a program that lets him exercise with a buddy two times a week. It helps him strengthen his body and makes him feel stronger so he can do more activities. IMPACT for Life is working to cooperate with community facilities. Jonathan chooses to work at CrossFit and at The Sam. Working out in the community makes Jonathan feel more included than just being part of a special needs group. He enjoys other activities like horseback riding, basketball, golf, and bowling. His hobbies are collecting keychains and going to Oregon State Beaver football and basketball games. 

Jonathan received a scholarship to attend the 2019 AUCD Conference.




TA McDonald

Photo of TA McDonaldTA is an early career professional, a daughter of a mother with autism, and the mother of a son with autism. She is now at the Vanderbilt Center, and did part of her earlier training at the Waisman Center. She has a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Autism Spectrum Disorder, with much of her work focusing on the stigma and stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities. TA is interested in the intersection between disability, poverty, and community inclusion.

TA was a recipient of an AUCD 2018 Conference Scholarship.


Angela Mitchell

Photo of Angela MitchellAngela is a former Oklahoma LEND fellow with a PhD in Philosophy who has described herself as fighting for African Americans with disabilities and other minority communities with disabilities. She wants to make the world a better place for her sons, one of whom is a nonverbal Autist, by creating change at the systemic level through policy.

Angela was a recipient of an AUCD 2018 Conference Scholarship.


Chuck Roberts

Photo of Chuck RobertsChuck is a self-advocate who has been with the AUCD network for 19 years, and already has a lot of community leadership experience. A part of the Oklahoma LEND’s core faculty, much of Chuck’s work focuses on transition from school to work. Chuck exhibits much pride in being a self-advocate, and is a part of his local DD Council, local APSE, and is described as a mentor. Chuck wants people to know “the personal side of advocacy” — taking an interdisciplinary approach to health and policy issues for people with disabilities.

Chuck was a recipient of an AUCD 2018 Conference Scholarship .




Megan Anderson

Photo of Megan AndersonMegan Anderson, a passionate up and coming leader and committed social justice activist from Cincinnati, Ohio, will be joining the 2017 AUCD Conference in Washington DC. Living with complex health care needs, Megan quickly realized the power of her mind and her voice at a young age. She is continuously learning more about oppression and how she can best direct her efforts toward creating inclusive communities. This past summer, Megan was lauded for her successful and peaceful advocacy efforts at both Senator Portman's Cincinnati and Washington D.C. offices. There, she raised public awareness regarding the disastrously proposed healthcare bills by lifting her voice, via the media, during over 24 hours of sit-ins.

Megan is honored to have been awarded the 2017 Emerging Leadership Scholarship and looks forward to this year's AUCD conference. She desires to learn from a creative and determined community of leaders, and is enthusiastic to unite her gifts with the AUCD community. She strongly believes "an injury to one is an injury to all."

Megan was a recipient of an AUCD Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2017 Conference.

Lauren Beller

Photo of Lauren BellerLauren Beller became a Self-Advocate Leader after joining the Pennsylvania for All Coalition (PEAC) in 2012, and helped in the formation of the Self-Advocate Network (SAN). She enjoys being able to use her degree in Elementary and Special Education from Temple University as well as her experiences as a person with both seen and unseen disabilities to help families and individuals with disabilities.

While attending Temple, Lauren worked part-time at Pennsylvania's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the Institute on Disabilities (IOD), and this position was a driving factor in her growth as a self-advocate as well as helping to determine her future professional projectory. She has proudly completed her fellowship as the inaugural Self Advocate Fellow in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program organized by the Association of University Centers for Disability (AUCD). Lauren is currently working towards becoming a National Special Education Advocacy Institute (NSEAI) Board Certified Education Advocate (BCEA).

After her attendance at AUCD's 2017 Disability Policy Seminar, Lauren was empowered to explore a wider range of advocacy outlets, including a desire to develop her expertise in disability policy and educating our elected officials on Capitol Hill. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to attend another AUCD conference and hopes to form new professional and personal relationships while in DC.

Lauren was a recipient of an AUCD Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2017 Conference.

Kiersi Coleman

Photo of Kiersi ColemanKiersi Coleman is a young woman who experiences cerebral palsy. She has been working and volunteering for the Oregon Health & Sciences University UCEDD for 4 years. She is currently pursuing her Associate's Degree at Portland Community College (PCC), and will pursue her Bachelors and Masters of Social Work at Portland State University. During her time at PCC, she has been a student leader for 3 years. She was a Student Leader at The PCC Multicultural Center and a Student Educator at the Illumination Project, both of which promote equality on campus for students. Kiersi previously lived in an adult foster care home and is a strong advocate for community living and community integration for people with disabilities. She is also passionate about the implementation of universal design and the adoption of disability culture within society. Kiersi lives in housing based on an independent living model with her cat Rowena and loves exploring Portland in her spare time.

Kiersi was a recipient of an AUCD Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2017 Conference.

Chanda Dunn

Photo of Chanda DunChanda Dunn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities (TN UCEDD, LEND). Over the course of her career, Chanda has been an advocate for children and adults with disabilities and those individuals who face educational and health disparities and social injustice within the community.

Chanda's unique direct practice experience in neurodevelopmental disabilities, trauma and attachment, and children and adolescents enabled her to see the need for culturally competent and diverse services to address trauma experienced by children and parents with disabilities. In the past year, she has participated as a member of Boling Center's ACL Partnership Grant with Lemoyne-Owen College, coordinated the Tennessee Child Abuse Prevention Grant in rural Tennessee, and developed trauma programing for parents with disabilities in the Shelby County Department of Corrections. Chanda has a great passion for advocating for civil and human rights, diversity and inclusion, social justice, equity, and equality for all individuals.

Chanda participated and served within inaugural cohort of the 2017 AUCD Leadership Academy. She obtained both her Master of Social Work and Bachelors of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia.

Chanda was a recipient of an AUCD Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2017 Conference.




 Oanh Thi Thu Bui 

Photo: Oanh Thi Thu BuiOanh Thi Thu Bui is a cultural broker and former LEND fellow through Shriver Center. Her unique experience being a cultural broker enabled her to advocate for a culturally linguistically appropriate system of support for families from culturally linguistically diverse background. She has been working and partnering with a number of parents, professionals across the disciplines, including researchers, to explore the complicated system of support, the cultural barriers that tremendously affect service access for families, as well as the struggle faced by many professionals from diverse backgrounds. From her experience leading a support group for the Vietnamese speaking community, she has outreached to Haitian Creole, Arabic, and Khmer speaking communities using the cultural brokering model with the hope to identify, mentor, and train more cultural brokers from these targetted communities. Oanh has a great interest collaborating with like-minded professionals in addressing the issue of cultural diversity and disability, increasing social justice, and equity, and influencing systematic change for authentic inclusion.

Currently, Oanh is an AIDD-funded diversity leadership fellow with the Institute of for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston and works at the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Oanh was a FORD scholar and holds two Master Degrees in Health Administration and Sustainable International Development.

Oanh was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2016 Conference.


Robert "Taylor" Carley 

Photo: Robert ‘Taylor’ Carley Robert "Taylor" Carley. Self-Advocate. Writer. Taylor currently serves as the Self-Advocacy Coordinator for the Institute for Disability Studies (IDS), Mississippi's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Taylor has over seven years of experience in national service, leadership, and mentoring. He is currently the first Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Trainee in Mississippi, a STEP UP Council member and staff liaison, and hosts his own YouTube Series, "Chit Chat Thursday with Taylor," that focuses on advocacy. In addition, Taylor is learning how to become more independent by pursuing his driver's license and writing his first novel. Taylor enjoys sharing his story and his motto . . . "a disability is an ability, and I am just like everyone else."

Taylor was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2016 Conference.


Ivanova L. Smith 

Photo: Ivanova L. SmithIvanova Smith is a UW LEND Advocate Faculty. They were the first Advocate fellow for UW LEND, and excited to share their perspective as autistic person. Now they are thrilled to be a mentor to new advocate fellows for UW LEND. They also are a leader in the self-advocacy community in Washington State. Ivanova is Co-chair of Self Advocate in Leadership (SAIL) and advocates for rights of people with I/DD to Washington state legislature, as well as serves on the board of people first of Washington where they lead their own local chapter.

Ivanova was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2016 Conference.




Joe Basey 

Photo: Joe BaseyJoe was was born with Cerebral Palsy and has been an advocate for disabilities most of his life. As a child, he was the 1985 Easter Seal Poster Child for the State of Oregon. Joe states his parents always had the same expectations for him that they had for his younger siblings that were "non-disabled," and that they taught him that he could do anything he put his mind to. As a result, Joe graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in Family & Human Services.

Joe is a member of the Consumer Advocacy Councils at both the Oregon Health & Science University UCEDD and the University of Oregon UCEDD. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of AUCD's Council on Community Advocacy.

Joe is especially passionate about the engagement of people with disabilities in their faith communities and the impact of legislation affecting the lives of people with disabilities.

Joe was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2015 Conference.


Angela Donley 

Photo: AngelaAngela and her highschool sweetheart husband Steve live in Oklahoma with their 10 year old son Jackson. Jackson was diagnosed with autism at only 20 months thanks to SoonerStart, an Oklahoma early intervention program, and thus began Angela's journey in advocacy.

Angela works as the Autism Family Support coordinator for the Oklahoma Family Network, where she provides the parent perspective for professional trainings and programs. She serves as Vice Chair on the Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Intervention, as the Family Voice for school-aged children on the DDS Policy Advisory Committee, and sits on the Oklahoma Family and Interagency Autism Council and the Oklahoma Combating Autism Leadership Team.

Angela is a 2012 graduate of Partners in Policymaking and a 2015 LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) Fellow in the family discipline.

Angela was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2015 Conference.


Xiaojun 'Joanna' Gao 

Photo: JoannaJoanna Gao is a speech-language pathologist at LeBonheur Children's Hospital and a former LEND trainee at the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities. Over the course of her career, Joanna has been an advocate for children with disabilities.

Her unique experience of volunteering and working for orphans with special needs in China enabled her to see the need to create family-centered, interdisciplinary systems of care for families of children with disabilities. She furthered her education in speech pathology, a rarely known field in her home country, with a desire of setting up a non-profit foundation and bringing therapy and caregiver support to children in China. Joanna has been exploring this vision by sharing her passion, organizing trips, bringing therapeutic tools, and caregiver trainings to China.

In 2014, The American Speech-Language Association recognized her effort by awarding her the Minority Student Leadership Program Award, presented to emerging leaders in the field of speech pathology.

Joanna was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2015 Conference.



Ellen Bannister 

photo: ellenEllen is a mother of two children with developmental disabilities. She works as an Academic Programs Coordinator of the Center for Learning and Leadership/ Oklahoma UCEDD at the OU College of Medicine. Her formal training was in the humanities, but her life experience of caring for children with developmental disabilities has inspired her current work: improving access to high-quality health care for people with developmental disabilities.

Ellen received her Bachelor's and Master's degree in English literature at the University of Kansas. She completed her coursework for a Ph.D. at Boston University. Before joining the Center for Learning and Leadership staff, she taught at the University of Oklahoma. In 2013, she received the Integrity Apex Award from the University of Oklahoma Integrity Council for her work in fostering high-quality scholarship and promoting academic integrity. Currently, she acts as liaison for the UCEDD's academic partners and the OU School of Medicine Faculty.

Ellen was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2014 Conference.


Shawn Latham 

photo: ShawnShawn is from Sedro Woolley, Washington. He has an unknown Storage Disease whose symptoms are similar to Cerebral Palsy. Shawn works at the Center for Independence North Sound as their Peer Group Coordinator and is also engaged with several advocacy groups including Self-Advocactes in Leadership, Allies in Advocacy, and the UCEDD Consumer Advisory Council of Washington State.

Shawn advocates for principles like independence, self-determination, community inclusion and respect, which he believes are key to making the world better. Shawn strives to be an advocate not only for himself but also for his friends in the community and the participants he serves at work. Shawn's motto has been "We all have abilities and disabilities, so let us focus on what we can do in this world instead of what we can't do."

Shawn was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2014 Conference.


Danielle Reed 

photo: DanielleDanielle is a researcher at the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development. Her research interests include employment, self-employment, and social capital of individuals with disabilities, as well as rehabilitation practices in brain injury.

Danielle's interest in the disability and rehabilitation field began in high school when she researched adaptive sports and volunteered as a guide for skiers with visual impairments. Though not a social scientist by training, she took to research at the Center for Human Development with great fervor. In the past year she has led a National Endowment on the Arts project focused on Career Forums for Artists with disabilities, coordinated a Kessler Foundation grant to implement and research BrainWorks (a self-employment model to assist individuals with brain injury in business ownership), and has written a business plan for CHD's training program learning management system.

Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering as well as a Masters in Business Administration. Danielle lives in Palmer, Alaska with her husband and two huskies. She is an avid backcountry skier and volunteers on ski patrol at Alyeska.

Danielle was a recipient of an Emerging Leader Scholarship and attended the AUCD 2014 Conference.