UO graduate students take top awards at conference

Two outstanding graduate students from the UO College of Education recently won awards from the Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT), a division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Yen Pham ’13, now an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, was the finalist for the Pat Sitlington Emerging Research Award, and Laurie Gutmann Kahn, doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon, was the runner-up. Overall, the University of Oregon received two of the top three graduate research awards at the DCDT conference, which took place Nov. 14-16 in Williamsburg, Va.

“We are extremely proud,” said Deanne Unruh, director of the secondary special education and transition (SSET) research unit in the College of Education. “Yen Pham and Laurie Kahn are both examples of why the University of Oregon is a leader in special education research today.”

The Sitlington award invites graduate students conducting transition research to submit proposals for a poster session held at the DCDT conference. The top three winners, chosen by a panel of three judges, present their work at the president’s reception held the following year at the national conference.

Yen Pham’s research project examined the impact of social capital on academic outcomes for students with disabilities. Social capital refers to the collective benefits and preferential treatment derived by an individual belonging to a particular group. It has been documented as an indicator of academic, emotional and economic success for students without disabilities. Pham examined two aspects of social capital and found they played important roles in determining positive outcomes for students with a disability.

Laurie Kahn’s work focused on the lives of eight teenagers with disabilities who also identified as LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex). This particular group, found at the intersection of multiple forms of social exclusion, is almost never addressed in research and practice. Kahn’s project documented the individual and shared challenges faced by the group when navigating social pressures and post-secondary school career placement.

Pham and Kahn were both supported by a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education doctoral leadership grant known as PAIR (Policy, Advocacy, Instruction, and Research) targeting secondary special education and transition research. In addition to the PAIR grant, the office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education provided supplemental funding to support the education and training for both students.

“We are dedicated to supporting graduate research and education at the University of Oregon,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the UO Graduate School. “Graduate student research is at the core of what matters to research universities. The doctoral training and education provided by faculty in the College of Education is outstanding, and training grants such as this one are reflective of the national recognition of the quality of our graduate programs and student trainees. By combining cutting-edge research with graduate and undergraduate education, we are training new generations of leaders in all fields.”