December 2018 Newsletter


Spotlight: Catherine Corr, Cohort Four Fellow


Catherine Corr, Cohort Four fellow and Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently received funding for a new doctoral training program called Project STePS: Preparing Leaders in Special Education, Technology, Research, Policy, and Cultural, Linguistic, and Socioeconomic Diversity. See below for a Q&A session with Catherine about this exciting new program!

  1. What inspired you to propose Project STePS?

I worked collaboratively on this proposal with my UIUC colleagues Drs. Meadan and Monda-Amaya. Our purpose was to provide funding opportunities for doctoral students to become leaders in Special Education. Based on the needs of our field, we choose to focus on students gaining knowledge and expertise in the areas of (a) research methodologies; (b) law and policy; (c) supporting individuals with disabilities and families from culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds; and (d) technology for instruction. We believe these highly skilled scholars prepared through Project STePS will make significant contributions to the field of special education that will ultimately improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities (birth through 21 years) and their families. 

2. What are the goals of Project STePS in the first year (or so)?

One of our first steps is to recruit a cohort of students for the program (starting Fall 2019!) Additionally, we will begin to organize the specific intensive policy workshops, STePs coursework, and experiential learning opportunities. These may include an internship with an agency that serves individuals with disabilities and families; traineeships involving research and practice in law and policy, technology, and working with diverse families; and teaching and supervision experiences with pre-service teachers.

 3. How has the Doris Duke Fellowships prepared you for Project STePs?

STePS has an explicit focus on preparing doctoral students in special education who are skilled to understand, interact with, and influence policy. This is not a typical component of special education doctoral programs. Including this focus on policy was a direct result of my experience with the Doris Duke Fellowship. Through my policy mentor and experiences in the fellowship, I gained competence and confidence thinking about policy at local, state, and national levels. I believe incorporating policy work into doctoral programming is an innovative way to meaningfully impact practice/policy/and research.

4. What does success look like for Project STePS?

In 5-6 years we envision the cohort of STePS scholars successfully graduating from our doctoral program and securing positions that will focus on supporting individuals with disabilities. We believe that by preparing students to attend to policy issues, they will be more impactful and effective in their work (both inside and outside the academy).

5. What else would you like to share about Project STePS?

I would like to thank Deb Daro for providing a letter of support for this grant competition. Part of what made our grant proposal successful was the documented support of professionals in our community/state. I believe the fellowship’s strong reputation enhanced our scope of work. Project STePS will fund up to 6 Special Education scholars.

Additionally, Drs. Ostrosky (Special Education), Lindsey (Social Work) and I received a different grant from the U.S. Department of Education-Office of Special Education Programming to fund masters students (Project TI3: Trauma Informed Early Intervention, Early Childhood Special Education, & Social Work). Project TI3 will prepare 24 full-time masters students in early intervention, early childhood special education, or school social work who have expertise in:

  • supporting the social emotional development

  • using trauma-informed supports

  • providing responsive, evidence-based services to young children (birth through five) with delays or disabilities and their families.

Project TI3 students will acquire competencies via coursework, a trauma-informed practice seminar, and inter-disciplinary practicum and traineeship experiences. This grant definitely reflects my work in the fellowship (interdisciplinary, preparing future practitioners to feel confident in preventing trauma as well as supporting children and families who have experienced trauma). Also, this represents the desire and value of providing fund opportunities for professionals, so they do not have to go into debt while furthering their education. Project TI3 will fund up to 24 Early Childhood Special Education/Social Work scholars.


Katie Maguire-Jack thoughts on neighborhood and child well-being

A recent report from the New York Times highlights how neighborhoods shape child poverty. As Fellowship Chair, Deb Daro stated, “In many respects, this idea of focusing on the impacts of neighborhood on child outcomes is not new – although the data base discussed here and its national application is.” We reached out to Cohort One fellow and Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, Kathryn Maguire-Jack, who has expertise in community and geographic disparities for her take on this.

“The research coming out of the Census Bureau, Harvard, and Brown is both exciting and troubling. It is troubling that we can identify geographic areas in which children’s life chances are reduced because of where they live, something they have no control over. However, it is very exciting that this work has moved beyond simply looking at the poverty level of the individual neighborhoods to understand more comprehensively how space and place affect a child’s entire life.  It is well established that impoverished neighborhoods have negative implications for children; but these relationships are not universal. This work helps us have a better understanding of the ways in which neighborhoods matter – which, critically, can hopefully move us toward understanding how to build on protective factors to support children and families across the nation.”


Fellows Updates:


Natalia Orendain, Cohort Seven fellow, was recently awarded two internal grants from UCLA: The Brain Research Institute’s Graduate Research Grant and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience’s Pilot Grant for Young Investigators to image 40 youth post-juvenile confinement and to ask them about their early life experiences as well as experiences while confined.




Upcoming Dates: