The Special Education Graduate Student Association (SEGSA) is an active group for all Masters and Doctoral students in the department of special education. The group participates in campus and community activities, social outings, and fundraisers, and serves as a liaison between graduate students and faculty in the Department of Special Education. If you would like to learn more about SEGSA, please contact the Department of Special Education for more information. 

Nicole (Nikki) Adams

Nikki AdamsNikki received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Vanderbilt University. Nikki worked in the field of Special Education for 7 years prior to becoming a doctoral student. She served in a variety of roles in Virginia, including itinerant and classroom teacher for 2-5 year olds with disabilities and preschool evaluator. Nikki also provided trainings as an educational consultant to local infant-toddler teachers and staff based on the Center on Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL) modules and materials. She has served on the board for the Virginia chapter of the Division of Early Childhood (DEC).

B.A. Psychology, University of North Carolina at Asheville
M.Ed. Early Childhood Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Advisor: Amy Santos

Janeth Aleman Tovar
Janet Aleman TovarJaneth received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Chicano/a studies with a minor in Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her teaching credentials and Master’s degree from California State University, Fresno. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Janeth was a third-grade classroom teacher and interventionist for five years. 

Her research interests include family-school partnerships and parent advocacy with a focus on Latino families.

Advisor: Meghan Burke
B.A. Political Science and Chicano/a Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
M.A. Special Education, California State University, Fresno

Laurie Andrews

andrewsl_120x168Laurie received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois. After finishing her Master’s degree in special education, she taught in the Chicago suburbs and in the Chicago Public Schools.  She worked with students with behavioral challenges and significant learning disabilities in her 10 years as a classroom teacher.

In 2005, Laurie moved in to the position of University Practicum Supervisor at the University of Illinois College of Education, working closely with university students through their clinical experiences in the special education program in the college. Laurie is currently the Practicum Coordinator in the Department of Special Education at the College of Education.

Laurie’s research interests are focused on increasing the efficacy and quality of clinical experiences for special education teacher candidates.

Advisor: Lisa Monda-Amaya

Waifong (Catherine) Cheung

Cheung, WaifongWaifong (Catherine) Cheung is a PhD student in the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Catherine worked as a physical therapist in school, hospital and long term care settings for 17 years. Her Master’s degree focused on physical therapy for children with developmental disabilities. She is interested in the provision of assistive technology to help children with special needs. She is also interested in the disability laws for families of children with disabilities. She was born in Hong Kong. Catherine enjoys swimming, fishing and cooking with her husband and two boys.

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky
B.S., Physical Therapy, National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
M.S., Physical Therapy, New York University, New York, NY

Christopher Cormier

Cormier_ChrisPrior to entering into the PhD program, Christopher worked as a special education teacher in Los Angeles County for 5 years in elementary, middle and high school.  His research interests include the over-representation of minorities in special education and under-representation of Black male teachers in special education as well as ethical concerns in the field of special education.  For his dissertation research he is examining the experiences of Black male middle and high school special education teachers.

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky 
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Special Education, Fisk University
Master of Arts in Theology (MAT), Fuller Theological Seminary
Master of Education (M.Ed.) w/emphasis in Psychology, Pepperdine University

Rebecca Hacker

Rebecca HackerRebecca received her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Illinois State University and her Masters in Education in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She worked in Chicago Public Schools for 4 years. She began in a co-teaching setting in high school, then moved to an early childhood special education for students with moderate to severe disabilities for 3 years. She enjoys golfing, frisbee golf, and cooking.

Her research interests include disability law and as well as inclusion of all students in the early childhood classrooms.

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Loretta Hayslip

Hayslip, LorettaPrior to entering the Doctoral program, Loretta spent her time following her passion working with young children.  In the most recent years she has been a special needs preschool teacher in public schools. In 2011 she began to seek new ways to advocate for young children outside of the classroom.  This led to being selected by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for the Legacy Leader Fellowship program. This opportunity inspired her to create a chapter of the Arizona AEYC in Mohave County.  She then served as Vice President of Professional Development on the Valley of the Sun AEYC board in Phoenix Arizona. These experiences drove Loretta to seek a PhD program focusing on Early Childhood Special Education with the goal to broadening her impact on young children through research and the preparation of pre-service teachers.

Loretta’s research interests, specific to Early Childhood Special Education, include the impact of social development on learning outcomes, the role of motivation in social development, and the impact of teacher interaction on social development.

Advisor: Michaelene Ostrosky
B.A. in Elementary Education, Prescott College
M.Ed in Reading, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
M.Ed in Educational Leadership (Principalship), Arizona State University

Shari Hopkins

Hopkins_ShariShari received her Master’s and teaching credential from University of San Francisco with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction for students with mild/moderate disabilities. Eventually, after working closely with students with intellectual disabilities, Shari obtained an additional credential to serve students with moderate/severe disabilities.  Shari has worked for the past five years as a special education teacher, collaborating with general education teachers and specialists to provide more inclusive opportunities for students who have complex communication needs and physical impairments. 

Shari’s research interest focuses on the meaningful inclusion of students with severe disabilities in public secondary school settings. Of particular interest is how teachers experiences with, and attitudes towards, individuals with disabilities impacts their own beliefs about inclusion.

Advisor: Stacy Dymond
B.A. Liberal Arts, New College of California
M.A. Curriculum and Instruction, University of San Francisco

Gakyung Jeong

Gakyung JeongGakyung Jeong’s experience includes two years as a special education teacher in Korea and two years as a high school general education instructional assistant in Texas. In both cases, she worked with students with challenging behavior. Gakyung also served as a graduate assistant for the San Antonio Writing Project (SAWP). SAWP is a non-profit organization designed to promote effective writing instruction in San Antonio area schools. The project primarily serves a low socio-economic population and students whose second language is English. Gakyung directed a division of SWAP called EYaGi, which promotes effective writing skills specifically in Korean students. EYaGi is Korean for story.

Gakyung focused her research on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for secondary students with challenging behaviors and included: 1) implementing effective teacher education to promote general classroom interventions; 2) facilitating parent involvement through education on ABA; 3) promoting students’ academic achievement in the general education classroom.

Advisor: Lisa Monda-Amaya
BA in Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio
MA in Special Education, University of Texas at San Antonio

Todd Lash

Todd Lash (2)Todd Lash is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education.  Previously he worked for seventeen years as a k-5 classroom teacher, interventionist, library media specialist and instructional coach. He is the co-winner of 2015 State of Illinois, Those Who Excel Award for Educational Teams and is the co-founder of EdCampCU, which aims to bring community members with diverse viewpoints to together to discuss education-related issues.  

Todd’s research interests are around increasing equity in and access to high-quality computer science education for all students.  He is currently the lead writer for the 2016 Computer Science Teachers Association Standards Revision team and served as a writer for the Framework project.  

Advisor: Maya Israel
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) English, University of Illinois
Master of Education (M.Ed.) Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois

Chung eun Lee

Lee, Chung EunChung eun is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education at The University of Illinois. As a sibling of individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder and an experienced Special Education teacher, she spent many years working with children with disabilities. She taught for four years in St.Peter’s school for children with intellectual disability, and supported the transition program for adults with developmental disability. With her work experience, she pursued her master’s degree in Special Education at The University of Texas at Austin. She investigated the cultural impact on family of children with disabilities and how to support those families.

Her research interests include adult sibling perspectives on future planning, developing a family/sibling support network that can empower family of individuals with disabilities. Chung eun is also interested in cultural impacts on Asian-American family of children with disabilities.

Advisor: Meghan Burke
B.A. in Special Education, Ewha Womans University, Republic of Korea
M.A. in Special Education, University of Texas at Austin.

James Lee

James LeeJames has worked as a clinician in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and autism treatment in California and South Korea. He has experience both in-clinic and in-home settings, directing ABA clinic operations, and conducting telehealth-ABA services. His research interests include parent-implemented social-communication and challenging behavior interventions with the use of telehealth technology, single-case research methodology, and global dissemination of ABA in low-resource countries. 

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky 
B.A. Sociology and Special Education, University of Oregon 
M.S. Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education, University of Oregon 

Stacy McGuire
StacyMcGuireStacy received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, with a secondary major in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Mild Intervention from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. She taught Kindergarten for two years in Fayetteville, North Carolina before moving back to Illinois. After returning to Champaign, she taught special education, Kindergarten, second, third, and fifth grades. In 2015, she completed her Master’s degree in Special Education at Illinois State University and then completed her National Board Certification, Exceptional Needs Specialist in 2017. 

Stacy’s research interests focus on the social inclusion of individuals with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the general education environment. 

Advisors: Elizabeth Biggs and Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky
Bachelor of Music (B.M.) Music Education, with secondary major in Elementary Education and Mild Intervention endorsement, Butler University
Master of Science in Special Education, Illinois State University

Mohamed Nasr

Nasr 3Mohamed worked as an SEN coordinator in a public secondary school in Qatar. He was the head of the department of Additional Educational Support Needs (Special Education) for four years. Before that, He worked as a teacher of special education. His experience in the field of special lasts for seven years. However, His experience in the field of education extends for about twenty years.

His major was English literature and linguistics. He had his bachelor degree at the faculty of Alsun (Languages), Ain Shams University, Egypt in 1996.The following year, He started his career as a teacher of English. He had worked in Egypt for ten years and in Qatar for three years as a teacher of English before Special education started to attract him.

He had his diploma in special education at Qatar University in 2013. He continued his studies directly to have his master’s degree in 2015.

His area of interest is inclusion to students with disabilities in mainstream education.
Temporary Advisor: Amy Santos 

Courtney O'Grady
Courtney OGradyCourtney received her undergraduate degree from Saint Xavier University in early childhood education and her master’s degree from the University of Illinois in early childhood special education. She has over ten years experience teaching preschool. In 2017 she was the recipient of the Joliet Chamber of Commerce Great Teachers Award. She has also served as an adjunct instructor at Parkland Community College, the University of Illinois and the University of St. Francis, teaching courses in child development and early childhood special education. Her research interests include equity, challenging behavior, and social-emotional competencies. 

Advisor: Michaelene Ostrosky
B.S. Early Childhood Education, Saint Xavier University
M.Ed. Early Childhood Special Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Kimberly Patton

Patton_KimKimberly Patton is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education.  Prior to entering the doctoral program, she taught functional lifeskills at a middle school in Champaign for 10 years working with students with moderate and severe disabilities.  Kim received her Master’s in Education in Special Education from the University of Illinois in 2004.  

Kim’s research interest is focused on how families and special education teachers collaborate during transition planning for students with severe disabilities. 

Advisors: Meghan Burke and Stacy Dymond
B.S. in Agricultural Communications, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
M.Ed. in Special Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Saury Ramos-Torres

Ramos-Torres, Saury (2)Saury Ramos-Torres was a special education teacher in Puerto Rico. During her first year, she worked with infant and toddlers and also served as a Spanish teacher. Later, she worked with students with severe disabilities, such as Rett syndrome, cerebral palsy and others. Her third year, she had a group of preschool students with autism.  In 2011, she participated in an exchange program with the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain and in 2012 participated in a Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) at UIUC.  She is interested in employment for students with severe disabilities.

Advisor: Stacy Dymond
B.S. Elementary Education and Special Education, University of Puerto Rico at Humacao
M.S. Special Education, University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras

Kristina Rios

Rios, KristinaKristina Rios is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education. Prior to entering the program, Kristina was a special education teacher for three years. Kristina received her bachelor's degree in liberal studies and master of arts degree in special education from California State University of Bakersfield. Kristina's thesis study assessed the effectiveness of student monitoring on independent learning tasks. Her current research interests include parent advocacy for individuals with significant disabilities.

Advisor: Meghan Burke
B.A. Liberal Studies, California State University, Bakersfield
M.A. Special Education, California State University, Bakersfield

Magen Rooney

Rooney, MagenMagen received her Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Illinois-Chicago and her Masters in Education from the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign. She worked in Chicago Public Schools for three years as a high school teacher. Her first year was spent co-teaching math and science courses. During her second two years, she led a transition-focused classroom for students with moderate to severe disabilities.

Magen’s research interests include how to increase inclusive employment and education opportunities for students with moderate to severe disabilities.

Advisor: Stacy Dymond

Michelle Sands

M.sands 6.17Michelle Sands is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education. Previously, she had worked for over fifteen years in the early childhood field as a blended classroom teacher, research support assistant, instructional coach, curriculum specialist, special education coordinator, and assistant principal. She has worked for public school districts, Head Start programs, research firms, a children's museum and national child care provider. 

Michelle's interests relate to improving the collaboration between early intervention, early childhood, and elementary programs, implementing best practices as they relate to transitions, and collaboration with families and communities, all as ways to improve student outcomes. 

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky
Bachelor of Arts (B.S.) Editorial Journalism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Master of Education (M.Ed.) Early Childhood Special Education
Master of Arts (M.A.) Educational Leadership

Kristen Schraml-Block

Kristen 2For the past several years, Kristen has engaged in family-centered practices with caregivers who have infants and toddlers with hearing loss accessing early intervention services.  In her work, she partners with caregivers to promote their child’s meaningful participation in naturally occurring everyday interactions, routines and activities. She espouses the motto of Dunst, Trivette & Mott -– “The goal of early intervention must not be seen as ‘doing for people’, but rather the strengthening of functioning in ways that make families less and not more dependent upon professionals for help.”  Kristen’s early intervention work on the West and South sides of Chicago propelled her to pursue her doctorate at the University of Illinois. Subsequently, Kristen’s research interests include equity of quality early intervention services for all families regardless of circumstance.

Advisor: Micki Ostrosky
M.S.Ed., Special Education, Radford University

Julia Snider

IMG_1565Prior to entering the doctoral program, Julia worked for eight years in the Chicago Public Schools. During her first six years she worked as a special education teacher at a fully inclusive elementary and middle school. She then spent two years working as an Inclusion Facilitator in the Chicago Public Schools through The Christopher L. & M. Susan Gust Foundation where she coached teachers on strategies for implementing inclusive practices into the classroom.

Julia’s research interests focus on strategies that promote the meaningful inclusion of students with significant disabilities within the classroom and school community. She is especially interested in the role technology, modifications and collaboration can play in creating truly inclusive communities that value, support, and educate all of their members. 

Advisor: Stacy Dymond
B.S. Inclusive Elementary and Special Education, Syracuse University;
M.Ed. Special Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jami Swindell

Jami Swindell 2017As a former Infant-Toddler teacher, Jami was able to create relationships with families while providing a solid developmental foundation for the children in her care. Jami found her passion for working with young children and families as a swim lesson instructor and grew into her professional role as a preschool teacher, parent educator, mentor teacher, professional development training specialist and adjunct instructor at the community college level. Jami has worked closely with the National Association for the Education of Young Children as a Student Interest Forum Facilitator and presenter at the local, state and national level. Most recently, Jami has served children, families and teachers as an Inclusion Specialist where she provided classroom support, child care referrals, service coordination and workshops for early childhood professionals working with children with special care requirements and special needs across the state of Missouri. Jami also has studied extensively as a forensic child psychologist to support children who have experienced trauma in their early lives. Jami earned her bachelors in Early Childhood Development and Education at the University of Missouri- Columbia and her master’s degree in Early Childhood and Family Development at Missouri State University. Jami recently completed an advanced Graduate Certificate in Forensic Child Psychology at Missouri State University. She currently is pursuing her doctoral degree in the Department of Special Education in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Illinois.  Her interests include IDEA Part C Policy, access to Early Intervention, interplay of childhood trauma, early development and the special needs of children and families in crisis.  Her research interests include Early Intervention, Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms, Trauma-Informed Practice, IDEA Part C Policy and Community Engagement in Early Childhood Education. 

Advisor: Amy Santos
Masters of Science in Early Childhood and Family Development Missouri State University
Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences University of Missouri
Emphasis Area: Human Development and Family Studies, Early Childhood Development and Education

Hsiu-Wen Yang

Yang_Hsiu-WenHsiu-wen finished her bachelor and master degree in Occupational Therapy from ISU university and National Taiwan University. She worked as an occupation therapist is physical and pediatric are for 3 years. Now Hsiu-wen is a doctoral student in special education. Her research interest focus on challenging behavior and  social communication issue in young children with autism

Advisors: Michaelene Ostrosky and Hedda Meadan
B.S. Occupational Therapy, ISU university, Taiwan
M.S. Occupational Therapy, National Taiwan University, Taiwan