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Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education

Current Students

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. 

Rayan Alquanaysi

Advisor: Hedda Meadan

Rayan received his bachelor's degree in special education from King Saud University in 2013. After graduation, he worked as a special education teacher in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Then, he moved to work as an assistant teacher at Priance Sattam University. In 2015, he moved to the US to pursue his graduate degrees. He received his master's from Temple University in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 2020. 

His research interests include language development, academic and social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

Laurie Andrews

Advisor: Lisa Monda-Amaya

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.

Megan Best

Advisor: Meghan Burke

Megan received a Bachelors in Special Education from Michigan State University, as well as an Ed.M. in Special Education with a specialty focus in Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has worked in the field of special education for the last 9 years to instruct and support students with moderate to significant disabilities. In the last two years, Megan worked as a Special Education Administrator in Chicago Public Schools to provide instructional support to teachers, administrators, and district leaders as they worked diligently to provide equitable access to students with disabilities. Megan has also worked as an adjunct professor at DePaul University and as an educational equity consultant as the Diverse Learner Specialist.

Megan’s research interests include improving accessibility and outcomes in the areas of employment and independent living for individuals with significant support needs.

Hannah Brenner

Advisor: Stacy Dymond

Hannah received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to starting the doctoral program, she worked as a Special Education teacher in a low-incidence high school classroom in Chicago Public Schools for 5 years. Hannah’s research interests include increasing employment opportunities and social integration within the employment setting for individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). She is also interested in researching employers’ perceptions of and experiences with hiring individuals with complex communication needs.

Lynn Burdick

Advisor: Catherine Corr

Lynn received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Audiology and Speech Sciences from Michigan State University and her elementary teaching license from Millikin University. Lynn taught third and fourth grade and served as the technology coordinator in a K-12 school district prior to coming to the University of Illinois as part of the PT3 Grant, Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology. Since Lynn’s arrival at the College of Education, she worked in both the Learning Technologies unit and more recently in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  Currently, Lynn’s roles are as a Technology Integration Specialist, Elementary Education Program Coordinator, and edTPA Coordinator for K-12 licensure candidates in Curriculum and Instruction.  Lynn’s research interests center around the impact of childhood trauma on learning and behavior.

Mia Chudzik

Co-Advisors: Catherine Corr and Amy Milagros Santos

Mia received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Prior to starting the doctoral program, she worked as an inclusive early childhood teacher and as a developmental therapist in early intervention in the Chicago suburbs. Her research interests include trauma-informed practices across early childhood settings.

Kate Connor

Advisor: Amber Ray

Kate received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Governors State University. Kate has taught in a variety of special education settings primarily at the elementary level: therapeutic day school, instructional classroom and most recently as a resource teacher. Her research interests include reading foundational skills in the elementary grades. 

Rebecca Folkerts

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Rebecca received a Bachelors in Music from James Madison University and an Ed.M in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the ACCESS grant.  She worked in the field of special education for six years in Chicago Public Schools as a transition services teacher for students with moderate to significant disabilities and as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for the entire district.  As a BCBA, she worked in a consultative role with students exhibiting challenging behavior and provided professional development to school-based professionals across the district.

Her interests include improving the quality of pre-service teacher training around student behavior assessment and change as well as disability law around LRE advocacy.

Elaine Gilmartin

Advisor: Hedda Meadan


Elaine (she/her/ hers) is a first-generation Chicana, raised in East Los Angeles, CA.  Having grown up as the oldest child of Mexican immigrants, Elaine holds great respect as the eldest daughter. Despite many obstacles throughout Elaine's educational and cultural journeys, she developed the propensity to persevere no matter what lay ahead. Elaine has been in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2006. Elaine served the community as a behavior technician for 11 years before becoming a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst in 2017. Elaine has worked hands on with a wide age range of individuals with disabilities, from early learners to transitional age youth. Elaine has disseminated applied behavior analysis in California, Florida and in the Dominican Republic, with hopes to reach more passionate practitioners around the world. Elaine’s experience includes facilitation of treatment for students engaging in severe challenging behavior. Elaine received her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from California State University Los Angeles and received a master’s degree in teaching with a specialization in applied behavior analysis from National University of La Jolla. Elaine is currently a first-year doctoral student in the department of special education at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. 

Elaine's research interests focus on understanding the intersectionality of sexual education and Latino families of transitional age youth with autism to promote healthy sexual outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Other interest focuses include practices which promote independent self-care, self-advocacy, and functional communication in young adults. 

In her free time, Elaine enjoys dancing, gardening, and roller-skating.  


Camille Griffin

Co-Advisors: Amy Santos and Erica Mason

Camille Griffin is Project STePS: Preparing Leaders in Special Education, Technology, Research, Policy, and Cultural, Linguistic, and Socioeconomic Diversity fellow, holds a BS in Special Education and MS in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Language and Literacy from the University of Illinois.

Ms. Griffin’s research is focused on culturally sustaining pedagogies used to enhance literacy instruction for students with high incident disabilities who are linguistically and culturally diverse, with an emphasis on curricular design and evidence-based intervention strategies to accelerate learning for individuals with dyslexia both in and out-of school. She enjoys dancing, mindfulness activities, and outdoor adventures with her son. 

Ban Sleiman Haidar

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Ban received a BA in Psychology from the American University of Beirut and M.Ed. in School Counseling from Suffolk University in Boston. Ban served as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst for the Santa Barbara Unified School District in CA and was a clinical supervisor for an ABA clinic in Urbana IL.

Ban is interested in culturally responsive and evidence-based interventions for autism. She wants to develop effective and affordable teaching approaches to stakeholders who work with children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders.

Loretta Hayslip

Advisor: Michaelene Ostrosky

Prior 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.

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.

Amanda Johnston

Advisor: Meghan Burke

Amanda Johnston is a Project Family IMPACT (Individualization, Mobility, Poverty, Adversity, Culture, and Trauma) fellow.  Amanda has had prior teaching experience in both general education classrooms and special education resource settings.  Amanda received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Illinois State University and her master’s degree in Second Language Special Education from Roosevelt University.  Amanda’s research interests include, but are not limited to, parental advocacy for students with disabilities and the effects of poverty and trauma on students with disabilities.

Casey (Keunhee) Kim 

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Casey received her master's degree in Special Education from the University of Washington at Seattle. She previously was a Special Education Teacher at Bellevue School District, Washington. Casey was also a Behavior Therapist in various settings, including ABA clinics, schools, home, and Korean National Hospital. Along with these positions, Casey was a Research Assistant at Seoul National University & Hongik University, Seoul, Korea. She was also a Behavior Consultant at Seoul Advocacy Agency for Persons with Disabilities in Seoul, Korea. Casey is interested in supporting social communication and challenging behavior of students with autism and supporting early childhood educators in low-resource settings.    

Misty Krippel

Advisor: Catherine Corr and Michaelene Ostrosky

Misty received her masters degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She worked in the field of early childhood special education for 14 years prior to becoming a doctoral student. Through collaboration and building connections with families and community providers, Misty seeks to build awareness and understanding of the unique needs of diverse at-risk families and their children. Her research interest includes early childhood services with at-risk youth & families, in addition to barriers to services. Misty is passionate about building family systems and empowering parent-child relationships through intentional play.

Rex Li

Advisor: Meghan Burke

Rex received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from CUNY Hunter College and his Master’s degree in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Rex worked in the field of Special Education in New York, serving a variety of roles including itinerant and classroom teacher for 2-5 year olds with disabilities as well as special education coordinator for elementary and middle school students. Rex’s research interest is primarily focused on the effects of school-home collaboration along with related aspects such as parent-teacher communication and consistency of behavior management in various settings.


Emily Malouf

Advisor: Stacy Dymond

Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from The Ohio State University and her Masters in Education in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She worked in public schools in Ohio and Chicago, teaching students with significant support needs. Emily has held positions at private ABA companies and in non-public school settings in Texas, New York, and California. Emily’s research interests include increasing opportunities and outcomes in the area of employment for individuals with significant support needs.


Melanie Martin

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Melanie has over nine years of clinical experience in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), as a behavior therapist, and since 2017, as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst supervisor. Melanie has supported children and their families across various environments including in homes, public and private schools, and clinical settings across the Southwest United States, and internationally in Venezuela, Jordan, and the Cayman Islands. Melanie obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and her Master of Arts in Special Education and ABA from Ball State University. Melanie will focus her PhD studies exploring how to improve access to culturally relevant and evidence-based Autism support for diverse communities.

Mohamed Nasr

Advisor: James Shriner

Mohamed worked in Egypt for 10 years and in Qatar for three years as an English teacher before he was drawn into the field of special education. He has worked as a special education teacher, coordinator in a public secondary school, and head of the department of Special Education. Mohamed’s research  of interest is inclusion to students with disabilities in mainstream education.

Ricky Price

Advisor: Stacy Dymond

Richard (he/him/his) received a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, Kinesiology, and Applied Behavior Analysis from Michigan State University. Richard then served as a Behavior Analyst, working specifically with school and transition-aged youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Developing the knowledge in understanding all aspects of a person with a disability and working in interdisciplinary teams is a passion of his. Richard's research interests, specific to transition-aged youth with disabilities, include but are not limited to advocacy training, transportation training, transition/vocational planning, physical health, mental health, sexual health/education, functional living/independence, and cultural aspects of disability. 

When not learning, you can find Richard with his friends, enjoying life, dancing, and traveling the world. 

Alexandra Richmond

Advisor: Catherine Corr

Alexandra received her Bachelor’s from Clark Atlanta University in English Education and later received a Masters in Special Education from Purdue University. For the last five years, she has worked for Chicago Public Schools as a special educator at an elementary school. She worked with students with mild disabilities in self-contained and general education settings. Her success in the classroom can be attributed to her ability to build positive and lasting relationships with students and their families. For the last two years, she worked as a teacher coach at her school, helping teachers with personalized learning plans, digital curriculum tools and classroom management. She also worked for the district as a Teacher Ambassador. In this role, she worked on recruitment and commercial campaigns to recruit and retain teachers in hard-to-staff schools across Chicago. All of these roles led her to discover her passion for equity within special education.

Alexandra’s research interests include equity in special education hiring practices within urban school districts and culturally responsive teacher preparation programs for special education. She enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and trying new restaurants.

Landria Seals Green

Advisor: Jessica Hardy

Landria Seals Green is a Speech Language Pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyist supported by work within the clinical field for over 20 years. Landria founded a clinical therapy practice serving children with autism and successfully completed the merger acquisition process in 2020. She has extensive practice in social communication, curriculum and program development for learners with autism. Landria is the co-founder of the ABA Taskforce, an organization that supports Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion across the industry of applied behavior analysis as well as health and social justice issues seen in the community at large. She has been a ground breaking invited speaker and presenter for over ten years in clinical training and diversity equity inclusion within the clinical field.

Landria is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Northwestern University. She completed coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis at FIT and University of North Texas. Landria happily shares life with her husband Alfred and their two children.

Kaori Terol 

Advisor: Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Kaori received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from the Universidad Autónoma del Paraguay in her home country of Paraguay and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Kaori worked in different roles at an inclusive school for 6 years, and as a speech language pathologist for 3 years prior to becoming a doctoral student. Kaori’s research interests are focused on parent-mediated interventions for young children with disabilities in different cultural contexts and the dissemination of these strategies in low-resource environments.

Crystal Williams

Advisor: Michaelene Ostrosky

Crystal received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Illinois in 2019. Since then, she has worked in early intervention as a developmental therapist. Prior to returning to the PhD program, Crystal also worked at Champaign County Head Start as the Infant and Toddler Specialist, in which she provided training and coaching for early head start teachers. Crystal’s research interests include increasing empowerment of all caregivers of children with delays and disabilities and increasing the quality of early intervention teams. In her free time, Crystal enjoys reading, baking, and going on bike rides.

Christy Yoon

Advisor: Hedda Meadan

Christy received her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of California San Diego and Master’s degree in Autism and Intellectual Disability from Columbia University. Prior to starting the doctoral program, Christy worked as an instructional therapist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine designing and running intervention curriculums that support skill development and social interaction in individuals with autism. Christy’s research interests include early social communication development and challenging behaviors in children with autism and related developmental disorders and in developing intervention procedures to enhance functioning of the children.

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