Previous Projects

To learn more about the resulting research from these projects, please visit our Scholarworks page.

Disability in STEM

The Disability in STEM study, which is now in its dissemination phase, sought to understand how student with disabilities experience STEM pathways in postsecondary learning environments. Products from this study include examinations of: 1) STEM aspirations and preparedness; 2) postsecondary STEM trajectories; 3) the development of positive STEM self-concept; 4) the influence of positive and negative faculty perceptions on student success; and 5) the influence of familial support.

Center for Student Success Research Leads: Ryan Wells and Ezekiel Kimball

Collaborators: Alexandra Lauterbach (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Rachel Friedensen (St. Cloud State University)

Graduate and Professional Education for Students with Disabilities: Examining Access to STEM, Medical, and Legal Fields

This project addresses the underrepresentation of students with disabilities in graduate and professional education. Looking specifically at STEM, medical, and legal fields of study, this project examines how a) lack of affordability and b) positive aspirations for further education, may play a role in disproportionate access to graduate and professional education.

People with disabilities have been historically marginalized and consistently underrepresented at all levels of education. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in the 1970s changed the landscape for K-12 education, increasing access for many students. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, and since that time students with disabilities have entered postsecondary institutions at greater rates (United States Government Accountability Office, 2009). Recent estimates put the proportion of college students with disabilities at around 11% (Snyder & Dillow, 2013), but the rates are actually higher, given that these figures do not capture a significant number of students who do not disclose their disability status to their campus (Cawthon & Cole, 2010). With the increasing number of students with disabilities entering baccalaureate education, the next logical issue is to better understand how accessible graduate and professional education is for this underrepresented group.

Research on college students with disabilities is sparse at all levels (Kimball, Wells, Ostiguy, Manly & Lauterbach, 2016; Peña, 2014), but especially so for graduate and professional education. Education researchers know relatively little about the pipeline into and through post-baccalaureate education for this group. This research aims to add to knowledge in three specific areas of graduate and professional education that are of national importance, and in which evidence exists that students with disabilities are underrepresented: a) science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), b) medical and health-related fields, and c) legal education.

Center for Student Success Research Lead: Ryan S. Wells

Funder: AccessLex and the Association for Institutional Research

Making Disability Visible in Higher Education Research: Addressing Quantitative, Qualitative, and Theoretical Limitations.

Despite the rapid increase in the number of college students with disabilities, higher education research has not systematically addressed the unique experiences of this rapidly growing population. As such, the literature about college students with disabilities is disproportionately small and substantively inadequate to serve as a foundation for effective higher education policy or practice. Between May 30 and June 1, 2018, seventeen disability scholars will convene for a conference titled: Making Disability Visible in Higher Education Research: Addressing Quantitative, Qualitative, and Theoretical Limitations.At this conference, interdisciplinary scholars from across the United States will: 1)  document the issues (and potential solutions for) the measurement challenges (qualitative, quantitative, theoretical) related to the study of college students with disabilities; 2) articulate a collaborative research agenda for disability in higher education that addresses quantitative, qualitative, and theoretical methodological challenges; and 3) develop and publish guidelines for the incorporation of Universal Design (UD) into research on college students. The conference will take place at the Whispering Pines Conference Center in Rhode Island

Center for Student Success Research Lead: Ezekiel Kimball

Collaborators: Annemarie Vaccaro (University of Rhode Island) and Bradley Cox (Florida State University)

Funder: Spencer Foundation

Researching Diversity, Inclusion and Student Success: Towards a Global Campus Climate

This year-long study will establish a network of academic collaborators from the U.S., the U.K, India, Ghana, South Africa, and Ireland to engage in comparative research on inclusion, equity, and diversity in higher education, as well as to develop relevant conceptual models and approaches to study problems of inclusion, equity, and student success in diverse country contexts. Using the Multi-Contextual Model for Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) as a lens through which to examine campus climate theory and frameworks, the collaborators will adapt and refine the DLE for relevance across diverse contexts as well as suggest other frameworks. 

Center for Student Success Research Leads: Chrystal George Mwangi & Jonique Childs

Collaborators: Sangeeta Kamat & Enobong (Anna) Branch

Funder: Worldwide Universities Network

Examining the Experiences of Students with Disabilities In Massachusetts

Using a multi-site case study, this research project looks at the college-going and within-college experiences for students with disabilities, particularly students with intellectual disabilities, across the state of Massachusetts. We are currently conducting research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Worcester State University, and Bridgewater State University.

Center for Student Success Research Lead: Ezekiel KimballRyan Wells

Collaborators: Bethany Lisi, Ashley WoodmanJordan AbbottHanni ThomaGenia Bettencourt, Alexandra Lauterbach, Jeff Edelstein, Ben Ostiguy-Finneran, and Jonique Childs

Funder: Massachusetts Department of Higher Education