Punking Neoliberal Education: A Disability Studies Approach to bringing Pedagogy and Activism through Community Partnerships
Sara M. Acevedo, Christina Gray, Suzanne Stolz, Leonor Vanik, Catalina Galvan
Date: April 25, 2023
In 1998, Simi Linton and Michael Bérubé reflected on the absence of disabled people’s intellectual contributions in liberal arts curricula. Naming the causes behind this erasure as well detailing concrete strategies to hone in the disability experience in all its complexity, Linton’s now classic Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity remains a staple in disability studies. Twenty-five years after its publication, it becomes imperative to revisit the relevance of this seminal work and critically examine why it remains both a cultural site of disability pride and a call for action to redress the erasure of disabled ways of knowing in the academy. Our proposed discussion is based on an internal panel held during the Disability Identity and Culture Month celebrations at a Liberal Arts University in Ohio. This panel featured a dialogue between disabled critical educators, students, and community partners who shared their individual and collective experiences and involvement with intersectional disability activism and their contribution and participation in a Disability Studies course on activism and allyship. A central focus of this dialogue, and one we wish to particularly highlight, is the role of critical education and integral teaching praxis in bridging the gap between pedagogy and activism through the building of community partnerships. In this panel discussion, we adopt a collective ethnographic approach to share some of the strategies we have developed collaboratively to punk neoliberal education and its economy of competition, seeking to instead galvanize solidarity, collaborative learning, and hope inside and beyond the classroom.
About the Speakers
Sara M. Acevedo
Dr. Sara María Acevedo is an Autistic Colombian-born scholar-activist and critical educator. Her research is committed to anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-ableist praxis, and is informed by transnational feminism, the study of subjugated knowledges, and posthumanism, among others. She is an Assistant Professor of disability studies at Miami University, where she advances Disability Justice in the classroom and across campus. Her work as an educator blends critical pedagogy, research, and activism, building on the knowledge of historically marginalized communities. Sara has received numerous recognitions for her community-based work and transnational contributions to the Neurodiversity Movement. She is currently leading a research project on neurodivergent culture, activism, and autonomous forms of governance funded by the Ford Foundation’s Disability Rights Program. Sara served a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Society for Disability Studies.
Christina (they/them/theirs) is a junior undergraduate majoring in Social Work with minors in Disability Studies; Women, Gender & Sexuality; and Criminology. They are passionate about advancing social justice, focusing on juvenile justice, while examining epigenetics & intergenerational trauma in connection to incarceration. They hope to one day work as an advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system and develop programming to decrease juvenile recidivism rates.
Suzanne Stolz, Ed.D. serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego. A former high school English teacher, administrator, and leader of disability programs, she has expertise in online instruction, curriculum design, mentoring, school culture, Universal Design for Learning, and disability studies. Her research relates to conceptions of disability and disability pedagogy, often including reflection about her experience as a disabled student. She has created disability curriculum for high school students, for out-of-school time programs, and for disability mentoring. She advises a student organization, Alliance of Disability Advocates, and also has served on the board of the Society for Disability Studies. Suzanne is especially passionate about working with preservice and inservice teachers to rethink their conceptions of disability and create inclusive school communities. Annually, she leads a fellowship program for general education teachers who want to become leaders of inclusive practice at their school sites.
Website: Teacher Leaders for inclusion
Leonor Vanik, Ph.D., is the President of the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities as well as an academic, disability scholar, evaluator, and a disability management consultant working with non-profits, government, and foundations to include disability, diversity, and equity inclusion in the program life cycle. Dra. Vanik’s research focuses on the social production of disability [marginalized] spaces in the built and cyber environments and is currently working on elevating disability engagement and programming in a hybrid-society through a culturally responsive evaluation and assessment lens. Leonor holds a doctorate in Urban Planning and a master’s degree in planning with a concentration in housing and community development from the University of Illinois Chicago. However, the role that she is most proud of is being a sister to Maria Vanik, a disability activist and artist at the Arts of Life center in Chicago.
Catalina Galvan holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a Minor in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Currently, she is a Human Resources Generalist for a local governmental public organization in Illinois. She is also pursuing a Master’s in Human Resource Management with the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. Catalina serves on the Executive Board for the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD) as the Treasurer at a volunteer basis in which she has been involved with since 2017. Catalina also works in various capacities, including planning for the annual conferences and the Nosotros series and serving as co-chair of the CNLD Immigration and Employment Committees.
- College of Education, University of Maryland
- College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), University of Maryland
- The Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Diversity and Inclusion (OGDI), University of Maryland