In an inspiring showcase of academic dedication and a profound commitment to social change, Stacy Eldred, a Ph.D. candidate in Education with an emphasis on Disability Studies, stands out at Chapman University. Eldred’s journey, marked by a relentless pursuit of equity and inclusion for adults with disabilities, has recently been highlighted due to her selection for the prestigious Provost Dissertation Fellowship for Spring 2024. 

The Ph.D. fellowship is part of Chapman’s effort to foster groundbreaking research and academic excellence. Recipients are chosen based on their scholarly achievements and their potential to contribute significantly to their field of study.

Eldred, currently in her fourth year and set to graduate in the spring, brings a wealth of experience and passion to her research. Before embarking on her Ph.D. journey, she amassed nearly fifteen years of professional teaching experience, primarily serving adult students with disabilities through the OASIS Program at Saddleback College. Eldred’s academic credentials are robust; she holds a master’s degree in special education from Chapman University and an education specialist credential, coupled with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton.

Reflecting on her motivation to pursue a Ph.D., Eldred shared, “My education, experience, volunteer work, and the encouragement I received from fellow faculty colleagues contributed to my desire to pursue a Ph.D. I was disappointed in the lack of opportunities for adults with disabilities in terms of post-secondary education programs, employment, and independent living. I wanted to research and identify the gaps in livelihood opportunities for adults with disabilities and contribute my research to developing and implementing positive and progressive change.”

Eldred’s dissertation focuses on the growing trend of U.S. colleges establishing educational programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Her research aims to shed light on how faculty and administrators understand and navigate the challenges and opportunities of such programs, with the goal of fostering a campus culture that values inclusivity and belonging.

“My study will inform the field as to how these programs might be created and run in order to develop a campus culture that fosters a sense of belonging for students with IDD,” Eldred explained, highlighting her commitment to inclusive postsecondary education as a fundamental right.

The support from her faculty advisors, Dr. Dawn Hunter and Dr. Whitney McIntyre Miller, has been instrumental in Eldred’s academic success. “I could write a whole dissertation on how my advisors have contributed to my research journey! I would not have continued on this journey without their support,” Eldred said, expressing deep gratitude for their encouragement and mentorship.

Eldred’s research and academic endeavors represent a significant contribution to the field of Disability Studies and the broader discourse on inclusion and equity in education. Her work exemplifies the transformative power of dedicated scholarship and the positive change it can bring to society.