Magda Rivera-Dillon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez. She worked for many years as an engineer in the federal government and was responsible for engineering, research, test and evaluation, and project management. Following her career in the federal government, Magda pursued studies in the health field in which she had been interested for many years and became a Licensed Practical Nurse. Magda is currently a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Health Sciences with an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Disability Studies at West Virginia University (WVU). She is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) Trainee and directly supports the Autism Teen Support Group at the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED). She is a member of the Project Management Institute and DAU Alumni Association. She is a Tau Beta Phi Engineering Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society Alumnus.
1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
I was a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Trainee in my first semester in the Master of Science in Health Sciences program when I became aware of the new Diversity and Disabilities Fellowship and became very interested in participating. I applied for the Diversity and Disabilities Fellowship and was very fortunate to be selected as a dual LEND Trainee and Diversity and Disabilities Fellow. I feel this dual participation role provided me with expanded opportunities and the potential to make a significant contribution towards getting the new Diversity and Disabilities Fellowship to a running start by being a bridge between the two programs. At the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED), the Diversity and Disability Fellowship program work in collaboration with the LEND program which allowed me to participate in the following activities during my fellowship experience:
During the summer term, I became involved with the iASD clinic through my Disabilities and the Community class which is part of my Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disabilities Studies. I supported the Teens with Autism Support Group at the WVU CED during the fall and spring semesters, so I wanted to continue providing services to individuals with Autism during the summer term. I truly enjoyed this volunteering experience.
During my participation in the LEND and Diversity and Disability Fellowship Programs, I worked in two projects: the Impacts Assessment Project and the Community Outreach Project. In the first project, the goal was to assess the impact the new Diversity and Disability Fellowship Program had on the LEND program in order to effectively foster the development of future leaders in different health care fields. In the second project, the goal was to expand community outreach concerning the services provided at the WVU CED. We reached out to the Spanish-speaking community in the Morgantown area in order to increase awareness and participation. Based on these two projects, I prepared and submitted two poster presentation applications to the 2016 AUCD Conference.
2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
The Teens with Autism Support Group was selected as the primary focus for expansion into the Spanish speaking community. The Teens with Autism Support Group flyer in English was updated and translated into Spanish. The WVU CED Information Brochure was also translated into Spanish. The translated documents were prepared and printed at the WVU CED Graphic Services. Both English and Spanish documents were disseminated at a local church where a bilingual mass (both in Spanish and English) is provided.
The Community Outreach Project raised awareness in the community about the available services offered by the WVU CED services in the Morgantown area with a particular focus on the Spanish speaking community. Following dissemination, the Center received inquiries for information concerning the Teens with Support Group. New participants joined in the Teens with Autism Support Group during the 2016 fall semester. The LEND and Fellowship collaboration increased diversity in the LEND program and exposure to different cultural perspectives and work setting interactions for the LEND Trainees.
3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I chose to work on these two projects because I truly believe in the benefits of the leadership education and services provided at the WVU CED. I feel the exposure to diversity helped LEND trainees obtain increased cultural competence. I believe that raising awareness in the community allows for increased participation and improvement in the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families in the Morgantown area.
4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
I feel so blessed that I was able to be a Diversity and Disability Fellow because it provided me with additional opportunities to learn and gain experience beyond just being a LEND Trainee. I have participated in activities and built a rapport with the WVU Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I am now more educated with regards to diversity in my community and more engaged in ongoing diversity events and activities.
5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
By supporting the iASD Clinic as part of my Diversity and Disability Fellow experience, I gained training and experience in Applied Behavior Analysis based treatments which made me want to pursue additional education in this area to better serve persons with disabilities. Thus, I applied for the Graduate Certificate in Special Education with Emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis that the WVU Department of Special Education offers and was accepted.
6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
My future goals are to continue working on the Community Outreach Project to increase awareness so the WVU CED services reach new people in the community, to support ongoing efforts to increase instruction about disabilities and diversity in the WVU School of Medicine curriculum, and to support activities promoting diversity and inclusion. I would like to graduate with a Masters of Science in Health Sciences with an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disabilities Studies and a Certificate in Special Education with Emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. Five years from now, with a lot of hard work and commitment, I see myself pursuing studies at the WVU School of Medicine.
7. What recommendations do you have for other fellows?
My best recommendations to other Diversity and Disability Fellows are to make sure to participate in as many activities and trainings offered to you as part of being a fellow and to work on a project that you really are engaged with and believe would make a positive impact on others. This is a win-win combination to help you gain the most out of this wonderful experience of being a Diversity and Disability Fellow.