Diversity Fellow Project, Christie Kelly

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Community Outreach and Education on Disability in a Tribal Community: Building Bridges through Foundations of Trust

Community Outreach and Education on Disability in a Tribal Community: Building Bridges through Foundations of Trust [download PDF]

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Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
I was invited to be a Fellow with Sonoran UCEDD at the University of Arizona. I am also a PhD student in Higher Education and I work as the Counselor at a tribal college. I have been working to build relationships with various disability organizations to create partnerships on a tribal reservation. The tribal nation covers a very large expanse of area in the United States and Mexico and so there are likely to be issues related to lack of information on available resources for tribal members that have disabilities. In tribal communities, the establishment of a relationship is a critical first step in building later partnerships and collaborations.

The tribal college is one place where community events, meetings and celebrations are held so conducting outreach from this nexus makes sense. My attendance at community events has included attending a college cultural celebration, assisting with serving food to students and their families during the graduation celebration, attending a community workshop on domestic violence and gender dynamics, and providing a presentation at the annual transition workshop for high school students and their family members. In addition, outreach to various organizations in the tribal community that work with people that have disabilities will continue.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
This project assisted all the partners including, UCEDD, members of the tribal community with disabilities and staff at the tribal college. The UCEDD will benefit from the creation of a working relationship with a collaborator (such as myself) that can advise college administrators on student disability needs at the college, thus providing a foundation for future partnerships between the tribal college and the university. In addition, individual students/community members were impacted by increasing their knowledge on disability resources available at the tribal college and how to navigate various organizations on the reservation. More and more staff at the tribal college are building knowledge about disabilities in general and working with students that have various disabilities. This has led to request for professional training by faculty members on working with students that have disabilities.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
Working in a tribal community in the area of higher education has been a long-time goal of mine. In addition, as a counselor, I see first-hand the need for supportive services for students at the tribal college. Disability education, awareness and outreach are critical needs in the tribal community and these needs drove my desire to continue to conduct outreach on disability in general and on traumatic brain injury (TBI), in particular.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
Due to this Fellowship, I now have a working relationship with the disability professionals at the tribal high school. I also have more knowledge about working with the Tribe’s Vocational Rehabilitation office and I am aware of the requirements students must meet to be eligible for their services. In addition, the tribal college will be able to create a disability support program due to the UCEDD guidance and advising. I definitely feel that the Fellowship furthered my outreach to various organizations in the tribal community to build foundational relationships for future collaborations.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
Knowledge about disability awareness, resources, policies, procedures and federal requirements are important topics that anyone that hopes to attain a leadership position in higher education should obtain. I now have a foundation for building upon that knowledge. My dissertation plans have been enriched by this knowledge; in that work, I have been able to collaborate with various tribal scholars at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Behavioral Health Conference (2018) to discuss disability support resources at TCUs and provide feedback to principal investigators on various manuscripts. This sets the foundation for further research projects with TCU partners including sharing of resources and information for my dissertation research. In addition, due to my fellowship experience, I have been asked to co-teach a course this fall working with students who have various disabilities.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
My goals are to complete my PhD in the next year and to continue to gain practical experience at a tribal college. In 5 years, I would like to be in an upper administrative position at a tribal college or university. I hope to have published at least 20 peer-reviewed articles in various journals and perhaps have completed my first book. I hope to receive a Fulbright award to travel to other countries to conduct comparative studies among various indigenous communities and cultures.

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?
My recommendation would be to take full advantage of the Fellowship opportunity by engaging as much as you can with both your mentors and the community you hope to serve. Be respectful and mindful of the community and their wants and needs more than anything else. Be flexible and humble and have an open mind and be willing to learn from others.

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