Dianey Leal

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Dianey Leal

Dianey Leal

Center on Disability and Development
Texas A&M University, TX

Dianey Leal is a first-year graduate student at The Bush School of Government and Public Service, where she is currently pursuing her master’s in public service and administration. Through this program, she seeks to understand the capabilities required for effective and ethical leadership and management in higher education. She currently serves as one of the project leads for the school’s Public Service Organization and seats as a non-voting member for Twin City Mission, a nonprofit organization that works collectively to meet the needs of homeless individuals and families. She is also a member of the Diversity Committee under the Student Government Association. Dianey graduated summa cum laude from St. Edward’s University in 2015 with a double major in political science and English writing and rhetoric. This semester she will serve as a CDD Graduate Fellow at Texas A&M University.

Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
During my first semester as an AUCD Diversity Leadership Fellow, I complied scholarly papers on seclusion and the effects it has on students with disabilities for publication through the Center on Disability and Development (CDD). I was under the supervision of Dr. Laura Stough and Dr. Meagan Sumbera. I also worked with a team of graduate students under the supervision of Dr. Dalun Zhang to identify and summarize legislation and court cases concerning supported decision-making pertaining to individuals with disabilities. With the help of Dr. Laura Stough, I was able to create a pamphlet for a nonprofit organization to raise awareness on the prevalence of hearing loss to make it possible for individuals with hearing loss to continue being part of community activities. I also created a handout on People First Language and co-presented a PowerPoint presentation at the Bush School on the importance of using People First Language as a respectful way to communicate, acknowledge, and report on disabilities. In the summer, while I completed my internship, I also met with AUCD policy staff to further develop my skills as a diversity leadership fellow.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
Our work on seclusion is meant to inform legislation so that families and students who have been victims of seclusion are protected. Our research on supported decision-making is meant to raise awareness and inform the public about an alternate method to guardianship—a topic that remains relatively new across the nation. Both the pamphlet on the prevalence of hearing loss and the presentation on People First Language were meant to raise awareness and start a dialogue about such issues.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I chose to work on these projects because they are related to my career interests in policy, law, administration, and advocacy within the community and higher education. These projects reflect the work I would like to do after I graduate. Seclusion and supported decision-making were two issues I was not fully aware of so researching scholarly papers and learning about the policies implemented and the gaps that currently exist was not only refreshing but eye-opening. Raising awareness of the prevalence of hearing loss and the importance of using People First Language was especially important for me as a student seeking to advocate for diverse students in higher education.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
My end-goal is to work with multidisciplinary entities to enhance the services provided to diverse students in higher education. These projects not only gave me the opportunity polish my research skills, but also provided me with the challenges that many policymakers would have to face; that is, informing students, constituents, and scholars about issues that our current education system and community faces and needs to address.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
This experience has motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
My future goal is to work at a university or college, implementing practices that protect, serve, and guide diverse students to ensure enrollment and retainment. In five years, I would like to see myself graduating from my Ph.D. program and attaining a position where I am able to use my skills and work with students on a daily basis.

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