Three Students Named Fellows of Leadership Program

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Three UConn School of Social Work students were recently named fellows of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program.

The fellowships seek to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities, by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence.

“It is incredibly rewarding to mentor students to be ready to enter the field to work with individuals with disabilities who are prepared to provide evidence-based services in interdisciplinary teams, and in a culturally grounded framework,” says Cristina Wilson, associate professor at the School of Social Work, and a coordinator for the program. “These students are ready to change the world, and the program gives them the leadership skills to do just that.”

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program fellows for 2019-2020:

Elizabeth Jurczak, a former medical social worker and Ph.D. student, whose current research interests include health disparities, medical social work, and inter-professional collaboration. “As a fellow, I hope to learn more about inter-professional collaboration within the field of developmental disabilities,” says Jurczak.

Melanie Merritt, a second-year student in the school, will learn from the personal stories of families who have children with disabilities through weekly seminars, her field practicum, group and individual research projects, and online courses. “It is my hope that the program will help me to tap in to my personal and professional goals of gaining the skills that I would need to acquire in order to be a leader in my community and to provide competent services for the people who I will serve in my profession,” says Merritt.

Amani Shirley, a second-year student in the school is interested in policy, law and advocacy. “Through the program, I will gain more knowledge to better work with individuals with disabilities and become better equipped in the field of disabilities,” says Shirley.

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program is part of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and directed by Mary Beth Bruder, professor of pediatrics in the Neag School of Education.

It is one of 52 programs across the country that focus on training future leaders from a wide variety of professional disciplines in order to improve the health care delivery system for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.