Understanding Disability as Diversity

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University, and Katherine C. Aquino, Ph.D., graduate of the Higher Education Leadership, Management and Policy Ph.D. program in the College, have collaborated on Disability as Diversity in Higher Education: Policies and Practices to Enhance Student Success, published by Routledge.

By framing disability not as an impairment, but rather an important dimension of diversity and identity on college campuses, Disability as Diversity proposes new perspectives, empirical research and case studies to provide the necessary foundation for understanding the role of disability within the campus climate. The book provides insight into how higher education institutions can use policies and practices to enhance inclusion and student success for students with disabilities.

“The overarching theme of this book is to include disability as part of diversity beyond race, gender, and class that have been center stage in the diversity debate to a greater extent, disability to a lesser extent,” said Kim.

Kim noted that once students with disabilities enroll in post-secondary education, they get frustrated with a lack of services, and being overlooked and marginalized. As the number of students with disabilities on college campuses increases, it is imperative to provide them with the means to thrive.

 “Disability is often not automatically understood as a component of student diversity. My biggest hope for this book is to increase the conversation on student disability within the college environment. It is our aim to allow for all members of the institutional community – faculty members, administrators, students with and without disabilities, and the family members of those students –to increase their comfort level on the role, and importance, of students with disabilities in post-secondary education,” said Aquino.

Since starting the doctoral program in January 2013, Aquino has focused her research, including her dissertation, on the relationship between student disability and diversity. The limited mainstream attention to disability is a driving force that motivates her future research and work to make the topic of disability a more represented area in leading higher education journals. She currently serves as an adjunct professor and program specialist for accreditation and assessment at New Jersey City University.

In 2015, Aquino received a $10,000 grant through Policy Research Inc. to study the characteristics of post-secondary students who are recipients of Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance, disability insurance programs funded through the Social Security Administration. She credits her mentor, Professor Kim, for encouraging and challenging her to apply for the grant.

“I have been collaborating with Dr. Kim for over four years and I can say, with a full heart, the experience has been wonderful. Dr. Kim served as my dissertation chair, but also served as a mentor, guiding me throughout my time at Seton Hall,” said Aquino.

Kim and Aquino developed the book concept in the spring of 2014. Equipped with a completed prospectus, they invited colleagues who research disability in higher education to share submissions to be considered for inclusion in the volume. Their idea came about through a desire to include the voices of renowned and emerging scholars who have been engaged in disability research. As editors, they also wrote a chapter in collaboration with Taghreed Alhaddab, Ph.D., graduate of the Higher Education Leadership, Management and Policy Ph.D. program, titled, “Does Disability Matter?: Students’ Satisfaction with College Experiences.”

“We were fortunate to have a deluge of chapter submissions. From the large pool of potential contributors, we were able to be conscious of the message and flow of the text. We are honored to have had such wonderful contributing authors – they are all making incredible strides to increase research and awareness of this topic in the field. It was truly a privilege to work with them,” shared Aquino.

Reviews have been positive, highlighting the significance this volume of work adds to the field of higher education.

“This book explores the experiences of students with disabilities and makes valuable suggestions for how to improve the education and success of such students. Disability as Diversity in Higher Education is an essential book for faculty, administrators, and students to help combat one of the least recognized but most prevalent forms of discrimination at institutions that pride themselves on their diversity programs,” said Lennard Davis, Distinguished Professor of English in the School of Arts and Professor of Medical Education in the College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Kim currently serves as the program director for the Higher Education Leadership, Management and Policy graduate programs. Her research interests include college student development, minority students' college access and success, diversity and equity in higher education, sociology of education and international education. Kim's research focuses on the intersection of social and cultural capital in college aspirations and pursuits and identity formation among underrepresented and marginalized students. 

“It has been a distinctive pleasure and rewarding experience to collaborate with graduate students and see them grow as an independent and contributing scholar. Furthermore, very few newly minted doctors have books on their vita. So, it is a notable accomplishment for Katherine and I am very proud of what she has accomplished,” said Kim.

To learn more about Disability as Diversity in Higher Education: Policies and Practices to Enhance Student Success, visit Routledge.com.

For more information on the College of Education and Human Services, click here.