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Meet The Students Selected For CQL’s 2020 Disability Research Mentorship Program

In June 2020, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership announced a new research mentorship program specifically aimed at helping provide Black students with opportunities to build up their resumes with research publications. This Disability Research Mentorship Program for Black Graduate Students will provide students with access to data to analyze, as well as support and mentorship as they navigate the research and peer-review publication process.

The 2020 Mentorship Program Students

After receiving and reviewing numerous applicants from a range of well-qualified candidates, CQL has selected the first set of students as part of the 2020 cohort. The following students who will be taking part in the 2020 Mentorship Program demonstrate a deep commitment to disability research and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. CQL is eager to work with such highly skilled students who will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the human services field.

Valerie Novack

Biracial woman with curly black hair is smiling for the camera. She has black-rimmed glasses and is wearing a blue, flowered romper. She is seated in a coffee shop, backs of patrons visible behind her.

Valerie Novack (she/her) is a Black and Latina disability policy researcher focusing on inclusive infrastructure and emergency management practices. She focuses on integrating the expertise of lived experience and grassroots efforts of marginalized peoples into policymaking at the local, state, and federal levels.

Valerie was a 2019 Portlight Fellow focusing on legislative solutions to inaccessible emergency response practices in the United States. Novack served as the founding Board Chair of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and currently works as a disability policy fellow.

Novack has a bachelor’s degree in disability studies and urban planning from the University of Toledo and a master’s degree in disaster preparedness and emergency management from Arkansas State University. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Utah State University, focusing on using land-use planning to create resilient and inclusive cities.

Valerie is a proud, queer and MAD woman who loves to travel, make music, and spend time with her husband, Chase, and her dog, Mac.

As part of CQL’s Mentorship Program, Valerie plans to explore how ableism presents itself in state policy and funding, especially as related to programming and community access for people with disabilities. Valerie’s goal is to help make communities safer, more equitable, and more inclusive of people regardless of the various needs, functions, experiences, or finances of those individuals.

Adriana Vega-Harris

Professional head shot of Adriana Vega-Harris, a queer Black Latinx graduate student

Adriana Vega-Harris (she/hers/they/them) is a queer Black Latinx graduate student, second-generation to a Mexican American father and Black mother from Washington State. From Seattle, Adriana graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and minor in Law, Societies, and Justice.

They are currently in progress towards completion of capstone within the Master of Public Administration program at Seattle University. Adriana has interned and worked in the public and private sector with focus on sustainable equity and accessibility at El Centro de la Raza and the Northwest Network for Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian, Gay, Survivors of Abuse.

Presently, they are working as the ADA Capital Projects Program Coordinator Assistant to develop the City of Seattle’s ADA built-environment program and establish analytical tools to remove barriers from the schedule. Adriana’s research interests in accessibility bridge anti-displacement work, data visualization for open government, public infrastructures, and intersectional feminisms. They use this approach in personal and professional work to enact an ethics of civic responsibility to move toward a more accessible physical geography and society.

As part of CQL’s Mentorship Program, Adriana plans to examine the relationship between ableism and accessible communities, particularly by exploring ableism and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Adriana’s goal is to build off anti-displacement work to highlight how it is not only important for planners and administrators to listen to the disabled community, but also necessary to redesign communities to be safer for those with disabilities.

Learn More About The Mentorship Program

Students in the Mentorship Program will be mentored about disability research and publication by CQL’s Director of Research, Carli Friedman, Ph.D., as well as CQL’s President and CEO, Mary Kay Rizzolo, Ph.D.

Students will receive guidance regarding how to conduct research for publication and successfully navigate the peer-review process. By the end of the program, the aim is for the students to have an accepted/in-press or under review peer-reviewed publication (sole or first author) which they can add to their CV. There will also be an opportunity for students to present their work publicly.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.