The Coelho Center, continuing its dedication to developing innovative approaches to advocacy to advance the lives of people with disabilities, announced its first Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Faculty Fellow. In this yearlong fellowship, Amanda Apgar, assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies in the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, will collaborate with The Coelho Center to continue growing disability studies at LMU and to catalyze new opportunities to advance disability justice on campus and beyond.
The Faculty Fellows Program, a vital part of LMU’s teacher-scholar model, provides opportunities to uplift faculty expertise and support faculty as they develop innovative pedagogies. Apgar’s research in feminist disability studies aligns with the mission and work of the Center, and she has worked closely with The Coelho Center since its inception in 2018.
“I’m thrilled that Amanda will be our first CTE Faculty Fellow,” says Katherine Perez, director of The Coelho Center. “Her work aligns with our mission, and she will play an important role in connecting The Coelho Center with the Westchester campus. A critical aspect of our mission is ‘nothing about us without us’ and ‘leadership by the most impacted,’ concepts that promote disabled people’s voices and in particular, disabled Black, indigenous, and people of color’s voices. I look forward to working with Amanda to identify and promote disabled leaders on the LMU campus to work on issues of equity and access but also to celebrate our culture and pride.”
Recent events such as the pandemic and the rise of artificial intelligence have complicated teaching at the university level, and Apgar, who has worked closely with the CTE since coming to LMU, is grateful for institutional support in increasing access and addressing other disability justice issues in the classroom.
“A lot of the work that I’ve done in collaboration with the CTE has been about increasing access literacy and trying to help faculty understand the distinction between accommodations and access and ways that they can increase overall access in their classroom without going through a formal accommodation process,” said Apgar. “[I’m thinking about] extending the concept of access beyond disability, to think about access and language, access and health, access and care, all these other things that were brought to light during the pandemic. What does it look like to have a sustainable pedagogy that’s also access-forward? I’m excited to dive into this pedagogical literature.”
Apgar said she is also excited to help cultivate new educational and co-curricular offerings around disability studies and disability justice for the broader LMU community. Working alongside The Coelho Center, she plans to help establish a disability cultural center.
“There are not a lot of [disability cultural centers] on many campuses in the U.S. It’s going be a really meaningful space,” said Apgar. “We have Disability Support Services, which is wonderful. Their focus is on accommodations and supporting students. We also are totally ready to have a disability cultural space that recognizes identity, history, and legacy, and a space where folks can come and learn more about disability culture. We’ll have programming, a library, and all sorts of resources that can connect students, faculty, and staff to disability as a political and cultural experience.”
Apgar will also help finalize a program proposal for a new disability studies minor, an undertaking that has been a high priority for the LMU’s Disability Justice Working Group.
“My first task is getting an introduction to disability studies course on the books, which is very daunting but also exciting at the same time,” said Apgar. “We have such a strong special education program that works with local schools and we have such a robust Psychological Science Department. So, there is already a lot of opportunity to really build something very cool in disability studies with a strong emphasis on disability justice.”