Disability Studies Minor



The Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize in Disability Studies, awarded annually, was established to recognize graduating seniors who are enrolled in the UCLA Disability Studies minor and have developed an outstanding capstone project that contributes to emerging scholarship in the field and also captures their intellectual passion. Click here to make a contribution.


The prize is named in honor of Jessie Charlotte Blackmar Alpaugh, an art history major at UC Berkeley who, during the last summer before her sudden death in 2002, worked at UCLA on an independent studies project that contributed to the foundation of UCLA's Disability Studies minor.

At the age of 16, Jessie had suffered a catastrophic series of neurological illnesses that left her a quadriplegic with severe speech, hearing, and visual impairments. Despite these challenges, Jessie thrived intellectually and was admitted to UC Berkeley in 1999 as a Chancellor's Scholar. There she found a vibrant group of scholars who were engaged in developing the interdisciplinary field of disability studies. The disability world was never a "club" that Jessie wished to join - the illness that had threatened her life and left her severely disabled deeply saddened her. However, through disability studies she discovered an amazing academic community that simultaneously challenged her mind, respected her experience, and sparked in her a sustaining passion and purpose.

Jessie would be extraordinarily proud of the UCLA Disability Studies program and would be humbled to learn about the senior prize awarded in her name.


Graduating seniors will receive information about how to apply for the prize during beginning of the spring quarter from the Academic Advisor for the Disability Studies Minor.

Major: Anthropology
Project Title: What Futures Await Foster Youth and Psychiatric Disabilities?

Jaemmie Cañas is a fourth year Anthropology major and Disability Studies minor student at UCLA. Jaemmie was born in Los Angeles and became a part of the Department of Children and Family Services at the age of 13 until the age of 19. When Jaemmie accepted admission into UCLA they were homeless, in a wheelchair, with no money, and only books and their cat, Gordi, to their name. In March 2013, Jaemmie was hit and run over by a car which left them with a permanent neurological and physical impairment. With the help of so many here at UCLA including Vice Chancellor Montero, the UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Program, the LGBT Resource Center, and the Academic Advancement Program, their personal experience and studies have shaped their curiosity about issues in the foster care system and disability rights. In Fall 2015, Jaemmie participated in UCLA’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy Program where they interned in the U.S. House of Representatives and completed research about foster youth and homelessness. For their current Disability Studies capstone project, they are exploring foster youth and psychiatric disabilities in relation to their emancipation and transition out of the child welfare system.

Jaemmie is a recent UCLA Law Fellow, an intern at the UCLA Guardian Scholars Program, and a future Summer Peer Coach with the UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy. They are working on a couple of future projects such as a future nonprofit organization and exploring research topics such as the reconceptualization of the journey of suffering.

Jaemmie is grateful for their faculty mentor, Dr. Sara Wolf, for everyone in the DS Minor community, Anthropology Department, BGS community, administration and staff that have supported their academic journey here at UCLA. Without them, they would not have achieved everything they have achieved today.

Major: Psychology
Project Title: Examination of Voting Restrictions for Individuals with Mental Disabilities

Rebecca Snyder is a fourth year Psychology major and Disabilities Studies minor at UCLA. Growing up, disability played various roles in the lives of her loved ones and these experiences largely motivated her to explore the Disabilities Studies minor when she began studying at UCLA. Her experiences in the minor and in her internship at Pathway at UCLA Extension, a certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, have influenced the ways she perceives disability in her own life and have inspired her to work for a more inclusive and fair future for all people. After graduating, Rebecca hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, so that she can continue to serve the disabled community.

Dianna Padilla - 2015
Major: Anthropology
Project Title: Latino Border Town Communities and Autism: An Analysis on Access to Resources for Children with Autism in Nogales, Arizona

Nikki Reyes - 2015
Major: English Literature
Project Title: SISE - Sensory Integration Strategies for Early Educators (A proposal for Public Early Educators)

Brittany Steiminger - 2014
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Democratic Schooling: A viable alternative for autistic students?

Shayna Svihovec - 2014
Major: Human Biology and Society
Project Title: Straddling the Line Between the Deaf and Hearing Communities in a Hearing Dominated World

Hannah Warren - 2013
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Insurance and Intervention: An Evaluation of the Relationship between Service Access and Socioeconomic Status of Families with Children with Autism

Jessica Kianmahd - 2013
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Proposing a New Perspective of Disability: Approaching the Persian Jewish Community from a Jewish Lens

Paulina Ong - 2012
Major: Physical Science
Project Title: Saying Something About Autism: An Evaluation of the Personhood Consciousness Model of Music Therapy

Sarah Baron - 2012
Major: Political Science
Project Title: Impact of Affordable Care Act for people with disabilities

Eunice Im - 2011
Major: English
Project Title: What Happened to the Clubhouse? An Investigative Study on a Program for Children with Autism in the UCLA Medical Center

Rhiannon Maycumber - 2011
Major: Psychology
Project Title: A Qualitative Comparison of Transition Practices for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in California and the United Kingdom

Shareen Nizami - 2010
Major: Political Science
Project Title: Working with the FMLA: Expanding Rights of the Workforce

Michelle Tang - 2010
Major: English
Project Title: Center Stage: How a Passion for the Performing Arts Help Deaf/hard of Hearing Individuals Find a Social Outlet and Overcome Their Disability

Lindsey Hoffman - 2016
Vanessa Magula - 2016
Ana Zepeda - 2016
Cindy Sayani - 2015
Kristen Lee - 2015
Brianna Mitchell- 2013
James Choi - 2012
Jenna Rodman - 2012
Laura Merchant - 2010
Lillian Kong - 2010