Whitney J. Smith, a doctoral student at the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara, has been awarded a Philip & Aida Siff Educational Foundation Fellowship for the 2011-2012 academic year. In the letter announcing the $7500 award, the Foundation wrote, “You are to be commended for your academic achievements to date and your obvious dedication to the achievement of a higher education. We trust that the Fellowship awarded will allow you to pursue your graduate education with additional enthusiasm.”
The Siff Foundation, based in Santa Barbara, supports doctoral students researching the education of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Smith, currently a doctoral student in the Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk emphasis of the Department of Education, is conducting research aimed at the successful academic and social integration of college students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Through collaborations with the Koegel Autism Center, Eli & Edythe L. Broad Asperger Center, and UC and community college departments, Smith has focused on enhancing the educational experience of this traditionally underserved population through continued research, service, and dissemination of empirically-based supports. Smith is particularly interested in video-based interventions for targeting initiations and social conversation skills in young adults with ASD.
“I am honored to be awarded the Siff Fellowship,” Smith says. “This award will allow me to continue this program of research and service to support college students on the Autism Spectrum. Without effective social and behavioral supports, many of these rather gifted students end up dropping out of school. As more researchers and professionals address this issue, the concept of universal design can be extended from just physical access to the educational materials to active contribution in the educational environment. I am so grateful that the Siff Foundation appreciates the importance of supporting the success of these college students and the lasting impact it will create in the community.”
[Whitney J. Smith is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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