Deaf and Hard of Hearing Institute


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Stephanie Cawthon

Dr. Stephanie Cawthon is the director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Institute. For more information, read Cawthon's full bio.

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Tom Humphries

Dr. Tom Humphries is associate professor and associate director of the Teacher Education Program as well as associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. One strand of Humphries' current work focuses on how "talking culture" among Deaf people in recent history informs our understanding of cultural processes and how meaning circulates. In addition, he has developed a teacher training curriculum that uses a new construct: the application of indigenous bilingual teaching practices to classrooms of deaf children. He has published two widely used American Sign Language textbooks, Learning American Sign Language (Allyn & Bacon, 2004) and A Basic Course in American Sign Language (TJ Publishers, 1980). He is co-author (with Carol Padden) of Deaf in America: Voices From a Culture (1988) and the newly released Inside Deaf Culture, both from Harvard University Press. He received his Ph.D. in cross cultural communication and language learning from Union Graduate School. To contact Humphries, visit the UC San Diego website.

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Poorna Kushalnagar

Dr. Poorna Kushalnagar is a research associate professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Kushalnagar received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) pediatric research loan repayment award and research supplement to promote diversity in health-related research for her postdoctoral training at the University of Washington. She served as a research fellow for an NIH Institutional National Research Service Award in community-based participatory research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She also participated in a 2011 NIH and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Summer Institute on Applied Research in Child and Adolescent Development. She is the principal investigator of two active NIH grant awards (R01 and R15). She has extensive experience in conducting and supervising educational and neuropsychological assessments with deaf and hard of hearing students. She received her B.A. in psychology from Gallaudet University and her M.A. in psychology and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Houston. To contact Kushalnagar, visit the Rochester Institute of Technology website.

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Ross E. Mitchell

Dr. Ross E. Mitchell is an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Redlands. Prior to joining the Redlands faculty, Mitchell was a senior research scientist and associate director for program, policy, and population studies in the Gallaudet Research Institute at Gallaudet University. His research has two foci: (1) education policy analysis and evaluation and (2) the population of school-age deaf and hard of hearing children in the United States. His work emphasizes both original and secondary analyses of large-scale survey and academic assessment studies. To contact Mitchell, visit the University of Redlands website.

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Carrie Lou Bloom

Dr. Carrie Lou Bloom is an educational researcher and evaluator. Her research examines deaf individuals’ psychological processes in a variety of contexts: teaching, language learning, computer-mediated communication, and transition from secondary to postsecondary settings. She is the current co-Principal Investigator of an OSEP-funded center on strengthening postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals, the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes. Carrie Lou has authored over 17 scholarly publications, two books in preparation, and numerous technical and evaluation reports. As a part of her goal to increase research rigor in work that involves deaf communities, Carrie Lou is the co-editor of Research in Deaf Education: Contexts, Challenges, Considerations, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. She also teaches research methods and statistics coursework at the University of Northern Colorado. As a deaf person who was raised in the deaf community, Carrie Lou is committed to increasing the accessibility of research for deaf audiences, using ASL in video formats to translate and disseminate complex academic content. Carrie Lou holds two masters’ degrees, the first in Deaf Education and Deaf Studies from Lamar University, and the second in Program Evaluation from the University of Texas at Austin. She obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

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Tia Ivanko

Tia is an educator passionate about equitable educational experiences, particularly for deaf individuals, and increasing professional capacity to aptly serve deaf individuals in postsecondary settings. She has been working under the technical assistance and dissemination center grant for seven years, focusing on accommodation and accessibility practices, resource development, and providing professional development for practioners in the field. At NDC, Tia oversees project workflow, technical assistance activities, staff development, and operations of the Central Office.

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Alex Forbis

Alex Forbis has a master's degree in educational psychology, with a specialization in human development, culture, and learning sciences. Currently, he works with the external evaluation team on the National Center for Systemic Improvement, National Deaf Center, and Lead for Literacy evaluation projects. Forbis' other research has explored STEM graduate student learning and collaboration, as well as authentic leadership in spiritual organizations. 


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Diego Guerra

Diego Guerra is passionate about community engagement. As the coordinator, Guerra is responsible for Engage for Change | local, a community model that brings people together to promote stronger networks within local communities, which leads to quality access, services, and resources for deaf individuals. Guerra holds a bachelor’s degree in history from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Jennifer Higgins

Jennifer Higgins has 15 years of experience managing research and development programs that focus on accessibility. Over this time, Higgins has led the coordination of three Enhanced Assessment Grant (EAG) projects and has directed all activities for a fourth, which focused on research and development of guidelines for American Sign Language (ASL) and audio representation of K-12 assessment content. At NDC, she coordinates the process of identifying, studying, and disseminating practices at sites across the country that support positive outcomes for deaf individuals. She has published more than one dozen articles and has co-authored one book on high-stakes testing. She holds a bachelor's degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in educational research, measurement, and evaluation from Boston College.

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Paige Johnson

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Lauren Kinast

Lauren “Lore” Kinast is the Director of Strategic Support for the National Deaf Center. Lore previously worked at public state universities and community colleges coordinating interpreting, captioning, and accommodations for deaf students to access their education. In addition to having 20+ years of experience coordinating services, she has served on several advisory committees or as a board member for various organizations supporting the provision of access and services for deaf individuals. Prior to working in the postsecondary education sector, she worked as an employment development specialist for deaf individuals, providing job coaching, employment skills training, and awareness and consultation to employers. She received her master’s degree from California State University, Northridge in educational administration and her doctorate degree at Texas Tech University in higher education leadership with an emphasis on serving deaf students.

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Claire Ryan

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Sammi Shupe

Sammi Shupe is a graphic designer with a degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2014. After Shupe started her first job, she realized she wanted to do more. She found her passion in bringing her graphic art to life through motion graphics and 2D animations. She likes to get her hands on anything from sewing to filming to 3D printing. She is passionate about volunteering and leading a women's ministry in Austin. She is involved in a Deaf camp in the Dominican Republic every year.

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Stephanie Zito

Stephanie Zito is a professional sign language interpreter and trained C-Print captionist. After studying interpreting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Zito went on to pursue her master’s degree in nonprofit management and leadership from the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management. Prior to joining the NDC team, she primarily worked as an interpreter and captionist in postsecondary settings, but also worked in community, VRS, and K-12 educational settings. She has also devoted her time to working with local, state, and national nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE) and volunteers on several committees for the Wisconsin Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (WisRID).