The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management announced the inaugural class of its Nathan and Toby Starr Fellowship for the spring 2019 semester in a Feb. 7 press release. The program aims to “foster research expertise and expand understanding of disability policy among undergraduate students,” per the same announcement.

The fellowship is a semester-long research opportunity during which the nine fellows will train with the Institute’s researchers for about six to eight hours a week and will receive a stipend of $2,000, according to the  fellowship’s website. Research topics will include “health policy, disability support systems, education, disability law, and civic engagement by people with disabilities,” per the press release. 

Monica Chen ’19, one of the Starr Fellows, told the Justice in a Feb. 9 email that she will be working with her mentor and Research Associate Robyn Powell on research regarding “parents with disabilities and their involvement in the child welfare system.” Another fellow, Julia Brown ’19, will work with her mentor and Postdoctoral Fellow Eun Ha Namkung to look into the “effects of discrimination, both institutional and interpersonal, on the health of people with disabilities,” she told the Justice in a Feb. 9 email.

The fellows will also participate in local disability community events, and at the end of the semester, they will each produce an opinion piece that will be featured in a news outlet such as The Huffington Post. Fellows will also have the opportunity to attend a disability research-oriented conference, such as the University of Alabama’s Symposium on Disability Rights.

Prof. Monika Mitra (Heller), director and associate professor at the Lurie Institute, said in the announcement that she was “delighted” to welcome the students to the Starr Fellowship. “It is critical to educate young researchers about the many societal changes spurred by the disability rights movement, and the vital role that cross-disciplinary research has played in informing disability policy,” she added.

“I have minor cerebral palsy, so disability has always been something I’ve kind of thought about,” Norma Stobbe ’20, another Starr Fellow, told the Justice in a Feb. 10 email. “I really want to do work relating to normalizing the spectrum of disability through schools and hopefully theater.” 

Working with researchers at the Institute is the “perfect way” to learn more about disability policy and research, she said.

In a Feb. 9 email to the Justice, Starr Fellow Shoshana Finkel ’20 said the Lurie Institute was “one of those hidden gems at Brandeis, in terms of its dedicated scholars and world-renowned research.”

— This article has been updated to accurately reflect the context of Finkel's quote.