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Interdisciplinary Trainee - Adam Henze

Reflecting on my year as a graduate assistant at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC), I am grateful for the interdisciplinary training that I received as a fledgling researcher. The process began before any scheduled trainings or meetings. When I arrived at the IIDC, one of the first things I noticed was that everyone’s door was wide open. The open-door culture of the IIDC invited me in to meet and converse with others, and my training started the moment I was given the space to ask questions and contribute to dialogues that carried over into our formalized trainings. I very much valued that the training at the IIDC is modeled as an ongoing discourse that I participate in every day as I work toward becoming a more knowledgeable and culturally competent advocate for Disability Studies in Education.

I learned a lot during our formal trainings. First, I learned about the complex history of our Institute at Indiana University, and about the history of disability advocacy in the state of Indiana. Second, I learned about the missions of the various centers, and we discussed how the work of researchers in numerous fields overlap in some ways and differ in others. Third, I learned more about the Association of University Centers on Disabilities - specifically, what the mission of the network is and what the benefits are of participating in said network. Most importantly, I learned ways that the disability and community focus of the IIDC can inform and influence my work as a scholar. For example, much of my service work is primarily in alternative schools and incarcerated learning spaces, and I learned how disability policies in schools affect these communities of learners, which has helped me be a more mindful educator and more proactive advocate.

My favorite aspect of the Interdisciplinary Education Training Program (IETP) is that I was invited to contribute to the process as a collaborator. For example, I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by IIDC staff for the purposes of creating an educational video about the lives of people who make up the IIDC. As an educator employed in the IIDC’s Center on Education and Lifelong Learning (CELL), I place a lot of value in collaborative, project-based learning models, so I believe I got a lot out of the experience of contributing to the training process for future trainees and employees of the Institute. During the interview, I was asked about my personal history and it helped me conceptualize how disability has informed my identity. As a teenager, I was on a 504 plan in school and struggled with discipline issues. An additional challenge I faced in high school was learning how to succeed in class despite a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and ADD. More than a decade later, the IIDC has helped me identify myself as a neurodiverse scholar whose mission is to help students with physical and cognitive disabilities and dispel the stigmas associated with mental health. Though it has taken decades to solidify my ideological stance, the IIDC Interdisciplinary Training Program was influential in helping me consider how my experiences have helped me become the educator I needed when I was a child.

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