Former Interdisciplinary Trainee Mackenzie Jones
"Through both centers, I received many opportunities for research and professional development. Dr. Nord does a great job at utilizing a student’s strengths while pushing them to complete projects that are out of their area of expertise."
Jones is now the health education specialist for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Bureau.
Role at Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC)
I was a research assistant for Dr. Derek Nord, IIDC director and Dr. Jae Chul Lee, director of the Indiana Institute’s Center for Health Equity (CHE) through May of 2019. I also completed my internship for my Masters of Public Health at the Center for Health Equity.
Your thoughts about working at IIDC
For example, I was earning my Masters of Public Health and was focusing my education on health education for health providers working with people with disabilities. But Dr. Nord felt it would be beneficial for me to learn more about the disability community and dive into the topic of supported decision making. And so, I did, reading academic articles on guardianship and self-determination, the history on the disability rights movement, and legal briefs on Indiana laws regarding guardianship and competency of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. As an outcome of this research, I developed a few literature reviews, presented as a guest speaker at a joint webinar by the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Association on University Centers on Disability (AUCD), and gave an oral presentation to the IIDC Advisory Board about supported decision making. I was also able to gain research experience within my area of disability and health through the Center for Health Equity. This center is growing in evidence-based practice and focuses a lot on data collection, including literature reviews and secondary needs assessments. CHE also utilizes workgroups to improve collaboration and program outcomes. These committees will benefit the center as the data turns into project objectives that will directly benefit Hoosiers with disabilities.
How did the IIDC’s ID training program, specifically, help prepare you for your current job?
I had been in higher education for seven years. I did not take a break before or after undergrad and my views of professional public health work were primarily hypothetical school projects, up until I started as a trainee at IIDC. Through my work at IIDC I was a collaborator on projects that would benefit the community. One project in particular was the Indiana Disability and Health program, which lead to a disability awareness training for health providers in three cities. Although I graduated before implementing this project, I helped create the presentation slides, the promotional video, and the evaluation tools for the project. I also had the opportunity of communicating and gaining feedback from people with disabilities throughout the project. Since this was not just a school project, there was even more need to include the disability community in the design and promotional materials. Since starting my job in Montana, that lesson has become even stronger. It is our mission to include people with disabilities in all aspects of our work, and IIDC first introduced those skills. Being a part of the Indiana Disability and Health program also gave me perspective for the Montana Disability and Health Program. In my interview, I was able to talk about my work at IIDC and how these experiences have prepared me for a professional position in the field of Disability and Health.
Which specific aspect of the IIDC’s ID training program was especially helpful for you, either during your time at the IIDC or in your current position?
Overall, IIDC gave me a chance to ease my way into the working world. I learned what it meant to not have a syllabus to keep you on track and the need to remain vigilant in your projects even without definite deadlines. With so many opportunities throughout IIDC, I was also able to complete my capstone for my Master’s program with the support of Dr. Jae Chul Lee. However, it was the focus on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) that was especially helpful for me both for my time at IIDC and in my current position in Montana. Before working at IIDC, I focused my research on communication disorders, specifically, the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH) communities, but IIDC helped me expand my knowledge of people with IDD. I had the privilege of taking a seminar course with IIDC director Dr. Derek Nord about the “Contemporary Issues of IDD.” I did much research on supported decision-making, guardianship, and self-determination of people with IDD. I also had the immense pleasure of working with and learning from my friend/colleague, Adria Nassim, who identifies as having Autism and a processing disorder. Through all of these opportunities, I gained great respect for the IDD community and the need to elevate their voices! This has been extremely valuable in Montana too. This fall I hosted six listening sessions with people with IDD eliciting their ideas, suggestions, and questions on a video that taught the audience about how to take care of diabetes. Without my experience at IIDC, I would not have felt as confident or comfortable in this role. I will always be grateful for the time I spent at IIDC and the amazing people who mentored and encouraged me along the way!