Led by Dr. Erik Carter's research team at Vanderbilt Univerisity. The goal of this study is to generate much-needed empirical support for the impact of early work experiences, practical guidance and resources for schools committed to connecting their students to community jobs, and richer insights into the pathways leading from school to the world of work.
Erik Carter, Ph.D
Erik Carter, Ph.D., is Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. His research and teaching focuses on evidence-based strategies for enhancing outcomes and valued roles in school, work, community, and congregational settings for individuals with intellectual disability, autism, and multiple disabilities. Prior to receiving his doctorate, Dr. Carter worked as a high school teacher and transition specialist. He has published more than 200 articles, chapters, and books in the areas of educational, transition, and community services for children and youth with disabilities. He has received research and leadership awards from the Council for Exceptional Children, the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. You can learn more about his projects and research at https://www.erikwcarter.com.
Jessica Awsumb, Ph.D
Jessica Awsumb, Ph.D., is a Research Associate in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. Her research focus surrounds the successful transition of youth with disabilities from secondary school to employment, postsecondary education, and independent living. Her education has emphasized research methodology and statistics with a disability studies and special education lens. She has recently co-authored articles on the status of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Pre-Employment Services for youth with disabilities. Dr. Awsumb has worked directly with VR and the Department of Education in two States to increase the successful transition of youth with disabilities to adulthood by receiving needed services, experiences, and agency connections while in high school.
Ben Schwartzman, Ph.D
Ben Schwartzman, Ph.D., is an Educational Consultant in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. While completing his doctoral degree at UCLA, Dr. Schwartzman specialized in intervention research for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities. Immediately following his doctoral studies, Dr. Schwartzman worked with young adults with disabilities through his position as the program coordinator for the Tailored Day Services program at Hope Services, and then as tenure-track faculty and coordinator for the Tools for Transition and Work (TTW) Program at Foothill College in Northern California. Dr. Schwartzman's research focuses on interventions for improving transition practices and outcomes for individuals with disabilities - topics in which he has authored articles and textbook chapters.
Leah Burgess, B.S.
Leah Burgess is an Education Consultant in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology. Her previous work history has focused on serving individuals with Severe Mental Health, Intellectual and Developmental disabilities. She has worked with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to ensure that adults and youth with disabilities receive Supported Employment Services. Through working with VR, she has focused on transition-age youth and provided services in classroom and individual settings. In classroom settings, all five areas of pre-ETS were addressed. On an individual basis, Work Based Learning and Job Exploration were the two most consistently addressed pre-ETS. She successfully placed youth into paid summer work experiences that reflected their job interests.
Emily Barker, B.S.
Emily Barker, B.S., is an Educational Consultant in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She works with Transition Tennessee, supporting Tennessee school districts in preparing transition-age youth with disabilities for successful transitions to life after high school. She previously worked as a high school special education teacher, teaching primarily with 11th and 12th grade students with severe disabilities. In this role, Emily was a work-based learning coordinator, identifying creative accommodations for her students to help them succeed in the workplace. As a student at Vanderbilt University, she was a job coach with Next Steps, an inclusive higher education program. In this role, she created student work schedules, planned curriculum, and taught students career technology skills. She is passionate about helping young people with disabilities create and reach their goals.
Michele Schutz, M.Ed.
Michele Schutz, M.Ed., is a doctoral student and research assistant in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests focus on systems-level programming for secondary transition, particularly around interagency collaboration for providing employment opportunities for students with disabilities. Prior to beginning her doctoral work, Michele worked as a special education teacher and transition specialist in Chicagoland schools. She has recently co-authored articles and chapters in the areas of secondary transition and interagency collaboration.
Julie Lounds Taylor, Ph.D
Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, is an associate professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator. Her research focuses on understanding the factors that promote a positive transition to adulthood for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Dr. Taylor's work has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, the United States Department of Defense, the FAR Fund, and Autism Speaks. She was the 2014 recipient of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Early Career Award, and from 2015-2019 she served on the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.