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What a Difference a Year Makes

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Sorcha Hyland
Lara Mann
Deb Griswold
Elizabeth Kozleski


First year Doctoral students in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas share thoughts on their transition to this amazing experience!


Paloma Perez-Clark

I’ve been flooded with knowledge and wisdom from others all around me during this first year. Being present and mindful have been the keys to learning for me every day. Finding joy in my daily activities allowed me to discover many great opportunities disguised as hard work. I continue to refine my priorities and increase my focus thanks to the immense support of my family, research team, and friends!

Finding Neverland

Suman Rath

When I got my letter admitting me to the doctoral program in special education at KU, the first thought in my mind was total disbelief. I have come a long way since then yet everything is so exciting, thrilling and beautiful. The friends I have made, the great faculty I have met and the inspiring conversations I have had are all part of the journey in finding neverland! A neverland where creativity is encouraged, every student and individual is equal and there is justice, equity and fairness all around. If I ever falter, I have an extremely dedicated group of mentors, advisors and faculty members to encourage me forward. I feel privileged to be at KU and almost done with my first year. Everyday, I wake up with a purpose and a set determination to move forward. I thank my advisor, faculty and fellow graduate students for this purpose!


Kyunghwa (aka “Kay”) Park

When I came to Lawrence last summer, I was apprehensive about fitting in an entirely novel environment and surviving the 1st year of doctoral program at KU. But during this time, not only am I in awestruck admiration for the passion and scholarship evident in each professor, but I also am thankful for the privilege to sit among my inspiring fellow classmates every week. I am proud of KU special education program, my cohort fellows and myself who is part of it. The picture that best fits my year! “Bluestocking”


Heather Jeanne Forbes

The thought of moving across the country and away from my family was difficult, but I found a great deal of friendliness and support here. I’ve learned a lot about research, the field, and my own abilities. It is clear the program is designed to help you succeed, and I look forward to new challenges.

Change and the Right Fit

Haidee Jackson

This year has been an eye-opening, mind-boggling, and altogether a humbling experience for me.  I have been exposed to many different philosophies, paradigms, and practices that I had not considered before this first year.  I am grateful for the opportunity to grow, learn, and self-actualize among an outstanding group of peers and amazing, supportive faculty members.


Jenee Johnson

This is my dog, Lala. I love her a lot.

I was anticipating a great deal of stress as a first year doctoral student; I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to “keep up” with the program. This year has been challenging, but the program is designed so you develop skills along the way. I’m still very humble, but I’m not insecure.

I’m excited to learn more and thankful to be surrounded by people who want me to succeed. 

The Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas consistently ranks as one of the top graduate-level special education programs in the country. In the latest edition of U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools, the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas ranked number one overall. Each year, the Department continues to enhance its master’s and doctoral-level programs to ensure the best preparation of special education teachers, teacher educators, administrators, and field researchers. Students who receive their professional development through the Department have the opportunity to learn and work closely with nationally and internationally renowned faculty. The Department’s commitment to effective teaching, excellent field supervision and support for novice special educators, innovation, and leadership make the University of Kansas a great place to begin or further a special education career.

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