Sonoran UCEDD Hosts Three Diversity Fellows in 2017-2018

Sonoran UCEDD Update
Winter 2017-2018

The Sonoran UCEDD received funding from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to appoint three Diversity Fellows in 2017-2018. Fellows Austin Duncan, Christie Kelly, and Zonnie Olivas will receive training and leadership skills in the disability field, while increasing the UCEDD’s capacity to work with American Indian communities regarding the long-term individual and social effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Fellowship was developed in response to a recognized need to diversify local and national disability leadership in order to better serve diverse communities with disabilities throughout the U.S.


In Arizona, there is a need for greater information exchange between disability organizations and Native communities so that organizations can provide culturally competent and community responsive services, and communities can access existing services in the state. Moreover, recent data indicate that American Indians in Arizona may be disproportionately affected by severe brain injuries that may result in a need for life long supportive services. UCEDD Fellows aim to increase the capacity of the UCEDD to partner with American Indian communities in building mutual knowledge about TBI services and supports. While doing so, they will engage in individual capstone projects related to TBI, cultural and linguistic competence, and increasing equity. In addition to providing fellows with a structured leadership experience, the grant helps support planning for a sustainable Diversity Fellowship program at the Sonoran UCEDD.


Meet our 2017-2018 Diversity Fellows!


Graciela “Zonnie” Olivas, AS

Zonnie Olivas headshotI am a junior at the University of Arizona pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health. I aspire to obtain a Master’s Degree in Public Health after completion of my Bachelor’s degree, and ultimately apply to medical school. I participate in the University’s American Indian and Indigenous Health Alliance and I am a Southeast Arizona Health Education Center (SEAHEC) Future Health Leader’s intern. These opportunities allow me to serve Native American and Latino communities both on campus and within the Tucson community. As a participant in the UA College of Medicine’s Border Latino & American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) program, I worked with Sonoran UCEDD faculty in evaluating the UCEDD’s cultural and linguistic competency. I am continuing to work on assessing the UCEDD’s cultural and linguistic competency and expanding the UCEDD’s outreach regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI).  The knowledge and experience I will gain from my time at the UCEDD will be significant in helping me reach my goal of addressing the health care needs of individuals from diverse backgrounds.


Austin Duncan, MPA

Austin Duncan HeadshotI am a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Arizona.  My research focuses on the interactions between disability, the community, and social policy. I am especially interested in the subject because I survived a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2003, and currently serve on the advisory board of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. For the fellowship, I will help advise a team at the University of Arizona that will conduct TBI outreach and awareness-raising, as well as a preliminary Needs Assessment for TBI-related services with Native communities. I will also keep a journal and notebook of critical reflections and autoethnographic observations on doing field research for my NSF-funded dissertation, “The Social Life of TBI,” for which I will be collecting data all of 2018.  I will present analyses, conclusions, and a general reflection on my experience in the hopes that it will help the many other researchers doing critical and engaged work related to their own bodily impairments.


Christie G. Kelly, MHR

Christie Headshot.jpgI am currently a PhD student at UA in Higher Education and my minor is American Indian Studies. American Indian higher education is my passion. I currently work as the counselor at Tohono O'odham Community College.  Due to the small size of TOCC, I am also the Title IX Coordinator and the Campus Clery officer. I was a Chief Manuelito scholar as an undergraduate student and an Arnold Air society scholarship recipient as a Master’s student.  I received the Diversity Fellowship from the Education Department at UA in 2012-2013, as well as the Cobell graduate fellowship for the 2015-2016 academic year. On a larger scale, I am interested in sociology of education, as well as factors that relate to equality in education including race, gender, and socioeconomic status.  On a smaller scale, I am fascinated by the current and historical factors that have impacted American Indian education. Specifically, I wish to explore how tribal colleges can meet federal postsecondary educational guidelines and policy while also maintaining unique cultural elements within that policy.