The Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize in Disability Studies, awarded annually, was established to recognize graduating seniors who are enrolled in the UCLA Disability Studies minor and have developed an outstanding capstone project that contributes to emerging scholarship in the field and also captures their intellectual passion.

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Jessie AlpaughThe prize is named in honor of Jessie Charlotte Blackmar Alpaugh, an art history major at UC Berkeley who, during the last summer before her sudden death in 2002, worked at UCLA on an independent studies project that contributed to the foundation of UCLA’s Disability Studies minor.

At the age of 16, Jessie had suffered a catastrophic series of neurological illnesses that left her a quadriplegic with severe speech, hearing, and visual impairments. Despite these challenges, Jessie thrived intellectually and was admitted to UC Berkeley in 1999 as a Chancellor’s Scholar. There she found a vibrant group of scholars who were engaged in developing the interdisciplinary field of disability studies. The disability world was never a “club” that Jessie wished to join – the illness that had threatened her life and left her severely disabled deeply saddened her. However, through disability studies she discovered an amazing academic community that simultaneously challenged her mind, respected her experience, and sparked in her a sustaining passion and purpose.

Jessie would be extraordinarily proud of the UCLA Disability Studies program and would be humbled to learn about the senior prize awarded in her name.



Please review the Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize 2020 Announcement to ensure eligibility BEFORE starting your application.

In a single pdf document, include the following three items:

  1. Cover page with the following information:
  • Full Name
  • Student ID Number
  • Enrolled in DIS STD 191 or DIS STD 199B
  • For Students enrolled in DIS STD 199B, list your Faculty Mentor
  • Internship Site
  1. A 1-2 page Capstone project proposal covering the following:
  • Working title
  • Brief explanation of the project
  • Impact your project will have on the field of Disability Studies
  1. A 500-word response to the following prompt:
  • Disability rights activists see Disability Studies as a dominant lens through which we understand difference in the world. Please relate your work and aspirations to this idea and articulate how you would address perceived challenges to ability justice.

Save the PDF in the following format:

  • LastName_FirstName_Application.pdf
  • Ex: Block_Gene_Application.pdf

Obtain a copy of your unofficial transcript and save it in the following format:

  • LastName_FirstName_Transcript.pdf
  • Ex: Block_Gene_Transcript.pdf

Email both files to the Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize Committee

Confirmation email:

  • You will receive a confirmation email when your application has been received**

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Applications are due Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at 12:00PM

*Your application materials should be sent directly to the committee via the following email address: 2020.m9v42c90hvmimzo5@u.box.com
**If you do not receive a confirmation email or if you are having issues uploading your application materials, please contact Ananya Bhargava.

If you have questions about the application requirements, please contact Pia Palomo.

Avery Horne portrait

Avery Horne

Major: Psychology
Project Title: Legalized Ableism: A Look Into the Criminality of Conservatorship Hearings in the U.S.

Avery Horne will be graduating with degrees in Psychology, English, and Disability Studies in June of 2019. Throughout her time in the Disability Studies minor, Avery became more and more aware of the ways that ableist language was embedded in institutions that supposedly supported and governed people with disabilities. As a legal researcher, she vested her time and resources into addressing and arguing against institutional ableism and racism. Previously, her research has focused on the disproportionate impact that facial recognition software in schools will have on students with disabilities and students of color. Given the opportunity to conduct research for the Disability Studies Capstone, Avery decided to focus on the criminality of conservatorship, specifically examining the ableism historically built into the language of the conservatorship statutes, and formulating a legal argument against such practices. Avery hopes to continue this research, and research like it, in her career as an attorney and legal researcher. Given the number of systemic injustices experienced by people with disabilities, she is sure there will always be more work to do.

Major: Psychology
Project Title: Mind the Gap: The Role of Special Education in Higher Education Outcomes

Bethanie Atinuke Sonola

Bethanie Atinuke Sonola

Bethanie is graduating with a degree in Psychology and minors in Disability Studies and French in June 2019. Her academic and internship experiences through Disability Studies have reframed and further informed her career aspirations especially as it pertains to person-centred mental healthcare provision. In particular, her experience at Jazz Hands for Autism, a music academy and talent advocacy agency for musicians with autism, has strengthened her understanding of the intersectionality of disability identities and culture. Furthermore, her Disability Studies capstone research allowed to evaluate the effectiveness of UK government-mandated special education programs as it exists at the secondary school level –  a topic which she hopes to continue to explore. Bethanie is immensely thankful to the Disability Studies for the impact that it has had on her future trajectory and worldview.

Juliana Kotz – 2018
Major: Cognitive Science
Project Title: Human Rights, Dignity, and Disability Studies: An Investigation of Jail Conditions for People with Psychiatric Disabilities
Justin Kawakami – 2017 
Major: English
Project Title: “Merely more than de minimis”: Establishing Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA)
Miso Kwak – 2017
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Relationship Between Accessibility of Music Education and Self-Esteem of Blind/Visually Impaired Students in Grades 6-12
Jaemmie Cañas – 2016
Major: Anthropology
Project Title:What Futures Await Foster Youth and Psychiatric Disabilities?
Rebecca Snyder – 2016
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Examination of Voting Restrictions for Individuals with Mental Disabilities
Dianna Padilla – 2015
Major: Anthropology
Project Title: Latino Border Town Communities and Autism: An Analysis on Access to Resources for Children with Autism in Nogales, Arizona
Nikki Reyes – 2015
Major: English Literature
Project Title: SISE – Sensory Integration Strategies for Early Educators (A proposal for Public Early Educators)
Brittany Steiminger – 2014
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Democratic Schooling: A viable alternative for autistic students?
Shayna Svihovec – 2014
Major: Human Biology and Society
Project Title: Straddling the Line Between the Deaf and Hearing Communities in a Hearing Dominated World
Hannah Warren – 2013
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Insurance and Intervention: An Evaluation of the Relationship between Service Access and Socioeconomic Status of Families with Children with Autism
Jessica Kianmahd – 2013
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Proposing a New Perspective of Disability: Approaching the Persian Jewish Community from a Jewish Lens
Paulina Ong – 2012 
Major: Physical Science
Project Title: Saying Something About Autism: An Evaluation of the Personhood Consciousness Model of Music Therapy
Sarah Baron – 2012
Major: Political Science
Project Title: Impact of Affordable Care Act for people with disabilities
Eunice Im – 2011
Major: English
Project Title: What Happened to the Clubhouse? An Investigative Study on a Program for Children with Autism in the UCLA Medical Center
Rhiannon Maycumber – 2011
Major: Psychology
Project Title: A Qualitative Comparison of Transition Practices for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in California and the United Kingdom
Shareen Nizami – 2010
Major: Political Science
Project Title: Working with the FMLA: Expanding Rights of the Workforce
Michelle Tang – 2010
Major: English
Project Title: Center Stage: How a Passion for the Performing Arts Help Deaf/hard of Hearing Individuals Find a Social Outlet and Overcome Their Disability
Haley Gamboa – 2019
Samantha Mallari – 2019
Claudine Ignacio – 2018
Elaine Lu – 2018
Amanda Mekhail – 2017
Hayley McAvoy – 2017
Lindsey Hoffman – 2016
Vanessa Magula – 2016
Ana Zepeda – 2016
Cindy Sayani – 2015
Kristen Lee – 2015
Brianna Mitchell- 2013
James Choi – 2012
Jenna Rodman – 2012
Laura Merchant – 2010
Lillian Kong – 2010