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 2024 Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize Announcement to ensure eligibility BEFORE starting your application.

The prize totals $5,100 split into one or two awards.

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, DIS STD 199B
    • For Students enrolled in DIS STD 199B, list your Faculty Mentor
    • Internship Site
  1. A 1-page double spaced 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 1-page double spaced response to the following prompt:
    • Disability Studies scholars understand ‘disability’ as a social construction and a dominant lens through which we can understand difference in the world. How has disability studies shaped your perspective of difference? How is your capstone project related to your aspirations and how does it contribute to viable action to advance a just society?

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**

Applications are due Monday, May 6, 2024 at 11:59 PM

*Your application materials should be sent directly to the committee via the following email address: 2024.ola277r6iwxddkx0@u.box.com

**If you do not receive a confirmation email or if you are having issues uploading your application materials, please contact Elizabeth Haan.

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

Rowan, a white woman with shoulder length blonde hair, wearing UCLA graduation gown and sash, and using her supplemental oxygen. They are holding a bouquet of flowers and standing in front of a tree in Dickson court at UCLA. She is smiling at the camera.

Rowan, a white woman with shoulder length blonde hair, wearing UCLA graduation gown and sash, and using her supplemental oxygen. They are holding a bouquet of flowers and standing in front of a tree in Dickson court at UCLA. She is smiling at the camera.


Major: Art
Project Title: The Familiar Pinch – Cystic Fibrosis Chronicles

Rowan O’Bryan graduated from UCLA in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and Disability Studies. Her artwork primarily revolves around her identity as someone who is chronically ill and disabled. She began incorporating her illness into her art making as a way to openly embrace this aspect of her identity. With her art, Rowan aspires to contribute to disability representation within the art world. She uses both photography and sculpture to highlight the ways CF can be viewed outside of a strictly medical lens and instead offer alternative and creative viewpoints.

For her capstone project at UCLA, Rowan created a photo and creative writing based book titled “The Familiar Pinch”. She worked with four young girls with CF, providing each with a camera and journal to creatively reflect on their personal experiences as someone with a chronic illness. The goal of the book was to act as a powerful catalyst for raising awareness about chronic illness, amplifying untold stories, and building friendships within the CF community.

Rooted in her passion for disability advocacy, Rowan actively engaged in multiple initiatives on campus. As co-signatory of the Disabled Student Union, Rowan and her peers advocated for improved accessibility across campus. Additionally, she co-led a group of students at UCLA fighting for the official recognition of American Sign Language (ASL) as a minor. In the future, Rowan hopes to continue her advocacy and find a career path that connects her passions for art and disability.

Natalee Decker – 2022
Major: Design | Media Arts
Project Title: Cripping_CG
Quinn O’Connor – 2022
Major: Theater
Project Title: Disability Access and Representation Present in Los Angeles Theaters
Kathleen De Nicola – 2021
Major: Dance
Project Title: Dancing Beyond the Eye – Using Audio Descriptions to Make Dance Accessible to the Blind and Visually Impaired Community
Kristal Orta Martinez – 2021
Major: History
Project Title: Investigating the Experiences of Autistic Women of Color: Does the Spectrum Include Women of Color?
Veeksha Balasa – 2020
Major: Psychobiology
Project Title: More Than a “Public Charge”: An Investigation of the Targeting of Migrants with Disabilities by the U.S. Immigration Regime
Amy Bugwadia – 2020
Political Science
Project Title: Integration of Disability Studies Frameworks into the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling Program at UCLA
Isita Tripathi – 2020
Major: Neuroscience
Project Title: Embracing Neurodiversity: Impacts of an Early Social Skills Intervention on Acceptance and Advocacy among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Social Challenges
Avery Horne – 2019
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Legalized Ableism: A Look Into the Criminality of Conservatorship Hearings in the U.S.
Bethanie Atinuke Sonola – 2019
Major: Psychology
Project Title: Mind the Gap: The Role of Special Education in Higher Education Outcomes
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
Samantha Chang – 2022
Nanami Murata – 2022
Priyanka Bhakta – 2021
Natalie Hynes – 2021
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