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.

Make a contribution


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.


Adam, a young man with short brown hair, smiles in front of a mountain landscape. He is wearing a blue sweatshirt and a backpack.


Major: Psychobiology
Project Title: Developing Disability Studies 19 – Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for People with Disabilities

Adam Kipust is a recent graduate of UCLA with a B.S. in Psychobiology with a minor in Disability Studies. He combines his academic background with practical expertise as an EMT, serving as an Educational Coach for the UCLA Pathway Program. In this role, Adam educates others on self-advocacy when interacting with first responders and guides EMTs on making their services and care accessible to patients with disabilities. His research has led to policy changes at the LA County EMS Agency, including new trainings, and piloting a suicide screening protocol, enhancing the continuum of care for patients experiencing behavioral health emergencies.

In his final year at UCLA, Adam worked with Dr. Lauren Clark to create a course on sexual health and disability, resulting in the curriculum for Disability Studies 19 – Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for People with Disabilities. This curriculum, offered in spring 2024 as a Fiat Lux course, centers the lived experiences of disabled individuals through an unfolding case study approach. Adam’s work addresses critical barriers to disability-competent reproductive healthcare and has been recognized for its actionable scope and potential to influence medical education. Adam intends to continue his impact in the medical field as he enters the MD/MPH program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine where he aims to further integrate his knowledge and passion for disability advocacy into his medical career.

Faith, a young woman with long brown hair, smiles in front of the arches of Royce Hall. She is wearing a white dress and is holding a a blue and gold stole that reads “UCLA Class of 2024”.


Major: Human Biology & Society
Project Title: Blurring the Line

Faith Lee graduated from UCLA in 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and Society and a minor in Disability Studies. During her time on campus, Faith’s interests in healthcare and disability justice led her to pursue initiatives in these disciplines. In her internship with the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Faith wrote public comments on behalf of the association regarding policy updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which were submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register. Additionally, she worked alongside physicians and medical students in the Los Angeles Human Rights Initiative to provide pro bono forensic medical evaluations for those seeking asylum. Faith’s other research initiatives focused on examining the effects of Bisphenol A on sensory processing deficits and increasing reproductive healthcare access for women with disabilities. In the future, she aspires to use her involvements at the intersection of medicine and policy to address the social needs within our healthcare systems.

For her UCLA research capstone, Faith produced “Blurring the Line,” a documentary film about the barriers that women with disabilities face when seeking reproductive healthcare. She interviewed four women across the disability continuum, asking each about her ability to receive contraception, undergo thorough examinations (Pap smears, STI testing, pregnancy tests), and physically access an OB-GYN who understands her body. The stories of these women provide a critical analysis of the differences in disabled and nondisabled healthcare experiences, where identifying as a woman often carries a subtle pressure to identify as a nondisabled woman––a woman who is represented in reproductive medicine, can receive medical care without physical accommodations, and resembles the population majority. Such assumptions can produce systems of medicine that discriminate against those who do not fit within this definition.

Given that 82.8% of practicing OB-GYNs in the United States do not receive training on the provision of healthcare to women with disabilities, Faith recognized a need for more resources to educate medical professionals on the populations they care for. Her documentary intends to tactfully inform medical professionals on the biases that can lead to inequitable healthcare, including how these injustices may be practiced and reinforced by the medical professionals who work in these systems. Through the stories of the four women in her film, Faith uses “Blurring the Line” to provide a voice for the disabled community to share their lived experiences with the people who tirelessly care for our health, bridging more communication, collaboration, and understanding between these disciplines. It is her hope that viewers will finish the film with an understanding of reproductive rights as one that is inclusive of disabilities––“blurring the line” between women both with and without them.

Rowan O’Bryan – 2023
Major: Art
Project Title: The Familiar Pinch – Cystic Fibrosis Chronicles
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
Arezo Ahmadi – 2024
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