Madison Based Disability Scholars

Photo of Dr. Sami Schalk
Dr. Sami Schalk. Photo by Smoketree Photography of Madison, WI.

Sami Schalk

Bio from Dr. Schalk's website, available here.

Dr. Sami Schalk (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her BA in English (Creative Writing) and Women’s Studies from Miami University, her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from University of Notre Dame, and her PhD in Gender Studies from Indiana University.

Dr. Schalk also writes for mainstream outlets, serves as a board member for Freedom Inc., is a member of Community Pride Coalition of Madison, and once twerked with Lizzo. She identifies as a fat, black, queer, femme, cisgender, middle-class, polyamorous woman with chronic pain. She is also body-neutral, sex-positive, a pleasure activist, and a feminist. 

Find out more about and purchase her first book, Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, here.

Photo of Morton Gernsbacher

Morton Gernsbacher

Morton Ann Gernsbacher is a Vilas Research Professor and the Sir Frederic C. Bartlett Professor of Psychology at UW-Madison. Gernsbacher has served as President of the 25,000-member Association for Psychological Science, President of the Society for Text and Discourse, President of the Division of Experimental Psychology of the APA, President of the Foundation for the Advancement for Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Chair of APA’s Board of Scientific Affairs, Chair of the American Association for the Advance of Science Psychology Section, Chair of the Cognitive Science Society’s Annual Convention, Chair of the International Travel Committee of the Society for Teaching of Psychology, member of the Psychonomic Society Governing Board, the Medical Affairs Committee of the National Alliance for Autism Research, NSF’s Social, Behavioral, & Economic Sciences Advisory Committee, and AAAS’s Scientific Program Committee. 

For nearly 40 years, Gernsbacher’s research has investigated the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie human communication. Her research bears both basic science implications and national policy applications. She has published nearly 200 journal articles and invited chapters. She has authored or edited 10 books, including Language Comprehension as Structure Building (Erlbaum, 1990); the Handbook of Psycholinguistics (Academic Press, 1994; Elsevier, 2006); Coherence in Spontaneous Text (Benjamins, 1995), the Handbook of Discourse Processes (Erlbaum, 2002), and two editions of Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society (Worth, 2010; 2014). Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control, and several foundations.

A photo of Jill Casid.
Jill Casid. Photo credit to Erika Townsley.

Jill H. Casid

Bio from UW Disability Studies website, available here.

Jill H. Casid is Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she has a cross appointment in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. A cluster hire in Visual Culture, she currently leads the research cluster in Visual Culture and founded and served as the first director of the Center for Visual Cultures. A historian, theorist, and practicing artist, her contributions to the transdisciplinary field of visual studies include monographs, articles, an edited collection titled Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn (Yale, 2014) co-edited with Aruna D’Souza.

She is currently completing the two-book project Form at the Edges of Life. She serves on the governing board of the International Association of Visual Culture and on the editorial board of the Journal of Visual Culture. 

She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her research and teaching, including the Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence in Teaching Award (2015), the Vilas Research Investigator Award (2014), the H. I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship (2011), and the Hamel Faculty Fellowship (2009). In 2018–19, she is on research leave and in residence as the Clark-Oakley Fellow at the Clark Art Institute and the Oakley Humanities Center at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

You can view Jill's personal website here!

Photo of Jess Waggoner.

Jess Waggoner

Dr. Jess Waggoner (pronouns: they/them) is a white, queer, fat, disabled non-binary femme with working class roots. They serve as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Gender & Women’s Studies and English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Waggoner’s research and teaching interests span feminist disability studies, queer and trans studies, health activisms, and African American studies. They are deeply invested in accessible and feminist teaching practices, as well as disability-justice informed avenues of access in the wider world. In their spare time they enjoy making music that explores rural queer experiences and promotes healing for queer people recovering from religious abuse.

Photo of Amy Gaeta.
Amy Gaeta. Photo credit to David Knight.

Amy Gaeta

Bio from Amy's website, available here.

Amy Gaeta is a Ph.D. candidate in the Literary Studies and Visual Cultures (doctoral minor) programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She takes a feminist disability approach to contemporary applications of science and technology, mainly human-robot interactions (HRI) and digital surveillance.  Amy’s dissertation, “Drone Life: A Feminist Crip Analysis of the Human” asks how the category of the human changes amid the spread of drone technology in which passivity and interdependency are valued and accepted, a contradiction to the able-bodied individual liberal subject.​

In addition to research, Amy is a practicing poet, professional editor, disability rights activist, and editor of the Unseen Zine from the Invisible Disability Project. She has published on a wide range of topics, including disability treatment processes, the ethics of algorithms, emotional labor, and higher education,  the politics of international sport,  and more. You can find her regularly on Twitter talking about all this.

Photo of Jessica Cooley.

Jessica Cooley

Bio from UW Department of Art History website, available here.

Jessica A. Cooley (she/her/hers) is a scholar-curator working at the intersection of curatorial and museum studies, crip theory, and Modern and contemporary art. Cooley is a Ph.D. candidate in the art history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finishing her dissertation “Crip Materiality: The Art Institution after the Americans with Disabilities Act,” which confronts the discursive framing and practical treatment of the unstable materiality of art objects as the basis for revaluing disability in art institutions. 

Cooley has been commissioned by the Ford Foundation’s Art Gallery to co-curate (with Ann M. Fox) a yearlong online and physical exhibition titled INDISPOSABLE: Structures of Support after the ADA. Before Madison, Cooley served as assistant curator from 2006–2010 the Davidson College Van Every/Smith Galleries where she curated numerous exhibitions including RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture.

Picture of Jenell Johnson.

Jenell Johnson

Bio from UW Department of Communication Arts website, available here.

My research interests include the rhetoric of health and medicine, science and technology studies, disability studies, bioethics, and environmental communication. My research focuses on the circulation of scientific and medical information in the public sphere, with an emphasis on the social and political dimensions of nonexpert engagement with science, medicine, and technology. Much of my work has explored the meaning of neuroscience, psychiatry, and mental disability in scientific and cultural contexts. These interests are best illustrated by my book American Lobotomy, which explores how representations of psychosurgery shaped the rise, fall, and return of lobotomy in US medicine, and the co-edited collection The Neuroscientific Turn, a collection of essays from humanists and scientists reflecting on the growth of the neuro-disciplines. More recently, my research focus has shifted from the brain to the ethics and politics of life. I am currently working on a book about biocentric environmental ethics and politics, and recently co-edited a collection on the theory and practice of biocitizenship.

In addition to my position in Communication Arts, I am affiliated faculty in Life Sciences Communication, Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies, serve on the steering committees of the Health and Humanities certificate and I am the director of UW’s Disability Studies Initiative. I am also one of the inaugural Mellon-Morgridge Professors in the Constellations program, a transdisciplinary initiative for undergraduates at UW-Madison.

A white woman with long brown hair in her early thirties sits next to a Great Pyrenees, her service dog.

Ellen Cecil-Lemkin

Dr. Ellen Cecil-Lemkin (she/her) is a Faculty Associate in Writing Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her BA in English Literature from University of Central Florida, her MA in Rhetoric and Composition from Miami University, and her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Florida State University.

Her research agenda focuses on creating accessible environments with an emphasis on collaborative spaces for disabled students. More specifically, she’s invested in making writing centers (tutoring centers that provide one-to-one writing instruction) more accessible to disabled students. To this end, she works as the Writing Center Liaison to the McBurney Disability Resource Center, chairs the Writing Center’s Accessibility Committee, and serves on the Accessibility Committee for the Online Writing Centers Association.

You can find out more about her on her personal website!

A photo of Carlyn Mueller.

Carlyn Mueller

Carlyn Mueller (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology & Special Education at UW-Madison. Her research focuses on disability identity development in school contexts; including development of disability community in special education, disability representation in curriculum, and youth understandings of disability. This work is grounded in her personal experience with physical and learning disabilities, and as a student in special education. Her dissertation work on the lifespan development of disability identity received an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Educational Research Association’s Special & Inclusive Education Research SIG. She is currently working on a project exploring youth disability history legislation and its impact on K-12 teaching.

A photo of Brenna Swift.

Brenna Swift

Brenna Swift (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department’s Composition and Rhetoric program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation focuses how people with mental illness, chronic illness, or other kinds of disabilities experience writing in journals of all kinds. She takes a critical disability studies and disability justice approach to her work, arguing for transformation of classrooms into accessible spaces that celebrate multiply marginalized disabled writers. In her research, Brenna strives for community engagement and centering the work of disability justice activists of color. She examines disability rhetoric in order to critique the ableist stories that white Western culture tells about disability while helping create new stories for disability justice.  

Brenna is also passionate about social justice and disability justice in the teaching of writing. She is an instructor for college-level courses on writing and helps train other teachers in accessible, antiracist teaching practices. She is currently a Teaching Fellow in UW-Madison’s College of Letters and Science. She also serves on the English Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Student Committee and on the student advisory board for Mental Health Services at UW-Madison. You can follow her on Twitter here.

The cover of the book "Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability" by Elizabeth Bearden. The cover is red and features a sixteenth-century copper-plate engraving of young women who are parapagus conjoined twins.
The cover of the book "Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability" by Elizabeth Bearden. The cover is red and features a sixteenth-century copper-plate engraving of young women who are parapagus conjoined twins.

Elizabeth Bearden

Bio from UW Disability Studies website, available here.

Elizabeth B. Bearden is a Professor of English at UW–Madison. She earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at New York University and her A.B. in Comparative Literature at Princeton.

Bearden’s first book, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012 (ebook version 2013). Her forthcoming book, Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability, won the Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities and is forthcoming from the Corporealities series of University of Michigan Press in 2019.

Bearden has published articles in PMLA (2006, 2017), JEMCS, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, Arizona Journal for Hispanic Cultural Studies, and E-Humanista Cervantes. She served on the Executive Committee for the MLA Forum on Disability Studies from 2012–16. Her current book project is tentatively titled “Crip Authority: Disability and the Art of Consolation in the Global Renaissance.”

A picture of Ellen Samuels.

Ellen Samuels

Ellen Samuels is Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and English and founding member of the Disability Studies Initiative at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She identifies as a disabled person and lives with Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.


Her books include Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race (NYU Press, 2014) and a forthcoming memoir in verse, Hypermobilities (Operating System, 2021). With Elizabeth Freeman, she co-edited a 2021 issue of South Atlantic Quarterly on “Crip Temporalities.”


She has received the Catherine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship and two Lambda Literary Awards and is currently working on a new book titled Sick Time: What Chronic Life Tells Us. Find her on twitter @ehlastigirl and order her books Hypermobilities, Fantasies of Identification, and Crip Temporalities here, here, and here.

A picture of Hailey Love.

Hailey Love

Dr. Hailey Love (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her PhD in Special Education, with a focus on early childhood, from the University of Kansas in 2018. Prior to her graduate studies, Dr. Love taught and supported programming in inclusive preschool and early elementary classrooms in Boston.  

Through her scholarship, Dr. Love aims to advance equitable, inclusive education for young children with disabilities, particularly multiply-marginalized dis/abled children. Her research examines the intersections of racism and ableism and ways to disrupt exclusionary processes and practices that marginalize dis/abled children of Color. Her current projects include work on inclusive and culturally-sustaining practices, teacher preparation and professional development, and family-professional partnerships with families of Color. Dr. Love also examines applications of mixed methods inquiry within early childhood and disability research. 

An image of Ashley L White.

Ashley L. White

Ashley L. White, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Before her appointment at UW, Ashley served as the 2019-2020 Joseph P. Kennedy Public Policy Fellow with the Committee on Education and Labor under Chairman Robert Bobby C. Scott. In addition to serving as a Kennedy Fellow, Dr. White has interned with the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14) working on policy matters including but not limited to regulatory reforms, grant priorities, engagement with advocacy organizations, pending legislation, and educational oversight. Before earning her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida, she taught for 15 years. Thirteen of those 15 years were spent with the School District of Hillsborough County, primarily teaching 5th grade reading and mathematics. As a 5th grade teacher, White taught in general education, inclusion, and isolated special education settings. 

As a scholar, advocate, and member of the disability community, Dr. White is particularly invested in studying practice and policy creation and implementation and their effects on multiply-marginalized students and individuals with disabilities, specifically those impacted by disability and ethno-racial identities. White envisions a form of restorative policy as a way to address the historical and present inequities that persist for individuals with disabilities at large. Dr. White believes that equitable policy is made, not by one person exercising their specific expertise, but through grounded research, collaboration, and careful consideration of the political landscape, none of which can be achieved without the voices of students, individuals, families, and communities affected by proposed and instituted policies. 

You can learn more about Ashley's work here:

A picture of Morgan Cacic.

Morgan Cacic

Morgan Cacic (she/her) is a disabled academic, children’s book author, #OwnVoices writer of fiction and nonfiction, and social justice activist. She has taught German & English literacy and literature in a variety of capacities in the greater-Madison (WI) area over the past ten years and has an MS in Education: Teaching & Learning, with current WI teaching licenses in Alternative Education and German Language. Since joining the PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018, she has completed an MA in German Literature and welcomed two children. She is currently working to finish her Ph.D., with research interests in the intersections of disability justice, German Literature, and cultivating communities of care in the higher education classroom. She is actively involved in disability and inclusion initiatives on the UW-Madison campus and in its surrounding communities. 

More information available on the German, Nordic and Slavic Department website.

Select publications: Just Hold On: A love letter to a lost soul (2024), The Kindness Crew: Yabbity Crabbity is Non-binary! (2024), The Kindness Crew: Iggidy and Higgidy at School (2022). 

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