tags: Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) held its annual conference from November 5 to 8 at the Westin Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. During this event, several staff members and trainees of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) team not only attended but actively contributed, sharing their insights and expertise during this annual gathering. The conference’s focus this year was “Emerging Leaders: Shaping the Future.”

Kristine Nellenbach stands a podium and smiles during the annual meeting for AUCD’s Community Education and Dissemination Council (CEDC).

On November 5, Kristine Nellenbach, MS, program coordinator for Resource Finder, co-led the annual meeting for AUCD’s Community Education and Dissemination Council (CEDC). In her role as vice chair, Nellenbach assists with planning meeting agendas, mentors the council’s trainee liaison and promotes the mission and purpose of the council. Simultaneously, Maureen van Stone, Esq., MS, assistant vice president and director of the MCDD, participated in the AUCD policy committee meeting as the co-chair, with 40 AUCD network members in attendance. Van Stone also attended the annual University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Directors’ meeting, while Cindy Ibarra, MCDD trainee for the fall of 2023, joined the trainee networking session.

Chris Mason-Hale, Tyler Cochran, Tracy Waller and Leah Smith sit behind a long desk while giving a presentation.

On November 6, Christopher Mason-Hale, BSW, MCDD community advocate; Tyler Cochran, Esq., staff attorney for Project HEAL; Tracy Waller, Esq., MPH, MCDD staff attorney; and Leah Smith, MPA, associate director of The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality, gave a presentation, “Examining Structural Violence through an Intersectional Disability Justice Lens: Active Shooter School Drills, School Resource Officers and Police Brutality.” Annie Carver, Esq., staff attorney for Project HEAL, and Cochran gave a poster presentation, “Medical-Legal Partnerships as a Means to Promote Educational Equity,” during the AUCD annual meeting. Mirian Ofonedu, PhD, LCSW-C, director of training for the MCDD; colleagues from PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs; and other AUCD network members delivered a concurrent session, “Supporting Children with Disabilities Through Professional Development Trainings and Coaching in Early Intervention: Applying Models for Culturally Responsive Practice.” Additionally, van Stone and Waller delivered a poster presentation, “Recognizing Employee Diversity and Capitalizing on Performance.”

Tyler Cochran and Annie Carver stand in front of their poster presentation and smile.

Furthermore, Mat Rice, People On the Go (POG) policy director and advocacy coordinator, delivered a presentation, “Education, Marriage, and Employment,” covering subjects such as wage inequities and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, among other topics. Tracy Wright, POG director of training and advocacy coordinator, along with Rice presented a poster, “Project STIR: Steps Toward Independence and Responsibility.” Cody Drinkwater, POG public policy assistant, collaborated on the creation of the poster.

Dr. Mirian Ofonedu smiles while standing behind a podium.

On November 7, van Stone and Dr. Ofonedu co-led discussion tables at the Trainee-Networking Professional Breakfast, providing attendees with the chance to meet professionals from various disciplines who shared their experiences with emerging leaders. Mason-Hale; Miya Asato, MD, vice president of training for Kennedy Krieger; Elizabeth Benevides, Community Advisory Council (CAC) chair; and Christina Love, PsyD, director of health and language access for the Office for Health, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (O-HEID), gave a presentation, “Building Capacity for Advocacy at Kennedy Krieger Institute.” Van Stone, Smith and Kara Ayers, PhD, director of The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality, gave a presentation, “Introducing The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality.”

Tracy Wright and Mat Rice sit in front of the poster presentation, "Project STIR: Steps Toward Independence and Responsibility"

In conclusion, the active participation of MCDD staff members and trainees at the AUCD annual conference showcased their dedication to advancing the field of developmental disabilities. By contributing to various presentations, discussions and networking sessions, the MCDD team not only demonstrated their expertise but also forged valuable connections within the AUCD network. Their commitment to addressing diverse aspects of disability issues underscores the collective effort toward creating positive change and shaping the future of disability-related initiatives.