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Fabricio Balcazar, Principal Investigator Heading link

Fabricio E. Balcazar leads the Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities project.

Dr. Balcazar is a professor in the UIC Department of Disability and Human Development and director of its Center on Capacity Building for Minorities with Disabilities Research.

His primary research interest is in developing effective strategies for enhancing consumer empowerment and personal effectiveness among individuals with disabilities. A researcher for more than 30 years, he has published over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles, other publications and chapters.

He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Midwestern Psychological Association.

Contact Fabricio

Fabricio Balcazar is named a 2020 University Scholar

Project Coordinator Heading link

Joanna Keel head shot

Dr. Joanna Keel has a Ph.D. in Education from UIC.  Her research interest is supporting students with disabilities and their families in all aspects of secondary transition.  Additionally, Dr. Keel is focused on teacher preparation in secondary transition, professional collaboration in education, and inclusive practices.  Dr. Keel has extensive experience leading research grants including DHD’s interagency collaboration project with Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  She also coordinated UIC’s College of Education’s Project SET: Seamless Effective Transition, a 5-year personnel preparation program that trained transition specialists in Chicagoland.  Dr. Keel has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor in UIC’s Department of Special Education and Elmhurst University’s College of Education teaching graduate coursework to pre-service and in-service teacher leaders.



Joanna Keel, Ph.D.  |

Graduate Research Assistants Heading link

Casey headshot

Casey Cushing recently graduated from UIC with a Master’s in Occupational Therapy, and is now pursuing her Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. Casey has had the opportunity to be a research assistant on various projects in both undergrad and graduate school. She is excited for the opportunity to join this team and be able to work closely with students with disabilities in the academic setting!

Sarah DeAngelo headshot

Sarah DeAngelo is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sarah taught both elementary and secondary special education serving students with a wide range of disabilities. Sarah’s research interests focus on postsecondary programming for students with intellectual disabilities and autism, and disability justice and identity in special education settings.

Sarah received her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Iowa State University, with an endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education. She received Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education from Morningside College with a focus on students with significant intellectual disabilities.

Sharmisha Parvathaneni headshot

Sharmisha Parvathaneni is a second-year graduate student majoring in Computer Science at the University of Illinois, Chicago. With two years of experience in Software development, she is eager to leverage her skills and expertise in developing healthcare applications aimed at enhancing healthcare accessibility and services.

Betania Locatti Mascareño headshot

Betania Locatti Mascareño, is pursuing her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Illinois Chicago. Betania taught English as a Foreign Language to middle and high school students in Paraguay. Her areas of interest include: international special education, inclusion, teacher training, literacy and bilingual education for youth with autism.

Betania received her bachelor’s degree in Education of the English Language from INAES, a public institution in Asuncion, Paraguay. She was awarded the Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she completed her Masters of Education in Special Education in May 2023.

Allison Antman headshot

Allison Antman is a first-year Occupational Therapy Doctorate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She pursued a double major and received her bachelor’s degrees in Developmental Psychology and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Allison has previously worked in the Exercise, Technology, and Cognition (ETC) research lab at UIUC and in the Center for Applied Health Research on Aging (CAHRA) research lab at Northwestern University.

She has experience working with children with disabilities in non-academic recreational settings and is therefore interested in learning about how she can transfer these skills to a classroom and support students in school.

Assiana headshot

Asianna Griffin is a first-year Occupational Therapy Doctorate student at the
University of Illinois at Chicago. She has experience working with children with a
wide range of disabilities in both home-health and recreational settings.

Asianna received her bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Science with a minor in
Disability and Human Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She
is an IL LEND Fellow looking to transfer her skills and knowledge to an academic

Project Admin Heading link

Claudia Garcia Headshot

Claudia Garcia is office manager for the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project “Promoting Project Entrepreneurships Youth with Disabilities.”

She has nine years of experience providing support on disability-related projects. She  also associate for Academic Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at UIC.

She is pursuing a master’s degree in Nutrition Science at UIC.

Claudia Garcia  |