PhD grad’s dissertation wins national award for research excellence in dis/ability


Erik Ketcherside

David I. Hernández-Saca (PhD ’16) was a winner of the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award in the subject area of Disability Studies in Education from the American Educational Research Association. An assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa, Hernández-Saca received his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College last year.

His award-winning dissertation was titled “Re-Framing the Master Narratives of Dis/ability Through an Emotion Lens: Voices of Latina/o Students with Learning Disabilities.” At UNI, where he teaches undergraduate teacher preparation courses in special education, Hernández-Saca's research focuses on the emotional impact of learning-disability labeling on students’ self concept.

That research continues inquiry into an area that inspired him while at ASU, Hernández-Saca says. “My PhD program balanced individual responsibility and passion for equity and justice in educational theory, research and practice, with exceptional mentoring that was system-wide. We were given opportunities for professional development that positioned us to be equity- and culture-minded, critical-reflexive assistant professors within the field of educational equity for all.”

Hernández-Saca also represented Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at the 2016 AERA Annual Conference as a presenting co-author for two papers, “Emotion Discourse as Mediator of Adolescent Peer-group Classroom Discussions” and “A Systematic Review of Disability Intersectional Research.”

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that were afforded to me during my time at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College,” Hernández-Saca says. “These included time with faculty as mentors — Alfredo Artiles, among others — who were formative in my personal and professional growth."

Hernández-Saca accepted the award at the 2017 AERA Annual Conference in San Antonio. Established in 1916, AERA is the most prestigious professional organization for educational researchers.

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College graduate education programs are ranked No. 11 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Learn more about our doctoral degrees.