Kellar Institute for Human DisAbilities (KIHd) - College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University
About Us

The Kellar Institute for Human DisAbilities (KIHd) is an interdisciplinary campus-based organization focusing on improving the lives and productivity of children and adults with disabilities. KIHd combines the resources of the university with local, state, regional, national, public, and private sector agencies and organizations to develop products, services, and programs for persons with disabilities.

ASPIRE Scholars

Amy Christy-Davila
Amy Christy-Davila, M.A., is an ASPIRE scholar and a former reading specialist and co-teacher with experiences teaching students with a range of learning needs, including high-incidence learning disabilities and English Learners. She co-taught elementary language arts, math, science, and social studies as well as secondary English, biology, and history. Amy’s PhD major at George Mason University is special education, particularly focused on evidence-based practices in reading and writing. She desires a secondary specialization that combines literacy, culture, and reading. Amy is involved in research on a technology-based persuasive writing intervention and is conducting a systematic literature review on academic interventions for students with learning disabilities who are also English learners. Additionally, she is consolidating information from student teachers about opportunities and challenges they experienced when completing online student teaching experiences during the pandemic.

Kia Felder Williams
Kia Felder Williams, M.A., is an ASPIRE scholar who has experience as a Special Education Coordinator in the urban school setting of Prince George's County, MD. She has taught elementary students with high-incidence disabilities, primarily autism. Her major research interests for her PhD at George Mason University are the effective implementation of interventions and assistive technology, Universal Design for Learning, and teacher preparation as it pertains to culturally responsive teaching and the intersectionality of race, culture, and education. Kia is interested in researching how the effective use and implementation of assistive technology and research-based interventions impact the overrepresentation of African American males in special education.

Roba Hrisseh
Roba Hrisseh, M.Ed., is an ASPIRE scholar who began her special education career in Detroit, Michigan, working with students with high-incidence disabilities in both the nonprofit and private sector. She then spent time working as an educational technology teacher for students with severe autism in Boston, Massachusetts. She plans to focus her PhD research at George Mason University on assistive technology, Universal Design for Learning, and international special education. Roba is currently working as a graduate research assistant on a writing intervention project that uses a technology-based graphic organizer to teach persuasive writing to students with high-incidence disabilities. Additionally, she is working on writing a research brief about the challenges of special education refugee students who have relocated to the U.S. Roba is co-authoring a book chapter focused on assistive technology interventions for individuals with high-incidence disabilities. Lastly, she is completing an internship at CAST’s Center on Inclusive Technology and Education, where she is researching effective methods for comprehensive and sustainable technology usage for students with a range of disabilities.

Reagan L. Mergen
Reagan L. Mergen, M.S., is an ASPIRE scholar with experiences as both a special and general educator teaching K-12+ students with a range of high-incidence disabilities in a variety of settings, including a social-emotional learning program. Reagan’s PhD research interests at George Mason University include Universal Design for Learning (UDL), evidence-based practices and technology use in inclusive educational settings, self-efficacy and self-regulation in mathematics interventions, and preparing teachers to use evidence-based practices to educate learners with high-incidence disabilities across educational settings. Reagan is currently working as a GRA on the WEGO-RIITE project, which is examining the effects of a technology-based graphic organizer on students writing. She is also part of a team working on a meta-analysis investigating the impact of UDL interventions on students’ learning. She is an intern on Project COOL: A Scalable UDL Coaching Model for CAST (Summer ‘21). Finally, Reagan is an Officer on the Executive Board of the PhD in Education Student Organization (PESO) at GMU for the 2021-22 school year.

Reagan Murnan
Reagan Murnan, M.Ed., is an ASPIRE scholar who taught middle school students with high-incidence disabilities in a suburban school in Loudoun County, Virginia. She also served as her school's special education department chair. Her major Ph.D. research interests at George Mason University involve writing interventions, incorporating writing evidence-based practices into instruction for teacher candidates, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Currently, Reagan is co-authoring a manuscript titled, Creating a Culture of Care Through Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning. She is also participating in research on a writing intervention involving a technology-based graphic organizer that also involves teacher professional development centered on data-driven decision-making. She is working with a colleague on a practitioner-friendly manuscript involving adolescent's self-regulation in the writing process. Reagan is also co-constructing a disability-focused manuscript involving agency and identity through children's literature. During Summer 2021, Reagan is completing an internship with CAST that aims to support significant and meaningful improvements in teachers' writing knowledge as well as their writing instruction self-efficacy.