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 Ph.D. scholar in the special education doctoral leadership grant with George Mason University. She has experience as a special educator in the urban school setting of Prince George's County, MD. Kia has instructed elementary students with high-incidence disabilities, primarily autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and emotional and behavioral disabilities. Her major research interests center around the disproportionality of Black/African Americans in special education and include the perception of dis/ability diagnoses of parents, children, and families and the impact on care, treatment, and intervention. Kia views the intersectionality of race, culture, and education through a critical lens and she leans towards a dis/ability critical race framework to define, interpret and explore research questions. Kia has two peer-reviewed publications on using a culturally responsive lens to revise a core preparation course and cultural humility and Universal Design for Learning as disrupters for disproportional placement of students of color in special education. She has presented at two national and three local and state conferences, shared as a guest lecturer in two higher education courses, and has written the chapter: Understanding Racial Differences in Diagnosis of BIPOC Children in a special report entitled Understanding Experiences of BIPOC Children and Adults with ADHD: Prevalence, Perspectives, and Access, for the national organization CHAAD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Kia is currently working on a research project analyzing family perceptions of diagnosis, barriers to treatment, and racialized attitudes toward the behavior of BIPOC children with ADHD diagnoses, and she is co-writing an article regarding family engagement and cultural reciprocity. Finally, Kia is an Officer on the Executive Board of the PhD in Education Student Organization (PESO) at GMU for the 2022-23 school year.
📧 @spEDuca8or

Roba Hrisseh
Roba Hrisseh, M.Ed., is an ASPIRE scholar who has worked in special education in various nonprofit and private sectors which served students with numerous disabilities. Roba’s focus within the PhD program is on assistive technology and computer science instruction for students with disabilities. Roba’s Summer 2022 pilot study on computer science and literacy instruction in the special education setting was designed to set the foundation for her dissertation research. She is also working on a second research study at a special education school on a technology-based graphic organizer to teach persuasive writing skills. Additionally, she is working as a graduate research assistant in editing a special education textbook. Furthermore, Roba is teaching undergraduate courses in special education at George Mason University. Lastly, she is working on several research publications with colleagues on varying topics within special education, including computer science skill acquisition and technology-based supports for writing.

Reagan L. Mergen
Reagan L. Mergen, M.S., (she/her) is a PhD student and ASPIRE scholar at George Mason University (GMU) with experiences as both a special and general educator teaching K-12+ students in a variety of settings, including a social-emotional learning program. She has served as an instructor at both GMU and Portland State University in Portland, Oregon preparing pre-service educators. Reagan’s PhD research interests include universal design for learning (UDL), promoting learner agency and outcomes in mathematics interventions, and preparing teachers to educate all learners through UDL and culturally responsive research-based practices. Through her work as a graduate research assistant she is involved in multiple research projects including a systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the impact of UDL-based interventions on student learning and the WEGO-RIITE project, which is examining the effects of a technology-based graphic organizer on students' writing. She is co-author on several research-based scholarly works and has presented at multiple national and regional conferences. Through the ASPIRE project, she had the opportunity to intern on Project COOL: A Scalable UDL Coaching Model for CAST. Reagan is a member of several professional organizations and is the co-editor of the New Times for DLD, a publication of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). She is also the current President of the PhD in Education Student Organization (PESO) at GMU. In her free time she loves to go on adventures with her husband and children, run, mountain bike, and listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

Reagan Murnan
Reagan Murnan, M.Ed., has recently accepted an assistant professor position of special education at Wichita State University in the Department of Intervention Services and Leadership in Education. Reagan's research interests focus on writing interventions, incorporating reading and writing evidence-based practices into instruction for teacher candidates, and the intersection of literacy and the socio-cultural needs of adolescents. She has presented at 14 national conferences on effective literacy instruction, including the use of a technology-based graphic organizer, the use of rubrics to evaluate student data for instructional decision making, video modeling, and the use of representative texts as a medium for dismantling barriers to reading. Reagan's future research will involve the development and evaluation of school-university partnerships and providing educational resources and opportunities to individuals in the Wichita area.