Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Practice: A Conversation with Researchers in Self-Direction

June 2, 2021

Self-Direction Virtual Conference Series


Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Practice: A Conversation with Researchers in Self-Direction

There is a significant body of research literature examining the impact and efficacy of self-direction programs, but as many researchers and practitioners will agree, there remain many unanswered questions. Research findings that corroborate our anecdotal observations regarding the benefits and challenges for self-direction can play an important role in expanding and improving programs. This panel will discuss emerging research and how those with an on-the-ground understanding of self-direction can support these efforts. Holly Carmichael, Chief Operating Officer at GT Independence, will moderate and share her perspective on the role of Financial Management Services providers in self-direction research. Our panelists include Joseph Caldwell, Miriam Heyman, and Sandy Ho from the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University’s Heller School, Alison Morantz from the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law and Policy Project at Stanford University, and Mark Sciegaj from the Health Policy and Administration Department at Penn State University.



Wednesday, June 2nd from 3-4 PM (EST). 



Registration is free but limited to the first 500 registrants. You can register here



Michael Atkins is a Research Fellow with the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. He conducts research within the Community Living Policy Center to examine the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities as well as expanding access to home and community-based services. As a student at Brandeis University, Michael’s academic focus was on the intersection between carceral systems and disability as he completed an honors thesis examining the use of solitary confinement of incarcerated people with disabilities. In addition to providing direct services for incarcerated individuals and people with disabilities, Michael has worked in politics and government at the local, state, and federal levels. 


Jennifer Bennett Shinall is a Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on discrimination, particularly in the areas of gender and disability. Her research examines how obesity, pregnancy, and health status more generally affect labor market outcomes.  Professor Shinall was the first graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics at Vanderbilt University. Before returning to Vanderbilt as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Law and Economics in 2013, Professor Shinall was a clerk for Judge John Tinder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She earned an A.B. in economics and history at Harvard University and her J.D. and Ph.D. in law and economics at Vanderbilt Law School


Joseph Caldwell is the Director of the Community Living Policy Center and a Principal Investigator at Brandeis University.  Dr. Caldwell has over 25 years of experience in the field of disability as a researcher, policy expert, and family member of a young adult with developmental disabilities. In addition to the Community Living Policy Center, Dr. Caldwell partners with two other federally funded, multi-university research centers. He is co-PI of the Family Support Research and Training Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a researcher with the Research and Training Center on Home and Community-Based Services Outcome Measurement at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining Brandeis, Dr. Caldwell was Director of Long-Term Services and Supports for the National Council on Aging, where he led a coalition of over 40 national aging and disability organizations and advanced federal policy.


Holly CarmichaelHolly Carmichael is chief operating officer of GT Independence. A professional social worker, Holly has more than 15 years of experience in human services. She began her career as a direct care worker in group homes, where she gained an understanding of the importance of self-determination in improving the outcomes that matter to individuals with long-term care needs. Her commitment to self-determination and person-centered services only strengthened after she joined GT Independence, where, as COO, she revolutionized the customer support and enrollment functions, driving industry-leading customer satisfaction. 


Sandy Ho is a research associate with the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University and the research project manager at the Community Living Policy Center. Her areas of interest include the intersections of marginalized disabled people and public health. She is also a disability community organizer and is the founder of the Disability & Intersectionality Summit. Sandy is currently completing her Master’s in Public Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. 



Alison Morantz is the Director of the Stanford Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law and Policy Project (SIDDLAPP), an interdisciplinary initiative examining the rights and welfare of individuals with I/DD. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), and has been the principal investigator of multi–year research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Her recent work has examined the relationship between ownership status and the quality of care in facilities serving people with intellectual disabilities, how statistical techniques can be used to target the most hazardous workplaces, the effects of unionization on mine safety, and the law and economics of workers’ compensation.


Mark SciegajMark Sciegaj is a Professor of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State University.  He is an experienced academic with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry— both in instruction and administration. His skills include work with Nonprofit Organizations, Data Analysis, Program Evaluation, Strategic Planning, and Public Speaking. He received a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) focused in health services research and long-term care systems from Brandeis University, a Master of Public Health in Health Administration from Emory University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Bethany College (WV). 


This session is part of our free Self-Direction Virtual Conference Series. Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest information on conference sessions.