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2021-2022 Student Representatives Elections


Student representatives to the SDS Board of Directors serve a 2-year term. They will be invited to attend meetings of the Board, with the goal of representing the needs of student members of SDS, and to serve as members and as co-chairs of SDS committees. Student representatives are encouraged to develop further initiatives to benefit the broader student membership of SDS during their elected term.

All Student Members of SDS should vote. You will receive a ballot by email by July 10th. The candidates' statements are below in alphabetical order. Please vote for no more than 2 candidates.

2020-2021 Nominees

  • Pat Barrientos
  • Shariese Katrell-Abdullah
  • Tracey Kenyon Milarsky
  • Mizanur Rahman
  • Preethi Srinivasan


Pat Barrientos

My name is Pat Barrientos. I am a born and raised New Yorker, currently pursuing my Master’s in Disability Studies at CUNY SPS. For the past eight years, I’ve been working at CBO where I oversee the agency’s government and community relations. In addition, I have organized several fundraising events, not just to raise money for our programs, but to also raise awareness of neurodiversity.

I have spent my life dedicated to helping make people’s lives better. Whether it was working on a campaign for elected office or my tenure as a staffer in the New York City Council, I have positioned myself to be a part of situations that are bigger and greater than myself. I feel satisfied and accomplished knowing that I have helped to give people a voice, even when they didn’t think they had one, and, in some cases, amplified their voice.

I enjoy photography and being able to capture moments that tell a story or invoke an emotion. A photographer is only as good as the equipment he/she has. They may start off with one lens, but at some point, they need to get another lens so they can see beyond those limitations. Some may choose to limit themselves to one particular lens. But to me, why limit yourself? If the opportunity is there, one should jump at it. The opportunities are endless.

That is why I would like your support to be the Student Representative on the Board of Directors of SDS. Aside from my Master’s of Art in Disability Studies, being the student representative on the Board of Directors would provide me with more lenses to capture the larger picture, allowing me to interact with a diverse group of individuals from across the globe. It would also provide me with additional knowledge and resources so that I can take my advocacy and education to another level. I don’t want to limit myself to just one lens. I can do more with a better understanding of the disability community from an intersectional lens.

As a member of the Board of Directors as a Student Representative, I will be in a position to collaborate and share the knowledge I will gain with my fellow classmates and colleagues. As a student representative, I would like to focus on helping SDS to continue its growth as a powerful force that will help influence and affect change through respectful discussions through its conference and other programmatic opportunities.

Shariese Katrell-Abdullah

I am a Black female graduate student that lives with multiple hidden dis/Abilities and attends Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. As an intersectional leader who is also a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. Community, advocating for ableism, cultural acceptance, and traditional systematic reform is my mission. In 2017, at Rowan, I founded the Hidden Disabilities Alliance for students with hidden disabilities to help students build relationships with their counterparts. Mentorship is essential, and I assist students in Mercer County College’s D.R.E.A.M. program in N.J. I encourage my students and even donate funding to help them academically. Educating individuals about social identity politics and systematic oppression as a lead BlackLivesMatter organizer in Princeton, NJ is crucial to me. I am running to be a student representative or to obtain an undesignated general seat on SDS’s board because I want to ensure equity, accessibility, and a sense of belonging for all students with dis/Abilities in postsecondary institutions. Many times, students have to self-advocate. As a transformative leader in education that believes in social justice, If I am elected, I would want to create a strategic plan to help students proactively. I want to work with administrators and faculty to create transformational change, so historical minorities and individuals that live with dis/Abilities are not segregated from their counterparts. As a SDS board member, I would create a student rights team for our current and potential student members, to help inform students and faculty about their dis/Ability rights that need to be addressed or that are being violated. Providing internal and external resources for students and leaders, who live with dis/Abilities in higher education who experience intimidation, biases, limited opportunities, and racism would be one of my goals.

Additionally, as future leaders, I understand that our scholarly research and literature are significant to the growth and development of higher education. However, student success for diverse student populations is vital. As a future academic professional, encouraging members and potential members to look beyond our professional obligations and come together proactively as grassroots leaders to sustain and maintain collaborative, organizational change will be essential for future students in higher education. Actively learning how our organization can become the voice for students and administrators that live with disabilities, who are silenced is my vision and goal as a leader. We need activism and active advocacy for individuals who live with physical and hidden dis/Abilities, who face polarization within higher education environments. Identifying unethical, biased, discriminatory tenured, and untenured educational leaders is my vision to reform institutional injustice. I am currently obtaining literature on visual qualitative autoethnographies, reflecting academia and historically marginalized graduate students. As a musician and poet, I utilize my creative skills to inform individuals about the struggles students in postsecondary education face. Additionally, my research interests reflect first-generation undergraduate students of dis/Abled parents, social vs. medical models of dis/Ability, challenges for students with hidden disabilities, the impacts of a social pandemic, educational leadership accountability, and the awareness of intersectionality.

Tracey Kenyon Milarsky

I am entering my second year as a neurodivergent doctoral student studying Special Education at the University of Missouri. Before becoming a full-time student and graduate assistant this past year, I taught young children who qualify for special education services in public school settings. My research interests center around how young children, families, and teachers/care providers perceive disability and constructs of normalcy. As a teacher who also experienced exclusion and stigma as part of my own public schooling, I was driven to create welcoming spaces where young children and their families would experience a sense of belonging and connection. I regularly found gaps between what I thought was possible for children and families and what the school system recognized as possible. These gaps and the resulting frustration motivated my transition toward a path of research and scholarship.

By the time I was three, I thrilled my childcare providers and parents by being able to read fluently. Expectations for me were high entering kindergarten and the gap between what I demonstrated in a strong ability and interest in reading soon was seen as “unmet potential” when I showed deficits in numerical concepts, spatial sense, emotional regulation and other areas where my development was now considered “asynchronous.” As I grew, a tension grew between how I moved through the world versus how those in charge expected me to perform. I started to move from what my mother called “whiz kid” status into messier categories of “learning disabled”, “emotionally disabled”, “at risk for school failure”, and, much later, “ADHD—Inattentive type.” The power and potential of schools fueled my focus and wonder as I worked to get requisite degrees, certification, and job opportunities. How can we build systems where diverse and divergent bodyminds – to use the term used by scholars such as Clare and Schalk – are valued, welcome and needed? How can my experiences as an insider/outsider help children and families navigating a compulsory education system that considers them problems to solve or mysteries to unravel instead of simply community members?

These questions also drive my desire to serve as a student representative on the SDS board. My background as a critical special educator—what I was long before I learned such a term existed--offers value to the SDS board through my experience in navigating the structures that currently exist while dreaming and working to create new structures that serve us all. My interest in applying critical disability theory to problems such as ableist COVID policy, access and inclusion, disproportionality, disability justice/rights, prioritizing carework, stigma, untangling in(ter)dependence and expanding notions of “normal” all align with concerns of SDS scholars across disciplines and focus areas. The goals I have for SDS board service connect to applying critical disability studies to expand representation wherever disabled people receive services. My hope is that through gaining a position on the SDS board, I can better develop and share skills to become the advocate that young students—and all the rest of us—so deeply need.

Mizanur Rahman

I am a disability rights advocate and scholar. Since 2008, I have been mobilizing youth community to promote disability rights and inclusive society. To better understand the global perspective of disability and justify the work I am doing, I have started my research career. Now, I am a doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My personal and professional goal is to become an expert and influential disability activist and I am committed to bringing innovation aiming to see the change sought by the Disability Rights Movement. In 2019, I have founded the Connecting Dots International that aims to connect hundreds of volunteers with Persons with Disabilities for their non-medical assistant. I have been awarded the Chancellor's Student Service Award and the Jane Addams Distinguished Service Award for this disability services in the Chicagoland area. I have also received the Provost Internship Award to serve at the UIC’s Disability Cultural Center.

One of my passions is to learn by engaging with new platforms and at the same time, contributing for them to accomplish their mission by adding some innovation. Previously I have served at many national and international organizations and added significant values in their works. Because of my leadership role in this sector and creating significant impact in the society, I have been chosen for the prestigious fellowship program by the Department of States, USA called the Emerging Global Leadership Initiative-Atlas Corps Fellowship in 2015. In 2017, the Asia-Europe Foundation has also honored me as their Fellow and invited me to join their Summer University held in New Zealand and Australia. In 2017, the Forbes Magazine featured me as one of the "Forbes 30 under 30".

I am choosing to be a Student Representative to the Board of Directors of SDS and serve in the committee of Policy & Publications or Membership for the following reasons.

  • To have an opportunity of learning from the diversified leadership who works here
  • To explore the scopes of connecting young disability rights activist and scholar aiming to scaleup the existing programs and model operate by SDS
  • To bring some innovation and some dynamic ideas of fostering research collaboration with the diverse’ student community in the field of Disability Studies

I believe the nomination committee will consider this self-nomination not only for creating an opportunity for me but also to connect SDS’s resources with the greater young activist and scholar by utilizing my 13 years of experiences in his field.

Preethi Srinivasan

University: Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), India
Education: Currently in the Third Year of my PhD in English
Research Interests: Eugenics, Stigma, Interlinks Between Patriarchy, Gender, Disability And Sexuality
Identities: I’m a woman, a quadriplegic, a human being with spinal cord injury whose sexuality was completely suppressed.

Why Am I Running?

Pain has the potential to spark passion and ignite people to work for change. After experiencing wrathful stigma for being a wheelchair user, I felt the need to formally educate myself in Disability Studies and attempt to change the system from a place of knowledge and strength.

I have had the good fortune of growing up all over the world and gaining exposure to the cultural and socio-political realities of several countries as an inhabitant, not a visitor. My family kept moving almost every year and consequently, during my 12 years of school, I went to 9 different schools in three different continents. I was an accomplished swimmer and cricketer. However, as an active 18-year-old, when an inexplicable accident left me quadriplegic, my sense of identity was shattered in the span of a split second because I began to feel invisible, and was treated as a non-entity.

While I had always been excellent in academics, I was rejected from joining a long-distance learning program in a reputed Indian University because I was a wheelchair user. I was told, “why do people like you even bother? There are no lifts (elevators), no ramps and 15 days of practical classes to attend, so don’t join!” I was heartbroken and lost. However, when I started hearing horror stories of paraplegic women being forced to commit suicide by their own families, I could not keep quiet. I started an NGO by the name “Soulfree” ( and started fighting the system.

After some hard-fought battles, I have become perhaps the first woman with quadriplegia to ever gain admission into the PhD program of one of India’s most reputed educational institutions, in its illustrious history.
In the Global South, disability is considered a shame and burden, if not a curse. Women with significant impairments are discarded from mainstream society and forced into a life of subjugation. I feel passionately that the uncensored and explicit truth of their lived experience must be highlighted globally through raw narratives, so that they may raise awareness and enrich the study of disability and humanities as a whole.

My vision for SDS is that it succeeds in reaching deeper into embodied experiences and struggles of the most marginalised and invisible segments of the disabled community, with a special focus on the Global South, as there is a dearth of Raw and Real Narratives from the Global South that reach the international arena.

What I would like to do during my term in the SDS is work as much as possible at the grassroots level to ensure that more and more voices emerge out of the Global South. This means, every child with disability, especially a girl child’s story, becomes valuable and visible in the socio-political prism both nationally and internationally. Fundamental political and policy level changes can be brought about only through international pressure and by raising awareness in a way that causes a fundamental shift towards the creation of a more empathetic and inclusive society.