Session Descriptions

Wednesday, March 29

10:00 – 11:30 AM | Opening Plenary Session

Keynote: Navigating the Working World as a Disabled Person

Alexandra Dixon

Social service professional and health and disability activist Alexandra Dixon will speak to the systemic challenges working as a disabled person and ways to overcome them.

TAPDINTO-STEM Southeast Hub Student Panel

Tamara Massey-Garrett and students Rachel Dunleavy, Ibiada Harry, Jenny Yoon, Manie Castagneto, and Jessica Kupfer

This panel of students with disabilities from the Southeast Hub will provide an opportunity for students to share their individual experiences in higher education and in TAPDINTO-STEM. The panel will share their perspectives and insights into how educators and mentors can gain a better understanding of what works well and what matters most to them in their postsecondary education and STEM.

12:00 – 12:45PM | Working Lunch 

Birds of a Feather Working Lunch

Dr. Linda Thurston, Dr. David Shannon, and Dr. June Gothberg

Discuss alliance evaluation

1:00 – 2:45 PM | Student Hands-on Sessions

For this concurrent session, the group will be split in two and have the opportunity to engage in both experiences.

Accessibility Reviews of STEM Learning Environments

Dr. Scott Bellman

Students will receive a draft publication called “Equal Access: Universal Design of Science and Engineering Labs.” The group will discuss, improve, and utilize the publication as they conduct an accessibility review of UMKC laboratories. The group will then discuss their ideas for presenting the information in a professional and effective manner to administrators of the unit. Join us for this interactive and on-the-go session as we co-develop this publication for future use by all Alliance members.

Tornado Lab

Dr. Fengpeng Sun

In this workshop, we will build a tornado in the lab and use the tornado simulator to explain the formation, structure, rating, and distribution of the tornadoes. Potential impacts of climate change on tornadoes will be discussed.

1:00 – 1:45PM | Concurrent Sessions #1

Diversity, Intersectionality, and Disabilities: Making Visible the Invisible


Dr. Daniela Marghitu

When we forget to include access needs in our Diversity and Inclusion discussions, we exclude many of the people we are striving to include. In this campfire session, Dr. Marghitu will discuss the most acute challenges to successfully including students with disabilities in STEM postsecondary education and the importance of identity amongst people with disabilities of underrepresented groups. Research studies indicate the most acute challenges to successfully including students with disabilities in STEM postsecondary education. Topics will be decided by the group as a natural process of discussion and may include underprepared students, lack of understanding and cooperation, unavailability of adaptive aids, knowledge and skills of faculty and staff about disability, recruiting, and obtaining student data related to disabilities at the institution level.

NSF Convergence Accelerator Project: MABLE (Mapping for Accessible Built Environments)


Dr. Nils Hakansson

This presentation will provide an overview of the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator program and a description of the funded Phase 1 project entitled MABLE (Mapping for Accessible Built Environments).

The Approach, The Conversation, The Outcomes: Advancing Equity and Access Through Administration


Dr. Carl Pettis

During this campfire session, TAPDINTO-STEM co-PI and Provost of Alabama State University, Dr. Carl Pettis, will share insight on working with administration at your college or university. The session will begin with a short presentation from Dr. Pettis and then will open up to a dialogue.

2:00 – 2:45PM | Concurrent Sessions #2

Neurodiverse Edusystems: Proactively Accommodating Variability to Advance Campus Climate

Northeast Hub Student Panel

Dr. Andrew Buck and students Tori Kaufman, Hunter Mastin, and Carly Schafer

Join Autistic & Neurodivergent STEM students from the Northeast Hub to explore the diversity of learning styles and communication strategies utilized by TAPDINTO participants. Learn about accommodations valued by students to support academic success and how faculty perceptions and actions impact outcomes. Students will share the importance of a connected community along with their insights on how on how to address ableism and othering of students with disabilities across campus. Attendees will gain a richer understanding of Autism and Neurodivergence and engage the panel in a discussion about how to raise awareness, enhance pedagogy for diverse learners, and improve inclusive campus cultures.

Understanding Student-Professor (mis)Communication


Dr. Jade Metzger

Establishing a good rapport with professors is key for academic and professional success, but many students with disabilities say that speaking to professors is challenging (or down right anxiety inducing!). In this conversation, students will hear from Dr. Jade Metzger, a neuroatypical specialist in interpersonal and online communication. Students will hear about the most common types of miscommunication between students and faculty, why they happen, and what students can say to resolve miscommunication with faculty, administration, and their peers. Audience members can anonymously share their communication challenges and Dr. Metzger will offer evidence based resolution strategies.

The Team Approach: How Collaborating with your Campus Disability Office can Maximize Student Learning

Dr. Jeff Traiger and Tamara Massey-Garrett

Through case studies, participant questions, and discussion you will learn (a) what schools are required to provide, (b) what students with disabilities are told about their accommodations by disability/access office staff, and (c) how you can best support students in and outside of your classes.

Thursday, March 30

10:00 – 11:30 AM | Concurrent Hands-on Workshops

Your Story Matters: How to Craft and Tell a Story with Impact

Laura Packer

Storytelling is fundamental to human experience and a well-told tale can create powerful change, but it’s not always easy. Join storyteller Laura Packer for a practical and interactive exploration of how to tell YOUR story. We will cover the neurology of storytelling and why it is so effective, what stories to tell, and practice a story in a safe and supported environment. Participants can expect to leave with a short story they are ready to share.

Navigating and Using the SOAR Data Portal 

Dr. Yugi Lee and Dr. Ye Wang

One of the core elements to achieving Collective Impact for any group is utilizing a shared measurement system. To support the TAPDINTO-STEM Alliance, Dr. Yugi Lee and Dr. Ye Wang with a team from UMKC’s Computer Sciences department developed the SOAR Portal, Surmounting Obstacles for Academic Resilience. During this two-part presentation, SOAR’s development team will first share the process and strategy of developing this data warehouse, it’s function and purpose in data collection, and it’s current and future applications. Then in a hands-on segment, the team will show alliance members how to navigate the portal and demonstrate how AI and machine learning can present the relationships between different variables in dynamic reporting. Then using a text-to-data tool called WeListen, the group will use mobile tablets to simulate a focus group to provide feedback, showing how AI can immediately prepare and present data insights. 

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Dr. Maya Matheis

Emotional health is an important element of student success. This workshop will present an array of evidence-based strategies for managing stress and anxiety accompanied by hands-on practice. Come learn quick and easy-to-implement strategies that you can teach to others and use in your daily life, curated from from cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and positive psychology.

11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Developing Technologies in AI

Dr. Yugi Lee, Duy Ho, and Ahmed Alanazi


Learn about developing technologies in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics from the research lab of Dr. Yugi Lee, Professor and Research Mentor in the School of Science and Engineering at UMKC. Hear about the development of these technologies, how they are being applied to persons with disabilites, and the potential for online and educational collaboration. 

Following a presentation, two doctoral students from Dr. Lee’s research team, Duy Ho and Ahmed Alanazi, will lead a demonstration, emphasizing the practical applications and potential of these technologies. The demo will highlight AI-powered digital twins that leverage AR/VR, AI, and Robotics technology. The team will present two types of robots – Jetbot and Robot Arms – in scenarios where they support PWD during both regular and emergency situations. By seamlessly integrating real and virtual worlds, the team will demonstrate how these environments can collaborate and interact with robots, showcasing how robots can guide PWD to find rooms, restrooms, or exits and assist with daily activities such as retrieving items from cabinets, opening and closing doors, or turning devices on and off. 

1:30 – 3:00 PM | Talent Development Today for the Workforce Tomorrow

Part One: Transitioning to the Workforce

Darla Wilkerson, CEO, Center for Disability Inclusion and Kelly O’Connor, Recruiter, Garmin International



Part Two: Sustaining Inclusive Pathways for Entry Level Technology Talent

Dr. Marge Sendze, Senior Technology Manager, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Joining Dr. Sendze will be Austin Jenkins, to tell his story about persisting through his Computer Science education to a Software Engineering role at the FED. 

3:15 – 4:45 PM | Concurrent Collective Impact Maker Sessions

Student Career Fair

STEM Industry Round Tables

Mock Interviews and Resume Review

Janie Failor, Burns & McDonnell

Keaten Olson, Burns & McDonnell

Wendell Cole, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City

Kelly O’Connor, Garmin International

Informal Informative Conversation

Darla Wilkerson, Center for Disability Inclusion

Introduction to Organizational Storytelling 

Laura Packer

When organizations recognize the power of storytelling to build trust, community, and connection; persuade; educate; create change; effectively and authentically communicate; and grow they cannot help but be better places to work, more effective in their mission and vision, and help build a better world. Join storyteller Laura Packer for an exploration of the five critical organizational stories and work on your stories, leaving with stories you can use and the skills to craft more stories for different audiences.

Friday, March 31

Overview of TAPDINTO-STEM Alliance Evaluation

Birds of a Feather

Dr. Linda Thurston

Linda Thurston, external evaluation team leader will be joined by internal evaluator Dave Shannon in discussing both the internal and external evaluation plans for the Alliance. Why is evaluation of the Alliance project mandated by NSF? What are the purposes of the evaluation? What data are being gathered for the evaluation? How are students, faculty, and TAPDINTO-STEM campus leaders involved in the evaluation? 

Open Mic Storytelling

Emceed by Laura Packer

Join us for a friendly, supportive open mic session where you can share your story with the group! All stories are welcome, up to five-minutes long. Whether you are a new teller or an experienced one, we want to hear your story about your experiences, your work, your life and more.