Mikala Swank: ‘All students would benefit from this program’

VCU music major says SOE’s Undergraduate Certificate in Disability Studies helps her “understand the ‘why’ behind a lot of the curriculum in SOE.”

Headshot of Mikala Swank, SOE student with a minor in education and who is pursuing an undergraduate certificate in disability studies.
VCU School of Education student Mikala Swank. (Courtesy photo)

Mikala Swank is a music major at VCU with a Minor in Education. Because of a chronic illness, her plans to attend a conservatory in music were altered, but she is grateful instead to be pursuing an Undergraduate Certificate in Disability Studies at the VCU School of Education.

“I find that the Certificate in Disability Studies actually helps me understand the ‘why’ behind a lot of the curriculum in SOE,” she said. “I feel like it would benefit all SOE students to take Disability Studies.”

Inspired by educators, fueled by passions.

In high school, I quickly realized I would not be the person I am without the wonderful educators who helped to shape me. They took the time to get to know me – my passions and my shortcomings – and they used that knowledge to help train me in my field. I chose the field of education not only because I have a passion for lifelong learning, but also because I wish to become the same type of mentor or teacher to someone else.

What do you like the most about your program?

In the Certificate in Disability Studies, I am constantly thankful for the willingness of Professor Brandt and Professor Yingling to discuss difficult topics with clarity and candor. Both professors encourage students to take on difficult topics and make mistakes in order to learn. This way, our time together is a time of constant growth and learning that is immediately applicable to our daily lives. I’ve loved every second of my time in SOE, and I’m incredibly grateful for the many teachers who have trained me in education.

How does SOE support you?

SOE and, most importantly, the Certificate in Disability Studies program, have helped support my growth as an informed teacher. Prior to taking Disability Studies, I would not have been as informed regarding numerous systemic issues that face students in the public school system. In order to effectively teach and meet the needs of my students, I must understand the barriers that they face.

What one thing would you change about your program?

I would love for the Undergraduate Certificate in Disability Studies to become a minor at VCU. The importance of the topics and their application to daily life is something every student should become aware of, especially at a school that prides itself on its diversity.

Note: The Undergraduate Certificate in Disability Studies is the only undergraduate certificate of its kind in Virginia! If you would like to see the program grow and be a part of its success, follow Mikala Swanks’ lead.

You’re only 9 credits away from success!