UCI News

Resourcefulness and resolve

Student uses research, passion to help others with disabilities

March 1, 2005

For political science honors student Gregoria Barazandeh, an undergraduate research project has grown into a crusade she’s taken all the way to Washington, D.C.

As a peer educator for the Disability Services Center, Barazandeh realized that students with disabilities often suffer academically because of limited communication and understanding about disabilities between students and faculty.

Barazandeh wanted to change that. With a grant from the campus’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, she developed the Disability Fact Sheet Handbook (www.disability.uci.edu/handbook). Each fact sheet – covering various physical, learning and psychological disabilities – includes definitions, characteristics, appropriate accommodations and resources to help students, faculty and staff.

The handbook clearly fulfilled a need, so, with the aid of a Donald A. Strauss Scholarship, Barazandeh expanded her project to other UC campuses. She presented her research at a UC Regents meeting and met with disability services directors at other campuses, revising the handbook along the way.

“Gregoria is driven by her convictions and passion,” says School of Social Sciences Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Caesar Sereseres, also an associate professor of political science who has been Barazandeh’s faculty adviser for two years. “She’s a bright, energetic individual who has transformed her personal experience into service for others.”

Barazandeh, who has Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome, hopes to continue speaking up for people with disabilities by pursuing a doctorate and becoming a public policy analyst. And already she has had remarkable success in getting her voice heard. She has traveled to Philadelphia to present her research on disabilities to the American College Personnel Association, and to Washington, D.C., to speak to the American Bar Association’s Subcommittee on Lawyers with Disabilities.

While sharing her work with an increasingly larger off-campus audience, Barazandeh has strengthened her commitment to research on campus, as well. Barazandeh sits on the UROP student editorial board, a group of students who review peers’ research papers and consider them for publication in the annual UCI Undergraduate Research Journal. In addition, she is serving her second term as president of the UROP Ambassadors, students who act as liaisons to departments and faculty members, fostering ties that lead to further research opportunities for undergraduates.

“Gregoria has contributed to a positive group dynamic within the program, and has been a great role model who speaks from experience,” says UROP director Said Shokair. “She makes other members feel energized and appreciated.”

Barazandeh hopes to extend her research through the new Interdisciplinary Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, administered through UROP and the School of Social Ecology. Her proposed topic is the future of comprehensive pain management.

“Through statistical and personal research, I have learned how to approach a problem from many angles,” says Barazandeh. “The theoretical and practical knowledge I gained through the research process added depth to my education and will be a great resource for me to draw upon in graduate school.”