Kristen Whiston


Unveiling the invisible in higher education: Experiences, outcomes, and potential solutions for students with disabilities.


The Seminal fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities across the globe occurred in 1948 with the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, countries across the globe have enacted laws that fight discrimination and unequal access to quality higher education. These laws and protections lead to changes in universities and increased enrollments of students with disabilities in universities around the world. Despite these protections, Students with disabilities are not staying in college, nor are they graduating at the same rate as their peers without disabilities. It is due to these unequal outcomes; a series of papers were created. First, a review of literature was conducted to answer the question “what are the outcomes of students with disabilities in higher education?” Secondly, a conceptual paper was written to explore why Students with disabilities face the barriers they do by examining the history and future of disability theories. Finally, a practice application paper was conducted utilizing studies from the voices of students with disabilities, to create a new plan: Learning communities.


Kristen obtained her Bachelor of Science degree, co-majoring in International Studies and Psychology at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). She then continued her studies at Wayne State, earning her Master’s in Social Work.

In private practice, Kristen treats many issues including, but not limited to self-esteem, school and learning difficulties, difficulties with socialization and/or interpersonal relationships, and family conflicts. As a School Social Worker, Kristen works with student between the ages of 4-26, with varying abilities: Autism, Cognitive Impairments, Emotional Impairments, and Specific Learning Disabilities.

Outside of the classroom, Kristen volunteers with Michigan Association of School Social Workers (MASSW). She sits on her local chapter as a member-at-large, where she helps with fundraising and professional development for School Social Workers. Kristen also volunteers with her state chapter of MASSW, where she is a legislative committee member. She has helped draft laws related to school mental health and the recruitment and retention of school social workers.

Kristen is passionate about education and being a life-long learner. This passion is seen when working with her students and social work interns. Additionally, this passion led to the continuation of her education, where she is currently a Doctoral candidate in the college of Social Work at the University of Kentucky. Her passions of education and working with individuals with disabilities lead to her capstone project: Unveiling the invisible in higher education: Experiences, outcomes, and potential solutions for students with disabilities.