Special Education and Disability Policy

Department faculty and staff smile as they pose at a conference


Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, and adults with disabilities through research, teaching and service. Our faculty, students, university colleagues and community partners work together to generate knowledge, investigate effective strategies, disseminate evidence-based practices, advocate for individuals and their families, and promote exemplary programs. Our two affiliated centers, the Partnership for People with Disabilities and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, provide significant service via local, state, national and international research, technical assistance, personnel development and advocacy.


Faculty and doctoral students actively engage in research across the lifespan in a wide array of areas. Current research initiatives include: early learning environments for culturally and linguistically diverse children, behavior problem prevention in early childhood, youth violence prevention, self-determination and transition, autism spectrum disorders, adolescent/adult employment and self-sufficiency, impact of disability policy on youth transition, post secondary education for young adults with intellectual disabilities, adults with learning disabilities, and community engagement for personnel preparation.

Connect with us

For more information about our department, please contact:

Colleen Thoma, Ph.D.
Department chair
Phone: (804) 828-1332

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Read our most recent blog posts

The White House, the Senate, Capitol Hill: VCU Doctoral Students Travel to DC
Monday, November 23, 2015

As part of the SEDP 705, Seminar on Disability Policy class, Dr. Michael Gamel-McCormick, Mrs. Irina Cain, Mrs. Heather Coleman, Mrs. Allison D’Aguilar, Mrs. Rachel Kunemund, Mrs. Meredith Moates, Ms. Lauren Puglia and Mrs. Brittany Sterrett recently traveled to Washington D.C., to attend the AUCD conference. During the visit, under the guidance of Dr. Michael-Gamel-McCormick, […]

Early Childhood Special Education Faculty and Student Present at DEC International Conference
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dr. Yaoying Xu, Dr. Mary Ellen Huennekens, Mrs. Serra De Arment, and Mrs. Heather Coleman recently traveled to Atlanta to present for the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Annual International Conference on Young Children with Special Needs and their Families. DEC is a special-interest division of the Council for Exceptional Children, the premier international professional […]