Core Faculty


Jennifer Natalya Fink

Director, Program in Disability Studies

Jennifer Natalya Fink is a Professor in the Department of English and Associated Faculty in the Department of Theater and Performance Studies. She is a member of the Disability Studies Steering Committee, and teaches “Disability and the Arts,” a core course in the Disability Studies minor. Winner of the 2017 Doctorow Prize, Professor Fink is the author of six books. Her disability studies book, All Our Families: Finding Our Disability Lineages, will be published by Beacon Press in 2021. She has collaborated with artist Julie Laffin on three disability-related projects to date, including “The Remote Everyday” for The Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts Quarterly. In addition to writing about disability for general audiences, she frequently gives talks about the creative process.

Libbie Rifkin

Associate Director, Program in Disability Studies

Libbie Rifkin is Teaching Professor in the Department of English, where she teaches courses in disability and gender studies, poetry and poetics, and American literature, and was the founding Director of the Program in Disability Studies from 2017-20. Rifkin currently serves as the first Special Advisor to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Disability, a new role that expands Georgetown’s commitment to valuing disability as an identity and dimension of diversity.

Lydia X Z Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown is adjunct lecturer in the disability studies program. They are a disability justice advocate, organizer, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer whose work has largely focused on interpersonal and state violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, and language. Currently, Lydia is Policy Counsel for the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology; Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network; and founder and volunteer director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment.

Quill Kukla

Quill Kukla

Quill Kukla is a Professor of Philosophy and Senior Researcher at the Kennedy Institute for Ethics (KIE), Their research interests within practical ethics include reproductive ethics and the culture of pregnancy and motherhood, public health ethics, the ethics of health communication, research ethics, methodological issues in medical research, and the social epistemology of medicine. They teach several courses within the Disability Studies Minor, including “Bioethics and Disability” and “The Politics of Weight and Eating.” Their courses begin from the premise that, contrary to the assumptions of most philosophical traditions, not only are many of us permanently disabled, dependent, or ‘abnormal’ in various ways, but almost all of us will spend the first and last decades of our lives highly dependent on caregivers, and will experience temporary disabilities along the way. Their upper level Philosophy and Disability Studies elective “Bioethics and ‘Abnormal’ Bodies” uses disability and the concept of ‘abnormality’ as a lens through which to examine a wide range of ethical, metaphysical, and political questions. We will think about the social meaning and the metaphysical and ethical significance of disability, beauty, fatness, deformity, and other such variations in embodiment. For more information about their numerous publications, visit the KIE website.

Toby Long

Toby Long

Toby Long, PhD, PT, FAPTA is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University and the Training Director of the Center for Child and Human Development, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Long is the Director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Early Intervention offered by Georgetown University and teaches Children with Disabilities, within the undergraduate Minor in Education, Inquiry and Justice. Dr. Long is also the Director of the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development for the District of Columbia’s early intervention program, Strong Start. Dr. Long is an internationally known speaker and consultant on service delivery to children with disabilities and special health care needs.

Sylvia Önder

Sylvia Önder

Stemming from her research in medical anthropology, Sylvia W. Önder connects the lived experience of difference with the possibilities and constraints of culture. Just as a visible marker such as skin color might be read in a positive or a negative way due to a specific cultural context, physical or mental differences can create opportunities or lead to stigma in different cultures in varying ways. Disability Studies, as an academic field, has been developed in a Western cultural context and so has a particular way of defining, examining, and critiquing. If we broaden our field to the entire world and to subcultures within Western cultures, we can challenge our own definitions and find interesting new ways to critique the structures that restrict or awaken human potential. Professor Önder has taught courses that include the concept of Deaf Gain (the opposite of Hearing Loss) from the perspective of proponents of Deaf Culture who reject the label of Disability altogether. Another topic of interest is how the clash between military culture and civilian culture in the U.S.A. has been detrimental to the understanding and care of veterans, including those with disabilities. Requiring students to consult ethnographic studies of communities in non-English-speaking contexts challenges the very definitions of what it means to be human, how we define and stigmatize (or don’t) others, and how we can bring fresh insights to the struggle for inclusivity and the realization of everyone’s potential.

Joel Michael Reynolds

Joel Michael Reynolds

Dr. Reynolds is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Disability Studies at Georgetown University, a Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is also the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability, which he edits with Teresa Blankmeyer Burke.

Julia Watts Belser

Julia Watts Belser is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Georgetown University. An ordained rabbi, Watts Belser writes queer feminist Jewish theology and brings disability culture into conversation with Jewish tradition. She is the author of three books, including most recently Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (2017). Her course “Religion and Disability Studies” examines the intersections between religion and disability in sacred texts, popular culture, and disability activism, with a particular focus on Jewish and Christian traditions. It invites students to reflect together on the way that disability studies and disability experience might deepen our understanding of what it means to be human—and how we practice commitments to justice, dignity, and solidarity. Professor Watts Belser holds leadership positions in the American Academy of Religion and has served on the board of the Society for Jewish Ethics, as well as Nehirim, a national community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and allies.

Scholar/Artist/Activist in Residence

Mimi Khúc

Mimi Khúc, PhD, is a scholar, writer, and teacher of things unwell. She is the Managing Editor of The Asian American Literary Review and the guest editor of Open in Emergency: A Special Issue on Asian American Mental Health (new window), and she oversees the Open in Emergency Initiative, a multi-year national project developing mental health arts programming with universities and community spaces. mimikhuc.com (new window)

Our Affiliated Faculty

Sean Aas, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
Robert Bies, Professor of Management, McDonough School of Business
Laura Bishop, Associate Teaching Professor, Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Denise Brennan, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology
Youngeun (Kaitlyn) Choi, Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Biology
Patricia Cloonan, Associate Professor, School of Nursing & Health Studies
Thomas Coate, Associate Professor, Department of Biology
Theodora Danylevich, Adjunct Lecturer, Writing Program
Carol Day, Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Human Science
Father Patrick Desbois, Braman Endowed Professor of the Practice of the Forensic Study of the Holocaust, Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC)
Madeline Eller, Doctoral Student, Department of Philosophy
Elizabeth Ferris, Research Professor, Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM)
Brady Forrest, Adjunct Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Emily Gasoi, Adjunct Lecturer, Education, Inquiry and Justice Program
Elzbieta Gozdziak, Adjunct Professor, School of Foreign Service
Raymond Kemp, Special Assistant to the President Adjunct Professor DC Community Fellow, Center for Social Justice
John Keown, Rose F. Kennedy Professor in Christian Ethics, Department of Philosophy
Margaret Little, Professor, Director of Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Co-Founder of Ethics Lab, Department of Philosophy
Jaime Madden, Adjunct Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Abigail Marsh, Professor, Department of Psychology
Father Dennis McMannus, Adjunct Professor, Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC)
Joan Riley, Engelhard Senior Scholar & Associate Professor, School of Nursing & Health Studies
Sara Schotland, Adjunct Lecturer, Department of English
Elena Silva, Vice Dean of Faculty and Diversity and Inclusion, Senior Associate Dean
April Sizemore-Barber, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Sarah Stiles, Teaching Professor, Department of Sociology
Andrej Umansky, Braman Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC)
Chandan Vaidya, Vice Provost for Faculty, Professor, Department of Psychology
Sabrina Wesley-Nero, Associate Teaching Professor, Program in Education, Inquiry and Justice
Jennifer Woolard, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology