University Scholar Fabricio Balcazar
The University Scholars Program, now in its 35th year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $15,000 a year for three years.
Professor of disability and human development
Director of the Center on Capacity Building for Minorities with Disabilities Research
Years at UIC: 30
What are your research interests
My primary research interest is in developing effective strategies for enhancing empowerment and personal effectiveness among individuals with disabilities. I have conducted research over the past 35 years on several disability-related areas, such as the development and evaluation of a model service delivery approach to increase consumer empowerment; and the development of interventions to help minority individuals with disabilities transition into employment and career development. Currently, this work is being supported by a federal grant to promote entrepreneurial skills and start-ups among high school youth with disabilities of color. I also direct the Center on Capacity Building for Minorities with Disabilities Research.
How did you become interested in these topics?
When I was in graduate school at the University of Kansas, I was offered a research assistant position in a new Research and Training Center on Independent Living to help people with disabilities learn to advocate for their rights. This started a line of programmatic research on advocacy and empowerment for people with disabilities. I have been very successful in pursuing grant funding to support my research.
What do you teach?
Every spring semester I teach a graduate seminar on Advocacy and Empowerment for people with disabilities, and I am currently teaching this spring semester a seminar to help graduate students complete their proposal for their dissertation defense.
How do you balance teaching and research?
I love to teach. In my Advocacy and Empowerment seminar, typically 15 to 20 teachers from the greater Chicago area enroll in my class (thanks to my friends in the Department of Special Education). These teachers are pursing professional certificates in the College of Education. This is a great teaching experience for me because the teachers can actually go to their classrooms and schools and make changes to empower their students and/or parents and transform their students’ lives.
My research is applied and focused on people of color and/or marginalized populations with disabilities. I find myself committed to trying to figure out ways to improve their quality of life and opportunities that could help them meet their needs.
What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?
My advice to undergraduate students is to volunteer in research projects in areas of your interest and show your passion to learn and to give.