Disability, Race and Education
Susan Pliner Ed.D has devoted her life to the understanding of social oppression, especially around isses of disability, race, sexuality, gender, and class and their subsequent impact on education. As a case manager of students with disabilities, Pliner realized that many students were being ill-served by conventional forms of special education, which lacked a critical analysis of systems and institutions. Instead, she worked to create new forms of identity construction for her students, enabling them to examine social prejudice through positive and constructive action.
"One of my favorite exercises," said Pliner, "is to ask students, as a group, to write a definition of 'normal." The participants quickly find that no definition is so broad that it does not to exclude some of them, a powerful recognition that proves "how complex an issue normalcy is."
While the issue of race remains a controversial topic, Pliner attempts to confront students with the reality of racism and equip them with the means to deconstruct it by connecting it with their own lived experience. History plays a key component in these initiatives, as Pliner hopes to educate students about both America's checkered, often racially charged past and their own racial and cultural identities.
For Pliner, these issues are all intimately connected. Human development, social justice and special education are all facets of a larger understanding, a "societal model" of education that holistically integrates the totality of a student's experience.
As the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Pliner applies this approach to the greater institution. "I believe teaching and learning are happening everywhere on campus. Thus the CTL should provide multiple opportunities to engage the HWS community in reflecting on teaching and learning, as well as enhancing our practice."
Interview opportunities and additional background information may be requested through the Office of Communications, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York. Phone: (315) 781-3540. After business hours, Communications staff members are accessible through contact information on their answering machine at that number.
Susan Pliner Ed.D. is the Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and the Director of the Centennial Center for Leadership at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She draws upon a vast experience as an educator and higher education administrator, having served as the Associate Director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Director of the Speaking, Arguing and Writing Program at Mount Holyoke College; Assistant Dean and Coordinator of Disability Support Services at Brown University and Project Coordinator for Disability Services at Columbia University.
She is the author or editor of a number of publications, including "Universal Instructional Design and Higher Education" and "Historical, Theoretical, and Foundational Principles of Universal Instructional Design in Higher Education," both published in "Equity & Excellence in Higher Education." She is the co-author of a number of other articles on educational theory and practice, such as "Women with Disabilities," published in "Women in higher education: An encyclopedia," and "Disability Access," in "Higher education in the United States: An encyclopedia."
Pliner was awarded the degree of Doctor of Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she specialized in human development. She also holds a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Social Justice Education, a Master of Education and a bachelor's degree from the same institution.