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Driving Change for Children with Disabilities
I came to Peabody with a goal in mind, and in the pursuit of that goal, I got much more.
Jeff Strand
Community Development and Action
M.Ed. '20
Coordinator of Government and External Affairs
Tennessee Disability Coalition

I came to Vanderbilt as a disaffected former special education teacher who felt that the systemic failings of public education allowed already vulnerable kids to be left further and further behind the more they interacted with the very system that was supposed to help them. I wanted Peabody to help me find a way to make systemic change in education and for kids with disabilities. I also wanted to change the public narrative around what education could mean for marginalized people and communities. Peabody exposed me not just to the ontological pedagogy that underpins the nature of just systemic change but to opportunities to try it out in real time. Likewise, the opportunity to take classes related to my interests but outside the program helped me to hone and refine what I thought could be solutions to the systemic problems I wanted to address. My role as the Coordinator of Government Affairs puts me in the crucial nexus of public policy and public engagement. I have the opportunity to work with policymakers at the state level to create and support legislation that benefits people with disabilities. And to educate and engage people in the disability community and their families around these policies. Together, these two roles allow me to build grassroots campaigns that educate and empower Tennesseans to engage their policymakers and make systemic change--and support them in doing so.

Peabody will always be special to me because it changed the way I see the world. Peabody guided me through choosing courses at Vanderbilt, making broad and varied connections in Nashville, and providing opportunities to enact my education in the real world. When I went out into the community as a representative of Peabody and Vanderbilt, people responded to emails, doors opened to opportunity, and I was taken seriously as a scholar who could support a variety of efforts. I came to Peabody with a goal in mind, and in the pursuit of that goal, I got much more. I’d love to pay forward all of the opportunities I got in the community by opening TDC to Peabody students and helping others make connections, as Peabody did for me.