Danielle Lucchese

MA in Disability Studies

Class of 2016

"My experience as a disability studies student greatly influenced my role as an adjunct faculty member in the field, because I am able to take the knowledge I gained from the disability studies program and pass it forward."



Why did you choose CUNY SPS?

Actually, CUNY SPS chose me. As a senior in college, I did not have the slightest idea as to what my post-graduation plans were. I was trying to decide if graduate school was something I wanted to pursue. One of my professors suggested I conduct a Google search of graduate programs in disability studies. I remember looking at him like he was from another planet. I had no idea that disability studies was something could get a degree in. Sure enough, when I googled disability studies, CUNY SPS’s MA in Disability Studies was the first search result. It sounded really interesting, so I emailed Dr. Mariette Bates for more information and decided to apply. I still cannot thank her enough for choosing me to be part of our disability studies family and the CUNY SPS community as a whole.

What most appealed to you about your CUNY SPS degree program?

I loved that the MA in Disability Studies allowed me to explore disability from multiple perspectives. It was a nice balance of theoretical and practical work. As a disabled person, my program granted me the opportunity to see disability experiences outside of my own.

How did you find your online/classroom interaction with other students?  With faculty?

For the most part, my interaction with my fellow students was wonderful. They challenged me to question my viewpoints and expand my perspectives. I made a great group of friends in my program and we’re still in contact today.

As for the faculty, my experiences were mostly positive. Of course, there are going to be professors that you connect with better and classes you enjoy more than others. I took mostly in-person courses since I live in New York, but the two online courses I took were equally as thought-provoking. I’m still in touch with a few of my professors. My favorite professors were Dr. Devva Kasnitz, Dr. Justine Pawlukewicz, and Prof. Julie Maybee. They really helped shape my career goals to make me the person I am today.

What were some of the most defining aspects of your time at CUNY SPS?

While I truly enjoyed all of my time at CUNY SPS, there were a few highlights. Some of my most memorable moments include presenting at two conferences, conducting my own independent study project under the guidance of Dr. Devva Kasnitz and advocating for various CUNY and disability-related causes and changes.

What is the most important thing you learned at CUNY SPS?

I am only allowed to choose one thing? I would have to say that the most important thing I learned while at CUNY SPS was to never stop fighting for what I believe in. While pursuing my MA, I really discovered causes and areas of disability studies that I was passionate about, and CUNY SPS really helped me find my voice and reminded me to always keep questioning things I thought needed to change and speak up.

How has your CUNY SPS degree influenced your career?

Well, my degree is in disability studies and I am currently working in a not for profit that helps adults who are intellectually disabled. I teach in the social skills, mentors in training (MIT) and college partnership programs at William Patterson University. I find myself drawing a lot from my studies, particularly when I am trying to teach the individuals I work with about complex topics such as honesty, making choices and trust. Disability is a complicated topic as are so many I teach about. So I reflect a lot on my studies in order to figure out different ways to teach and explore certain topics.

My experience as a disability studies student has greatly influenced my role as an adjunct faculty member in the field because I am able to take the knowledge I gained from the disability studies program and pass it forward. Although I’m only able to give my students a taste of disability studies, I hope that I could share enough with my students that they will see that disability studies is an important discipline worth studying. My former professors and classmates even inspired my syllabus structure and design.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

So much of my job is rewarding. The one aspect of my job that makes me realize I am in the right field of work is when I watch the individuals I work with really begin to connect to the topic I’m teaching and contribute to the discussion. Watching them reminds me of being a student at CUNY SPS. I remember moments when topics began to make sense to me and feeling like a spark was ignited inside me. It is a beautiful feeling and an amazing reminder that no one should ever stop learning.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully heading towards, or finishing, my PhD, happy and enjoying life.

Outside The Classroom

  • Favorite sports? Favorite team? Well, I was born into a family of Jets and Yankee fans, so those are my teams by default.
  • Favorite movie or TV show of all time? I am more of a Hollywood Medium kind-of-person. Tyler Henry is my celebrity crush.
  • Favorite NYC attraction or cultural institution? I have a few favorite attractions: Namaste Bookshop, Strand Bookstore, and as cliché as it sounds, the Empire State Building. Favorite cultural institution is either theMET or MoMa.
  • Favorite music artist/band? I am more of an alternative rock person, Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco are my favorites. I’ll listen to many other genres though, Broadway show tunes and 90’s pop among others.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, none, all? Either Facebook or Instagram. Facebook allows me to have one place to keep in touch with many people from various aspects of my life, family, friends, former professors and teachers, as well as co-workers. Instagram allows me to both post and see a glimpse into a day. Some photos are “typical everyday” images of sunsets and food while other pictures show rare moments: the birth of a child, holidays, etc. Both sites allow me to connect to people in ways I might not be able to in person.
  • Book or e-reader?  Favorite or most recent book you read?  Being visually impaired, I love using either my Nook or IPad to read because I strain my eyes less. That being said, to me, nothing is more relaxing when flipping through the pages and smelling the ink of a new book. My favorite Book is Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom, because it shows how powerful, raw and unique our bonds with other people are. 

Read more about Master of Arts in Disability Studies