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Zoe Troxell Whitman ’16


Hometown: Arcata, California

Who I was when I got to Reed: I have severe developmental dyslexia; I can’t read. It’s a genetic thing, and not something I’m going to overcome. In high school I was not seen as the person who is going to be super successful because everyone saw the disability first, and “I’m smart and interested in school” second.

Favorite class: Psych 323, Motivation in Education, with Prof. Jennifer Corpus.

Influential book: Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act: Inclusive Policy and Practice for Higher Education and The Odyssey.

Outside the classroom: I connected with Portland’s Argentine tango community. Founded the Learning Disability Student Organization and Reed's Argentine Tango Club. Spoke at the Creating Connections Consortium. Interned for the Multicultural Resource Center.

Triumphing with a disability: It is no super-power, but I often have to work harder than others because the education system is not particularly conducive to those with disabilities. Thus, between defending my place, gaining accommodations, explaining my disability to professors, and navigating my disability itself, I work extraordinarily hard to receive the same grade and respect in the academic community as my non-disabled peers.

Financial aid: I wrote thank you notes to Alberto Gatenio ’84 for one of my scholarships. Reed has treated me really well. I got what I came here for, and more.

Word to prospies: I had a 100% visceral reaction to Reed. It’s like you meet someone for the first time and have a crush on them. That’s how I felt when I read about Reed and then visited it and saw the thesis tower. It felt kindred, and I knew I was supposed to be here. I was really excited, and it hasn’t let me down. My intellectual endeavors were collaborative with the faculty. That’s what conference was about. The professors push, I get to push back a bit, and then they push me even further.

Thesis: Motivated Disclosure Patterns: Disability Identity Management in the Higher Education Environment

What it’s about: I looked at a national sample of college students with disabilities to examine the amount of—and motives for—disclosure of a disability status and the relationship to academic outcomes. The way people talk about their disability frames the way they think about themselves and their engagement with the rest of the community. You might disclose a disability to your professor, for instance, to insure you receive academic accommodations. But it appears that disclosing one’s disability in a social way—wanting people to know who you are, where you come from, and why you might be doing something—is important to having greater overall happiness and academic success.

What it’s really about: The way people choose to disclose their disability status and how that affects them.

What’s next: I’m looking at master’s programs that range from the sociology of education to more policy-based programs. My end goal will probably be to get a law degree, and until then I hope to work for nonprofits doing research on implemented disability policy programs.

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