Friday, March 5, 2021

By: Claire Quigle

University of Iowa College of Education doctoral student Carly D. Armour received the National Disability Leadership Award for her dedication to advocating for individuals with disabilities in higher education.

“Receiving this award definitely kindles the spark and light in me to continue to do everything I can to remove barriers and improve higher education experiences for college students who are marginalized and oppressed - especially for students with disabilities and students who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing,” Armour says.

Armour, who is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program, formally received the recognition from the American College Personnel Association Council’s  Coalition for (Dis)Ability at its annual virtual convention this March. She is also a graduate student researcher affiliated with the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE) in the College of Education.

Armour’s dedication to serving students with disabilities does not go unnoticed by her peers.

One nominator writes, “She represents everything this award is about through her past professional work, research projects, and advocacy. She is a leader and champion of disability communities that deserves this year’s award…” Armour is noted for contributing to disability activism, advocacy, awareness, and de-stigmatization at both the University of Iowa and more broadly in the field of higher education.

Armour gets involved in organizations advocating for those with disabilities wherever she goes.

Previously, Armour worked for UI’s Student Disability Services as an accommodations coordinator for 11 years before enrolling full-time in the HESA doctoral program. During these years, Armour held leadership positions on UI’s Council on Disability Awareness, UI’s Women’s Resource & Action Center’s Advisory Board, and Illinois/Iowa (ILLOWA) Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD)’s Executive Board as a member at large, president-elect, president, and then past president. She co-founded the UI’s Student Disability Organization (now known as “UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness) and the Hawkeye Accessibility Ambassadors leadership program.

One peer writes that Carly provided leadership, vision, and hard work to create groups that would help students feel included at the university.  Another shared that when Carly made her transition to full-time Ph.D. work, her care of and for disability communities at Iowa did not stop.

She currently serves on the UI Graduate College Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board as well as the Dean of Students Advisory Board. Carly conducted a comparative study with UI and University of Oslo peers to investigate policies, procedures, and national laws for students with disabilities in the U.S. and Norway.

“From day one in the Ph.D. program, Carly continues to ask rigorous, thoughtful questions about how disability communities are (not) addressed in the canon of higher education scholarship, both in classroom discussions and her preliminary research,”  wrote another nominator.

This month, Armour distributed a national survey to gauge the COVID-19 pandemic adjustment that undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities or students who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing experienced last year.

One of her peers remarks, “Carly represents everything this award is about through her past professional work, research projects, and advocacy. She is a leader and champion of disability communities that deserves this year’s award.” It’s no surprise that last year, Carly was sworn in by the governor to serve on the Deaf Services Commission of Iowa where her peers elected her to serve as chair elect.

Before coming to Iowa, Armour received a Bachelor of Art’s in Social Work from the University of Georgia in 2001, and a Master of Arts’s in Social Work from the University of Georgia in 2007. During her undergraduate years, she served as a president for a deaf/Deaf and hard of hearing student group and co-founded a student disability organization on campus. In between her two UGA degrees, Armour worked for a non-profit that served survivors of domestic violence for four years.

After receiving her doctorate, Armour hopes to better serve minoritized students, faculty, and staff in higher education by making efforts to deconstruct/dismantle racism and ableism and remove barriers on their path to success. She says she will best be able to do this through research and having a role in upper administration or faculty.

Another one of Armour’s peers says, “As a graduate student, I was struck by her genuine care and concern for students, and her passion for cultivating a community for disabled students and staff alike.”

Armour made a difference in the lives of many students and colleagues and will continue to advocate for marginalized groups far into her future.

“I am still reeling in the surprise and excitement,” Armour says. “I’m so grateful to my nominators for believing in me.”