School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Christian L Raby


empowerment, advocacy, intellectual disabilities, higher education


Educational Leadership | Higher Education


The purpose of this case study was to understand the impact that advocacy and empowerment practices have on the intellectual disabilities community in academic and social constructs for students within community colleges and disability programs on the West Coast of California. The theories that served as the foundation of this study are intergroup contact theory and empowerment theory. Intergroup contact theory assures that the acceptance of societal norms and expectations must be agreed upon and embraced by all within a subpopulation for cultures to adapt and advance. Empowerment theory states that a fundamental goal during moments of progress and struggle is to achieve self-actualization and fulfillment by gaining peer, professional, and personal efficacy by developing and sharing one’s voice and perspective. With 20 participants, nine partook in individual interviews, and two separate focus groups of five-to-seven per group were formed, with the remaining 11. This allowed participants to communicate their insights and perspectives on their relationships with higher education and their connections to empowerment and advocacy practices within their daily lives. 10 of the 20 participants submitted work samples demonstrating their connections to empowerment and advocacy skills. Based on the data collected, the participants found it more important for their skills to assist in improving the lives and realities of their peers and passionate causes before themselves. Experiences gained within the classroom environment, as well as overcoming social and medical adversity, provided participants the resources necessary to convey the importance and effectiveness of empowerment and advocacy practices for future students as well as their peers and have ultimately offered them opportunities to be more fully developed students, employees, and global citizens.