Susan Palmer named recipient of Warren Research Achievement Award

Christine Fosher

A leading scholar on the promotion of self-determination of youth and young adults with disabilities is the recipient of the Steven F. Warren Research Achievement Award at the University of Kansas. The award is the highest honor given annually to a full-time academic staff researcher working in a department or research center on the Lawrence campus. The recognition includes $10,000 in research funds.

Susan Palmer is a research professor at the Beach Center on Disability in the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies and a courtesy professor in the Department of Special Education. She will be recognized in a ceremony at 4 p.m. June 24 in the Kansas Union. Friends and colleagues are invited to attend, and a reception will follow.

“Susan is a national leader in her field,” said James Tracy, vice chancellor for research. “Her innovative research on self-determination and the development of the Early Childhood Foundations Model for Self-Determination have made extraordinary contributions to her profession.”

The award was established in 2006 and is administered by the Office of Research. It was renamed in 2014 in honor of Warren, who led KU’s research office from 2007 to 2014.

Palmer came to KU in 1999 as a research assistant professor at LSI. She has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences and has held national leadership positions with the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), the nation’s most prominent association on intellectual and developmental disabilities, recently serving a term as president. She received the AAIDD Region V Research Award in 2003 and the CEC Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities’ Research Award in 2006. Palmer became a research associate professor in 2005 and a research professor in 2011. 

Palmer’s academic background includes a bachelor's degree from the Pennsylvania State University and master's degrees in special education from the College of New Rochelle and the University of Texas at Dallas. She received a doctorate in human development and communication sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1989.

Palmer was nominated for the award by Michael Wehmeyer, Ross and Marianna Beach Professor of Special Education and director and senior scientist, Beach Center on Disability. “Dr. Palmer has engaged in pioneering research examining developmental milestones for young children with disabilities pertaining to foundational skills for later self-determination, including the development of self-regulation, choice-making, problem-solving and engagement.” Further, “She is, clearly, the leading scholar in early self-determination, nationally and internationally."

Also supporting the nomination was Karrie Shogren, associate professor of special education and associate director and senior scientist, Beach Center on Disability. “She has conducted groundbreaking work on the development of self-determination and access to the general education curriculum for young children with disabilities, as well as highly visible work on self-determination and access to the general education curriculum across the lifespan,” Shogren said. “Despite much of the emphasis of work in the area of self-determination being on older students, particularly students transitioning from school to adult life, Dr. Palmer has pushed the field to recognize the importance of foundational skills that develop in early childhood and set the stage for later self-determination and post school outcomes.”

Past recipients of the award are Jean Hall, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies; David Vander Velde, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory; Rick Miller, Kansas Geological Survey; Debra Kamps, Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training; Donald Huggins, Kansas Biological Survey; Daryl Mellard, Center for Research on Learning; Frank Schoenen, Specialized Chemistry Center; Craig Freeman, Biodiversity Institute and Kansas Biological Survey; and Todd Williams, Mass Spectrometry and Analytical Proteomics Laboratory.