All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Susan Spezzini

Advisory Committee Members

Julia Austin

Stephanie Corcoran

Robin Ennis

Rebecca Oxford

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


As universities endeavor to increase international student enrollment, they are also legally mandated to support international students with disabilities (ISWDs). For ISWDS engaged in English language study, both the English Language Center (ELC) and the Disability Resource Office (DRO) are directly implicated in their educational success. However, the connection between these two units and their efforts to leverage institutional resources have received limited attention. Guided by the Inclusive Excellence model that centers diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of higher education and strongly emphasizes campus partnerships, this study explored the interrelationship between an ELC and a DRO in support of ISWDs at a public research university in the southern United States. Specifically, it sought to determine the challenges faced by administration, staff, and instructors, the role of collaboration between both units, and the proposals advocated to better meet the academic and nonacademic needs of ISWDs. This includes international students who remain undiagnosed and unregistered for a disability. A qualitative case study approach was adopted involving semistructured interviews with six DRO administrators/staff and seven ELC administrators/staff, as well a focus group interview with seven ELC instructors. An institutional document review supplemented the interviews, and a research journal helped detail the research process. iv Using thematic analysis of the data set, 12 prominent themes were identified under three main topic areas: (a) Challenges (culture and stigma, student self-advocacy, teaching and tutoring, testing and documentation); (b) Collaboration (campus and community partners, cross-unit communication and consultation, training and education, diversity and inclusion; and (c) Proposals (student outreach, testing and assessment options, disability liaison or specialist, further collaboration and training). Findings demonstrate the value of collaboration between the DRO and the ELC to support ISWDs and to create a more inclusive university environment. Implications for policy and practice are identified that relate to student outreach, testing and assessment, disability liaison or specialist, disability training, Universal Design for Learning and individualized support, student recruitment, peer support, and additional support services. Recommendations for future research are also provided.

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