Each year, faculty in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) come together to select an outstanding student in their program to receive the honor of being named as their program award winner. Students selected for this award embody the very best of their program: they excel in their studies; they demonstrate leadership in classes and internships; and they have a genuine and tenacious passion for their discipline.
The College of Education and Human Development faculty in Special Education have chosen
2021 Outstanding Student in Special Education – Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate
Q & A with Outstanding Student in Special Education – Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate, Cara-Lee Alford:
What part of your Mason experience are you most proud of?
What I am most proud of is just being able to complete this program while moving across the country with three small children. I loved the courses, and even though there was so much to do with my family, I looked forward to class and often stayed up too late because I wanted to see what the next lesson was, and instead of stopping after a preview, I would do it too.
What are your future plans, goals, and dreams?
I want to use what I learned to advocate for my children and others with special needs. To create resources and tools to help autistic individuals in the community and help them find meaningful work they enjoy as adults. I also want to use what I have learned to advocate for military families with autistic children to ensure they have as much support as possible through frequent moves and family disruptions.
What is your favorite memory from your time in the College of Education and Human Development?
I don’t have one specific favorite memory from the program, it is really a complication of all the interactions I had with my instructors. They were so knowledgable, and supportive and added so much to my overall experience. I they are what I think of first and most fondly when I remember my time at GMU.
What advice do you have for fellow CEHD students?
You get out what you put in. If you take the time to go the extra mile you learn so much more. Online classes make it easy to just do your own thing and get by, but if you take the time to engage your peers and instructors in the discussions you can come out with so much valuable knowledge from people’s real life experiences. I think I learned almost as much from these discussions as I did from class, and that was a lot.
Would you like to give any shout-outs to those who supported you along the way?
I want to thank all three of my instructors for their incredible support: Drs. Linn Jorgenson, Jodi Duke, and Grace Francis. They made the courses so rewarding and did an amazing job making things work when the pandemic kicked off.
I would also like to thank my family for their patience and support while I figured out how to juggle everything, run on less sleep, and for listening to me talk about all the latest things I just learned in detail!