When the fall term began at UCLA, there was a new major on campus: Disability Studies. It was the first time a California college made it a full-fledged major. Victoria Marks, a professor of choreography at the school, is the head of the multidisciplinary program.
“We have faculty from all across the campus contributing research and teaching to the major,” explains Marks. “So we’re looking at history, law, rights and representation, access, identity, culture, and politics. We have faculty members from the humanities, the social sciences, health care, public policy, the arts, which is where I’m from, technology and education.”
Marks says the major has drawn students from many disciplines.
“The students who come may be going into medical fields or science fields, technology, engineering, where they need to start thinking about challenging the ideas of ‘normal’ and also appreciating that bodies are not there for repair alone. … We also have students who come from the humanities and the arts. Some students perhaps come because they identify as having a disability, or they’re moved to because members of their family have disabilities, or they hope that their work will allow them to create a more accessible world in whatever it is that they’re going to do.”
Mark considers the program as an important part of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), and it’s a way to decrease stigma that can come with disability.
She is excited to see the effects of the major in the school’s community and beyond.
“The hope here is that what we’re doing at UCLA will encourage more institutions and more places in academia to address this important new discipline of study.”
Victoria Marks – Professor of choreography; chair of disability studies major, UCLA