Master’s Portfolio in Disability Studies


Steve Hicks School of Social Work, Texas Center for Disability Studies, School of Nursing, College of Education, College of Fine Arts, and College of Liberal Arts

The Master’s level portfolio program in Disability Studies (DS) is designed to broaden a student’s conception of disability with a focus on the social context and cultural representations of disability. Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary approach that adds breadth to the traditional, primarily medical, view of disability. Disability Studies reframes the study of disability with a social/cultural/political paradigm, using a minority group model to critically examine existing beliefs, images, ideologies, policies, and stereotypes about disability.

Admission Requirements

Successful applicants to the DS Master’s Portfolio will have met the admission standards required by the Graduate School and by their primary Master’s degree program.  Students may enter the DS portfolio program at any point in their graduate work, but it is recommended that they do so as soon as they decide to pursue the portfolio.  The following information is requested in the application:

  1. A statement of purpose, including previous experience related to individuals with disabilities, relationship of DS to the student’s program of studies, and relationship of DS to future career goals.

  2. Proof of enrollment and good academic standing in an approved graduate degree program.

  3. Consent from the student’s Graduate Advisor or Dissertation Supervisor for participation in the DS portfolio area.

Course Requirements

Coursework for the DS Master’s Portfolio will consist of four (4) thematically-related courses, or twelve (12) semester hours. At least two courses will be from the DS core courses offered through the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, and at least two of the courses will be outside the student’s academic department.

Field-Based Experience Requirements

Philosophically, Disability Studies emphasizes the importance of learning about disability from individuals who have the lived experience of disability. To that end, in addition to the successful completion of the course sequence, DS Master’s Portfolio students will be required to document a minimum of 50 contact hours with individuals with disabilities throughout the student’s course of study. This contact may be concurrent with an existing internship or practicum requirement, but it should have the following elements:

  1. Involve direct contact with individuals with disabilities, either in a service capacity, or advocacy.
  2. Be documented in reports submitted to the steering committee representative, in a format consistent with the student’s program.
  3. Involve at least two face-to-face meetings with a steering committee representative about the meaning of the experience in relation to the coursework.
  4. Result in an oral presentation at a symposium arranged by the Texas Center for Disability Studies.

If the field-based experience cannot be completed as part of the student’s degree program, or if an internship or practicum experience is not a typical part of the degree program, the student may register for a one-credit course (195K) in SW or the student’s home department to complete this requirement.

DS Master’s Portfolio Plan

Once a student is accepted into the DS Master's Portfolio program, the student will meet with a designated faculty DS Steering Committee member to develop an individualized course plan. The DS Master’s Portfolio Program Plan includes course selections and research experience suggestions. The plan will be updated and maintained by the student with copies provided to their Graduate Advisor and a DS Steering Committee member.

Students must keep the steering committee representative updated each semester on their progress.  In addition, when nearing graduation, students must obtain approval from the DS Portfolio committee for their completed portfolio.

Upon Completion

Students satisfactorily completing the requirements of the DS Master’s Portfolio and their primary Master’s degree program will be awarded a Portfolio Certificate and notation on their official university transcript.

Getting Started

To begin your application, e-mail us with your interests and intentions. Upon approval submit a brief letter of intent and purpose, proof of active full time enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin, and approval from your academic advisor.  Additionally, complete as much as you can of the Disability Studies Master’s Portfolio Program Plan (download the document from "additional resources" section on this webpage) and submit all materials either in person (by appointment) or U.S. Mail; because the application includes confidential student information, it is preferred that you not e-mail your application.  After your application is reviewed, you will be contacted for any further information and discussions and, if accepted, you will be welcomed into the program and assigned to an advisor.