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KU Faculty Portrait — Michael Wehmeyer
Pamela Urlacher
What’s in Your Briefcase, Michael Wehmeyer?

“My world-class collection of books and documents representing people with disabilities throughout history,” said Michael Wehmeyer, Ph.D., KU Department of Special Education chair and Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor in Special Education. Dating back to 1802, the collection shows the changing views about disability. It’s impossible to keep up with all the current publications — Wehmeyer himself has authored or co-authored more than 460 peer-reviewed journals and edited or co-authored 45 books — but he finds space for significant ones.

These include Exceptional Lives: Practice, Progress and Dignity in Today’s Schools, a textbook he co-authored, and KU’s 2022-23 Common Book, Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong. “To have a Common Book feature disability is a sign we have made progress. When I began this work 30 years ago, this kind of representation for people with disabilities wasn’t available.”

Wehmeyer found his passion for special education while he was a public school teacher. He now researches interventions and instructional methods that teach students with disabilities to set learning goals, create action plans and attain their own goals. “The focus on this work has provided an opportunity to highlight the stories of people with disability who have been successful. They can not only function in society, they can be leaders.”

Photo by Ann Dean

With his leadership roles as chair and director of the Beach Center on Disability, Wehmeyer is supporting the next generation of scholars and researchers. “I think I’m most proud that the department has remained among the top public university graduate programs in special education and that the research conducted by our faculty continues to lead the field.”

Wehmeyer also wants to help others experience the opportunities he has had in his research journey. “I feel called to give back financially because I know the impact private funds have on the lives of students and faculty, in recognizing them and their research. KU Endowment funds really contribute to the work we do.”

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