Meet Our Team

Shea Tanis

Emily Shea Tanis

Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Associate Research Professor

Emily Shea Tanis, PhD, is currently an Associate Research Professor at the Kansas University Center in Developmental Disabilities, Life Span Institute, University of Kansas. She has published articles and investigated the definition of intellectual disability, the measurement of adaptive behavior and support need, the construct of self-determination, federally funded supports and services for people with IDD and their families, and self-directed employment strategies. She is nationally recognized for her expertise in applied technology solutions, Technology First Systems Change, cognitive accessibility, and advancing the rights of people with cognitive disabilities to technology and information access.

She also serves as PI for the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities Longitudinal Data Project of National Significance funded by the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For over 40 years, the project has investigated determinants of public spending for Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services and Supports in the United States. Dr. Tanis has been a co-author on The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Monograph since 2011. She is the sibling of a man with a traumatic brain injury and is past chair of the National Sibling Leadership Network and co-founder of the Colorado Sibling Leadership Network Chapter. She received her PhD from the University of Kansas, Department of Special Education and BA from Brown University in Psychology.

Joy Wu

Joy Wu

Ph.D., Research Analyst

Since 1985 Joy Wu has researched language and cognitive development among normal children vs. children with cognitive disabilities and cross disabilities in China and in the United States. Joy has also studied first language acquisition and second language learning in children and adults, especially bilingual persons’ second language loss. She has authored articles and textbook chapters in both English and Chinese.

Joy received her PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder Campus. Beginning in 1990 as a graduate research assistant, Joy worked with data entry, data analysis and data management using SPSS, SAS and Excel.  She worked as a Webmaster from 1996 to 2008.  Joy has worked for data entry and as data graphic designer for the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Project since 2006, and she has worked for data analysis and data management since 2018 in the University of Colorado. Joy also works as a bilingual volunteer for the National Language Service Corps.

Dasha Gerasimova

Dasha Gerasimova

Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor

Daria (Dasha) Gerasimova, PhD, is currently a Assistant Research Professor at the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD), Life Span Institute, University of Kansas. At KUCDD, she serves as a methodologist in the areas of quantitative methods and measurement. Her duties include consulting researchers on research design and methodology, cleaning and statistically analyzing data, writing Methods and Results sections in manuscripts, contributing to Methods sections of grant proposals, and providing other methodological services as needed to support research projects at the center. For the State of the States, she contributes to the ongoing methodological work on the project.

Her research interests are in applied methodology and educational psychology. In the area of applied methodology, she is interested in advancing methods for instrument development and validation, as well as in making methodological advances more accessible to and commonly used by researchers. In the area of educational psychology, she is interested in STEM teaching and learning. Her research is particularly focused on student engagement in a classroom setting. She received her PhD in Education from George Mason University in 2020.

Lucy Somers

Lucy Somers

Administrative Associate Sr.

Lucy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language-Hearing and a minor in Applied Behavioral Science. She joined the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD) as an Administrative Assistant in August 2022 and has recently been promoted to an Administrative Associate Senior in April 2024. She has greatly enjoyed growing her knowledge and experience in the ID/DD field since joining the KUCDD and State of the States team. Lucy helps support the State of the States team by scheduling team meetings, updating the website and social media accounts, communicating with external partners, and supporting project leader Shea Tanis with various tasks that she assigns.


As well as being involved with State of the States, Lucy is also part of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction-Reading (SDLMI-R) Project, is Co-Chair of the Community Connections Committee, and helps lead data entry and activity tracking in the National Information Reporting System (NIRS) for all of the projects taking place at the Center. She is proud to be supporting the great work being done at KUCDD and the State of the States and looks forward to continuing to grow her career here.

Austin Myers

Austin Myers

Communications Specialist

Austin graduated from Missouri Western State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Animation. He has also served as a freelance artist since 2014, specializing in animation, graphic design, and video editing. Austin started his KU career in 2021 as a Research Aide for the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities, before becoming their Communications Specialist in early 2022.

Baylee Kilburn

Baylee Kilburn

Research Project Specialist

Baylee graduated from the University of Kansas in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. Since 2020, she has been employed at the University of Kansas. Baylee started her career at KU in animal care and has been with the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities since 2021.

Baylee provides various types of support to the State of the States project including website support, scheduling meetings, checking PDFs for accessibility, and preparing annual worksheets for each state. Baylee has mainly focused on accessibility while working for the State of the States and has created an accessible color palette used for graphs and charts.

Dr. Johnny Hsiang-Yu Chien

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Johnny Hsiang-Yu Chien is a dedicated postdoctoral research fellow at the Kansas University Center in Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD), part of the Life Span Institute at the University of Kansas. His responsibilities encompass a wide range of tasks, including data cleaning and validation, statistical modeling, research design consultation, contributing to grant proposals, and authoring research papers. He plays a pivotal role in the State of the States project, where he contributes to ongoing methodological work.

Dr. Chien’s research interests lie in the fields of exploratory statistical methods and online learning. In terms of methodology, he is keen on advancing exploratory analysis techniques such as Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling (ESEM) and Machine Learning. In the realm of educational psychology, his focus is on online learning, with a particular emphasis on assessing online learners’ readiness and identifying at-risk factors in online learning environments.

Dr. Chien earned his PhD in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University in 2023.

Gloria Gantt

Gloria Gantt

Research Assistant

Gloria graduated from the University of Kansas in 2022 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish and Social Justice in the U.S. As part of the State of the States team, she has lent her knowledge and skills to the State of the States Core Project and other projects led by Dr. Shea Tanis. This work involves the effort to increase dissemination and accessibility by converting all visuals and documents into accessible pdfs. The biggest dissemination work being the State Profiles. In addition, she utilizes her fluency in Spanish to translate some products, such as in the websites’ Data Bites, allowing broader access to the information provided by the State of the States project.

Gloria’s main responsibilities reside within the Core Project and the newly launched Data Ambassador Program. Her contribution to the Core Project consists of correspondence with and training of state data contacts, Excel workbook design and preparation, and a variety of data management tasks ranging from data collection to table and graph creation from the collected data. For the Data Ambassador program, she serves as the Community of Practice Project Lead. Through this role, she created and manages the online Community of Practice, which houses all training sessions, discussion threads, and learning resources for the Ambassadors.

Drew Rosdahl

Drew Rosdahl

Accessibility Media Manager

Drew graduated from the University of Kansas in 2004 with a bachelor’s in History of Art. He has worked at KU Life Span Institute in a variety of roles from research assistant, to communications for 17 years. His current role is Associate Director for Communications and Media Services. He supports research across the Life Span Institute by creating digital and print media, social media, research website for communication and data collection, video and audio projects. Drew has a passion for problem solving communications challenges and learning new media. On the State of the States project, Drew is managing website transition efforts with accessibility first approach, and producing the Black Feathers Podcast.

Ski Adams

Assistant Researcher

Ski Adams has been a disability advocate for over twenty-four years. Some advocacy activities that he’s been involved in include passages on the Kansas Employment First Law and serving on a five-year core grant review team.

Kansas University on Center on Developmental Disability
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