A Pivotal Moment Realized: Dr. Tina Pisch’s Dissertation Research Uses Creative Approach to Address Real-World Issues of Inclusion

By Sue Gettlin | February 15, 2012

Tina Pisch, ‘11 Ed.D., Special Education, presented the results of her dissertation research at the Castle in November 2011. Tina’s dissertation research evolved into an inclusive theater project that grew out of her interest in supporting the theatrical talents of six students in her inclusive classroom at Churchville Elementary School. As they graduated from elementary to middle school, these students (who had played roles in The Wizard of Oz, a production directed by Tina), and their parents, were faced with a dilemma: Although the students had great gifts in acting, singing and dancing, they were unlikely to be awarded roles in plays and musicals in the upper grades due to the competitive nature of theater.

Tina decided to do something about this problem. In 2004, she and her mother, Sharon Gagliana, founded the Hopes and Dreams Foundation, a non-profit that provides art-based programs free of charge for approximately 20 children with various intellectual disabilities. Hopes and Dreams achieves this goal thanks to its annual fundraiser, a community Buddy Walk affiliated with the National Down Syndrome Society. Over the years, Tina and her mother have staged three performance with this group of actors, including a performance of The Wizard of Oz that was filmed as part of Tina’s dissertation.

Tina credits Arcadia University’s Education Department, the Special Education doctoral program, and Dr. Kim Dean, her dissertation advisor, for enabling her to follow her passion. As a result, Tina developed a dissertation notable for its creativity and the important social justice message it conveys.

To hear Tina’s description of the “pivotal moment” that led her to create the Hopes and Dreams Foundation, and to view a slide show of Tina’s students, click here.