Originally, I set out to be a high school social studies teacher. I liked history. So it seemed like a good fit for me. However, despite what my university advisors always claimed, there simply weren’t any job teaching history at the secondary level. Jobless and living in my father’s basement after graduating from Purdue University, I needed to start earning a living. As luck would have it, I came across an ad in the local newspaper with the heading, “People with Education Degrees Wanted.” I had an education degree, so I applied. It turned out that the position was at an alternative high school where students with severe disabilities prepared for their adult lives. I got the job and started working with an incredible mix of people—everything from non-verbal students with autism to brilliant kids who had behavior disorders and an unfortunate habit of killing people. Every day was different and unpredictable. I saw some of my students succeed in the community. And I saw some of them fail. The successes lit up my heart, but I am still haunted by my failures. Trying to become a better transition specialist, I went back to Purdue to get my Masters in Vocational Technical Special Needs Education. I also became a coordinator of a transition program. Being in administration exposed me to various state and federal policies governing the transition field. In many cases, I saw how these policies inhibited our ability to work effectively with our students. Wanting to learn more about such policies, and how to change them, I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I studied at the Transition Research Institute and eventually earned my Ph.D. Since then, my areas of emphasis and research tend to involve public policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities. I often study the monetary aspects of employment programs. For example, I try to determine how policymakers should spend the taxpayers’ money. I also attempt to find strategies that make transition programs more effective and efficient.
To date, I have a little more than 60 publications, including 7 books—one of which apparently was a best seller in South Korea--and three novels (published under the name Robert Evert). I have presented throughout the world, including to Congressional subcommittees. However, I receive the greatest joy from being with my wonderful wife and two incredible sons. My favorite animal is a palomino, because any palomino is a pal-of-mine-o.
Public policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities, The monetary aspects of employment programs, Strategies that make transition programs more effective and efficient