IDPP Student Spotlight: Emilie Turner


Emilie Turner is a Research Associate at the AU Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP).

She is a first year graduate student in the School of International Service at American University, studying Global Governance, Politics, and Security. Her interests and educational experiences are primarily focused on human security and freedoms. 

Prior to joining IDPP, Emilie worked for Indiana’s Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Services where she helped empower and guide individuals and their families in their resettlement and integration process.

How would you summarize the focus of your work/research at IDPP?

My work at the IDPP has largely been focused on working with the Special Olympics Chapter of D.C. and subsequently working to start a Special Olympics Chapter at American University. I have also been given the opportunity to conduct research on transnational advocacy networks (TANS) and the Global Disability Network. I am currently researching the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), major groups, other stakeholders coordination mechanisms.

With that, I am looking to see how the other stakeholder, persons with disabilities, is using their coordination mechanism in the HLPF. As well as how they are collaborating to ensure that persons with disabilities voice is heard especially when countries are implementing the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

What inspired you to pursue work with IDPP?

I have been inspired by persons with disabilities my whole life. When I was 12, I started a cheerleading squad for persons with disabilities in Indiana in honor of my Aunt Judy, who had Down syndrome. My grandma and my mom, the two most inspirational women in my life, have always worked with persons with disabilities, whether that be my grandma working for the Indiana Special Olympics or my mom being a special education teacher.

I have always been inspired by them to further make sure that persons with disabilities are heard and fairly represented in our communities. IDPP has allowed me to continue to do so more so in an education basis.

What do you find most rewarding about your work for IDPP?

What I find most rewarding is seeing how our background and behind-the-scenes work is enhancing the lives of persons with disabilities. I have loved every minute of advocating for persons with disabilities and seeing how the work the IDPP has done in the past is now ensuring that persons with disabilities are being granted all their rights by international governments.

To read reports on how countries are making their region more accessible for persons with disabilities is truly inspiring.

What do you hope to pursue after your time at American University and IDPP?

I am so inspired by how much countries are beginning to do to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities. However, there is much work to be done and that is where we all come in. I would love to continue to be a part of the international disability advocacy and public policy community.

Whether that be doing research or working hands on for an organization like the Special Olympics, I want to continue to make sure that every voice is heard, and all persons are granted their rights and freedoms.