Joan Kester

Joan Kester
Assistant Professor, Special Education & Disability Studies
(202) 994-1534

Dr. Joan Kester oversees the online transition Master's program, the online transition certificate programs, and the collaborative vocational evaluation training program.

Previously, Dr. Kester was a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Rehabilitation Counseling Research and Education, Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Center, providing technical assistance and continuing education to vocational rehabilitation professionals and their partners across a six-state region.

Throughout her career in the field of vocational rehabilitation, Joan has advanced the civil rights of people with disabilities. Dr. Kester received national recognition for her work in the successful transition of youth with disabilities. She enhanced the accessibility of one-stop services to customers with disabilities through the development of extensive staff development strategies. In her prior work experience, her job development program received national awards.

Dr. Kester has her doctoral degree in human and organizational learning through the Executive Leadership Program at the George Washington University, with a research area of knowledge management, social theory of learning, communities of practice, secondary transition, and interagency collaboration.

Dr. Kester graduated summa cum laude from the George Washington University, receiving her Master's of Art degree in rehabilitation counseling. She is a certified rehabilitation counselor. She is the Past President of the PA Rehabilitation Association and as volunteer adult ally with the PA Youth Leadership Network to advance youth leadership and youth development efforts at the state and national levels.

Her specialties include: communities of practice, learning communities, collaboration and teambuilding, youth development and youth leadership, disability rights, advancing employment of individuals with disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, interagency collaboration, systems change in government programs, job placement/supported employment, evidence based supported employment practices, social networking, leadership, assistive technology, business partnerships, and Workforce Investment Act System.

In the News

Dr. Joan Kester was quoted in GW Today's article "Transitioning to Adulthood with Autism Spectrum Disorder." Dr. Kester has been collaborating with Dr. Sean Cleary from GW's Milken Institute School of Public Health for the past year.

Dr. Joan Kester co-authored an article with Dr. Scott Beveridge and doctoral students Matthew Flanagan and Julie Stella. The article is entitled, "Interdisciplinary Professional Development Needs of Transition Professional Serving Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders" in the Journal of Rehabilitation (Vol. 85, No. 1).

Special Education and Disability Studies faculty, staff, students and alumni presented at the recent Council for Exceptional Children conference. Dr. Joan Kester, with doctoral students Matthew Flanagan and Julie Stella, presented the session "Transition Discoveries: Data-Driven Planning and Pathways to Success," where participants learned about the Transition Discoveries Quality Indicator research project, a multi-year participatory action study. Dr. Elisabeth Rice, Dr. Karen Ihrig, and GSEHD alumna Dr. Amy Srsic (with the University of Pittsburgh), presented a poster session entitled, "Raising Girls with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Perceptions of 16 Caregivers."

A group from the Special Education & Disability Studies' Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services program presented at the annual Division on Career Development & Transition conference, "River of Dreams" in Cedar Rapids, IA. Dr. Joan Kester and doctoral student Matthew Flanagan presented a session called "Transition Discoveries: Authentic Data-Driven Action Planning to Improve Transition Practices." In addition, Mr. Flanagan and Dr. Kester presented the poster, "Interdisciplinary Professional Development Needs of Transition Professionals Serving Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders." Doctoral student Julie Stella and Dr. Kester presented the poster, "Digital Inclusion for Students of Transition Age."

Dr. Joan Kester presented at the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition 2018 Capacity Building Institute, along with GSEHD doctoral student Matthew Flanagan (Special Education and Disability Studies). They presented her research and intervention school improvement model in a session entitled "Using Youth and Family Research Data to Improve Secondary Transition Practices in Pennsylvania."