Dian Mawene, Special Education

On Dec. 19, UW–Madison will celebrate its Winter 2021 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Dian Mawene, who is graduating with a PhD in special education. 

Photo of Dian MaweneWhat brought you to UW–Madison? 

I was born and grew up in Indonesia. In 2011, I received a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) fellowship at UW–Madison, wherein I was assigned to teach the Indonesian language in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia. The program was a perfect stepping stone because it gave me the privilege to sit in on some courses before enrolling in graduate school. I got a taste of what graduate school looked like before formally applying for the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. The Fulbright program also gave me ample room to build my network. I was lucky to get to know my mentors who helped open up doors to graduate school and funding for me.

Why did you decide to pursue graduate study?

Education has always been important for my family. It was unimaginable for me as a little kid that I would pursue higher education — but my parents, my uncle, and my grandpa continuously instilled its importance. I knew that one day, somehow, some way, I had to pursue graduate study. As the oldest daughter in the family, I need to set the right example for the rest of my siblings and cousins.

What are your research interests?

I am interested in studying inequities in education, particularly the issues of racial disproportionality in special education and in school discipline impacting historically minoritized students and families. I study structural factors contributing to how differences are perceived and materialized through policies and practices at the community, school district, and within school levels. 

What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison? 

Being able to join the Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS) research group has been a huge plus point in my graduate program journey. I was able to get first-hand exposure on how to conduct research, analyze data, and publish. It has also helped me learn how to approach research sites and collaborate with community members and students.

"I am interested in studying inequities in education, particularly the issues of racial disproportionality in special education and in school discipline impacting historically minoritized students and families."

Any advice for incoming students? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started at UW? 

I’ll share two pieces of advice. First, involve yourself in research projects and start early. If you want to stay in academia after your PhD, reach out to your adviser, ask for a research opportunity, and publish early. It takes time to get your works published. You don’t want to be in the academic job market without publications.

Second, being in graduate school in a top-tier university can be challenging. Being an international student is an additional challenge, and adjusting to a foreign school’s culture is no joke. There were many times I questioned my decision to go to graduate school — but I am not a quitter, so I kept moving on. In the beginning, things might be unclear but as you continue learning, you will know what you are doing.

What are your plans for the future? 

I will be joining the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire as an assistant professor. 

What is a “hidden gem” on campus, or in Madison? 

The Terrace is a must but if you are looking for a quieter place for sunsets, I recommend the lakeshore at Eagle Heights. It is also one of the best places in Madison for fall foliage.

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