Austin wearing a green, linen shirt smiling in front of trees. She has long, brown wavy hair

Nugent appointed to National Disability Rights Network Board of Directors

Austin Nugent has built bridges between many different parts of the disability community, and she’s about to put those connections to use. 

Nugent, who is a Disability Program Administrator at HDI, has been named an At-Large member for the National Disability Rights Network’s (NDRN) Board of Directors. That means that she’ll help provide oversight to an organization that protects and advocates for people with all sorts of disabilities nationwide, focusing on ensuring that people’s rights are protected.

“I will be not only helping to provide oversight to NDRN to make sure that their mission is in line with their services, but it’s also to make sure that the NDRN is aware of the issues happening in our communities,” she said.

And that is a position that Nugent is well-suited for. She has friends and family in multiple corners of the country and is connected to numerous diverse disability communities. Nugent brings a number of different skill sets to her role, including expertise in disability policy – a field in which she’s currently working on her master’s. She’s excited for the opportunity to be involved in helping build supports for her family, which is not based in Kentucky.

“My north stars are my brothers, and sometimes it feels like I’m so far removed from the systems that are supporting them,” she said. “The fact that I get to be involved with NDRN feels like I get to be a part in shaping the systems that are ultimately impacting their lives in Arizona.”

For now, she’s serving as an alternate, meaning that she votes on issues when other At-Large board members aren’t available. However, in October, the terms for the other At-Large board members end and she becomes a full board member.

“Like HDI, NDRN is a cross-disability organization focused on a variety of issues – education, healthcare, supported decision-making, etc. They support people with all types of disabilities, including Down syndrome, mental health disorders, and various health conditions, she said. “All things that are part of my life or the life of someone I know. So the fact that I get to bring together all my experiences, and wear all my different hats at a national level is so exciting!”

Current board member, and Executive Director of Kentucky Protection & Advocacy (P&A), Jeffrey Edwards, who nominated Nugent, said that he worked with her as part of the mental health advisory council for P&A. Frequently, Edwards looks at those boards for NDRN candidates.

“All of us can be self-advocates, but there are those of us who are born with it inside,” Edwards said. “It’s just that fire in your belly to make the world a better place, and I think that’s what Austin brings to it…That’s who she is.”

And for Edwards, those traits exemplify what Nugent is capable of – and the kind of attitude she’ll bring to the board.

“Those are people who bring something to the table,” he said. “They’re a known advocate, they’re passionate, they’re willing to go the extra mile, they share their experience and disclose the things that impact them. Austin does all those things in spades.”

Austin wearing a green, linen shirt smiling in front of trees. She has long, brown wavy hair

Austin Nugent named 2021 AUCD Emerging Leader

Austin Nugent, Disability & Health Program Coordinator for the UK Human Development Institute (HDI) has been selected as a 2021 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Network Emerging Leader. The individuals are selected based on their contributions to the network, how they have demonstrated leadership, and their values and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect for others.  

Austin holds her bachelor’s in sociology and disability studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration and a graduate certificate in developmental disabilities at the University of Kentucky. Over the last eleven years, she has held many roles in the community centered around supporting and advocating for the meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities. However, her favorite role is being the older sister to a biological brother with Down syndrome and two adopted brothers with various support needs resulting from adverse childhood experiences.  

Given my lived and family experience with disability, my professional and personal goals are identical. Knowing firsthand the value of information and opportunities, my mission is to support others to access resources and services that empower them to lead healthy, self-determined lives”. Following graduate school, Austin is considering pursuing a law degree to gather additional knowledge needed to advocate and protect the rights of people with disabilities.   

Morgan Turner wearing a UK blue t-shirt in a gym. He is smiling at the camera and has short, black hair.

Morgan Turner leads presentation at the Dignity of Work International Forum

HDI Program Education Assistant, Morgan Turner, recently presented at the Dignity of Work International Forum sponsored by the Institute on Community Integration. In his presentation, Morgan’s Musings: My Successful Journey to Inclusive Employment in Higher Education, Morgan shared his experience as a person with a disability in finding, maintaining, and thriving in employment. Morgan was joined by co-presenters and HDI colleagues, Johnny Collett and Austin Nugent for a panel discussion about advocacy and strategies to improve employment and awareness.

As an Employment First state, Kentucky is committed to supporting competitive integrated employment as the first and primary option for our citizens with disabilities, regardless of their level of disability. As the state’s University Center of Excellence on Disabilities, the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) has served as a major thought leader regarding the lived experiences of people with disabilities for over 50 years and is committed to improving the inclusion, independence, opportunity and contribution of people with disabilities and their families throughout the lifespan.

Johnny Collett, HDI Deputy Director, says “Morgan’s knowledge, skills, values, dispositions, and experiences demonstrate what it means to live out the mission of the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute. Additionally, his achievements and leadership in supporting other people with disabilities to be successful exemplify the promise of Kentucky’s Employment First policy and what we envision for all Kentucky citizens with disabilities”.

Learn more about Morgan’s Musings or contact