Disability Scholar Joins Pepperdine’s English, Social Action and Justice Programs


Former student Chad Duffy smiles outside the Applebee Center. Duffy is teaching SAAJ and rhetoric this semester for the Division of Humanities and Teacher Education. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine

Alumnus Chad Iwertz-Duffy (’08) said he will join the Division of Humanities and Teacher Education as a teacher for the 2022-23 school year. Duffy studied writing and rhetoric and religion at Seaver.

Duffy said her research sits at the intersection of disability studies and emerging digital technologies. This search led him to Pepperdine, where he now teaches portions of the Colloquium on Social Action and Justice.

“As a teacher, I want to have a real connection with my student that doesn’t go through someone or something else just because that student is deaf,” Duffy said. “We can find a way to keep communicating, and we have. It’s there that [my interest] started.”

The field of disability studies emerged in the 20th century as part of the civil rights movement, but reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, according to JSTOR Daily. He is primarily interested in examining the physical and abstract barriers that people with disabilities face.

“We have banners that say, ‘You belong here’ and ‘You are welcome here,’ but what does the real space communicate?” said Duffy. “What is the University communicating and how are students, the community and I changing that to focus on relationship building and accessibility?”

While teaching a college writing course at Oregon State University, Duffy said he met a deaf student who was using the TypeWell accessibility program. TypeWell is a service that transcribes conversations in real time while allowing the user to edit any potential typos or add additional notes.

Duffy said it made him curious about other programs students with disabilities use.

After earning his master’s degree, Duffy said he took the Ohio State University’s English doctoral program to study with disability studies scholar Margaret Price.

“Price wrote the book ‘Mad at School,’ which is one of the first books to deal with the rhetoric of mental disabilities in college life,” Duffy said. “They just had some great stuff in their disability studies program, which guided me there.”

Although his interest in disability studies began after Pepperdine, Duffy said his studies at Pepperdine inspired him to look for ways to bridge the gap between learning about social justice and doing it.

“Lori Goodman [from the english department] and the religion department focused on getting [students] get out of the classroom, into the community and learn what the people of Los Angeles have been through in their daily lives,” Duffy said.

The website says that once enrolled in SAAJ, students will participate in community service, learn the history of activism, and explore how to integrate activism into their specialties or professions.

He is excited to teach SAAJ and see how his students can bring change to Pepperdine. Recently, he led his class in designing and conducting an informal campus disability audit. Duffy said the goal was to get students thinking about how the University’s claims of belonging stand up to the actual accessibility of the campus.

Freshman Julian Moghaddasi wrote in a Sept. 27 email to The Graphic that his time as a SAAJ student at Duffy was eye-opening.

“I’ve learned so much already, and Dr. Duffy does a great job teaching us and making us think.,Modhaddasi wrote. “I think the work we do is important because it puts us in other people’s shoes and gives us more to think about than ourselves.”

Moghaddasi wrote that he thinks Duffy’s work is important because students deserve to know about people’s different experiences and should be able to help implement equity.

“What Duffy teaches and researches is very important to our society because we don’t want to leave people out just because they look or act different,” Moghaddasi wrote. “I think everything is very important.”

Currently, Duffy and his students are coordinating to invite the LA Spoonie Collective present at school. The collective is made up of LGBTQ+ artists and activists of diverse abilities who seek to educate about disability justice.

“We have work to do on campus, and as a junior faculty member who comes with disability accessibility training, that’s what I want to help,” Duffy said. “The disability counterculture exists everywhere, and the more I hear about the culture at Pepperdine, the more I want to do to help educate and eventually lead to acceptance.”

Duffy said he hopes to spark more academic interest in the field through his courses in SAAJ and rhetoric.

“The field of disability studies is such a beautiful field of study because there is so much excitement, pride and good things that come out of it,” Duffy said. “I feel really lucky to have found him and to be with colleagues and friends who are all wavering towards justice.”


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Email Hope Lockwood: [email protected]


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