Alumni Spotlight - Edwin Achola

A man standing next to his childEdwin is a 2013 graduate of the Special Education and Disability Leadership program in the School of Education.  We asked Dr. Achola about his journey through graduate school and his current career.

Describe your career path and current occupation.

I started out as a high school Gen Ed teacher-teaching English to second language learners in Kenya.  Then I  transitioned to special education when I moved to Pennsylvania. Thereafter, I was awarded a full-ride scholarship at VCU to study special education and disability policy. After graduation, I accepted a tenure track position at California State University (CSULB) where I currently work as an Associate Professor of special education.

How did you become interested in this field?

I moved to special education because of my experience teaching inclusive gen ed classes. However, my advisor, Dr. Colleen Thoma, got me interested in transition programming.

What do you like best about the type of work you do?

I love being able to train teachers and to support diverse learners with disabilities.

What was most memorable about your experiences in your VCU graduate program?

Fun times in the graduate assistants' "wing" of Oliver Hall and the relationships I developed during my 3 years at VCU.

What advice would you give current and prospective students about pursuing a graduate degree at VCU?

Invest in relationships and networks. There are lots of amazing people at VCU! Take advantage of the many resources available to students.

Did you receive a graduate assistantship while completing your graduate degree at VCU?


Describe your experience and skills acquired during your assistantship.

Collaboration, research, networking, publication, presentation, and community engagement skills.