From Policy I Midterm to Peer-Reviewed Publication: MSW Student Jordan A. Conrad Published in Journal of Intellectual Disabilities

Jordan A. Conrad, MSW '18
Jordan A. Conrad, MSW '18

What began as MSW student Jordan A. Conrad’s Policy I midterm is now a published article in the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities. According to Conrad, MSW ’18, his article, “On Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the United States: A Historical Perspective,” stemmed from the midterm he submitted last fall in Professor Jeane Anastas’ Policy I class.

The assignment, Conrad recalled, was to select a population and write about a policy that affects them. “I chose to write instead about a rather large swath of polices that impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD), a population I care deeply for,” he said. In her notes on his exam, Dr. Anastas encouraged Conrad to develop it into a manuscript for publication; with her permission, he did so in lieu of writing a final paper for the course.

“Jordan had chosen to write about a topic that deserves greater attention among academics and practitioners,” said Dr. Anastas. “It was clear he had the passion and intellectual capacity to do it justice in one of the leading journals in the field.”

“The difference between the midterm and the final paper was enormous,” Conrad said. “It was 15 pages longer and reflected countless hours of research, writing, and revision.” Throughout the process, Dr. Anastas was a consistent source of support, providing Conrad reference materials, talking through ideas, helping him select the journals to submit to, and coaching him through the revise-and-resubmit process once the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities responded favorably.

“The project was difficult but stimulating, and I am extremely pleased the article was published,” Conrad said, “As the title suggests, it explores the way that ID/DD has been understood and treated – culturally, politically, medically – in the United States from the 1600s to the early 2000s. Tracing the evolution of legislation and treatment (both societal and psychiatric) as it regards people with ID/DD, the paper argues that although there have been tremendous positive developments over the centuries, there is still much more work to be done. One dominant theme of the article is that for the majority of U.S. history, people with ID/DD have been viewed as the subjects of charity as opposed to possessors of rights.”

Conrad said the perception of people with ID/DD began to shift with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, and the notion of their agency really gained currency after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. “Those laws are the threads that have gotten us to where we are today,” he said. “Now people with ID/DD are empowered to say ‘nothing about us without us.”

Although Conrad found a passion for policy in Dr. Anastas’ class, it was a desire to engage in direct practice with people with ID/DD that drew him to NYU Silver. He had previously earned an MS in Philosophy at University of Edinburgh in Scotland and an MPhil in Philosophy at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. However, the four years he spent working with students with ID/DD in between those degree programs made him reconsider his career path. “I fell in love with the population and the work,” he said. “While I am still very much in love with philosophy, there is something very different about actually doing direct work with somebody. You can really feel the impact you have on their lives. With its reputation for clinical excellence, NYU Silver offered the best opportunity for me to get the training I needed to make that difference.”

Conrad noted that in his application to NYU Silver, he had stressed his appreciation for direct practice. “I wrote that I had learned how important it is to be there on the front lines, and that intellectual interests can only get you so far. Now that I have nearly completed my coursework and both of my field placements, I realize that micro vs. macro is a somewhat arbitrary distinction. All of the professors that I have had have an incredible command of mental health policy, how it comes about, and how it can be changed; theory of mind; effective treatment modalities and the research that supports them. It seems that rather than a sharp cut off between the two, one informs the other. Moving forward, I plan to continue research and writing, not at the expense of my direct practice, but rather to enhance it.”