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Katherine E. McDonald, Ph.D.

Dr. McDonald's (far left bottom) Research Team

Department of Psychology
317 Cramer Hall
Portland State University
P.O. Box 751
Portland,OR 97207-0751
phone (503) 725-3995
fax (503) 725-3904

Selected Publications
Classes Taught



Katherine (Katie) McDonald is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Dr. McDonald received her B.S. with Distinction in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in French from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Community and Prevention Research Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since 1997, Dr. McDonald's work, research and service have centered on using ecological theory and social action to understand and promote the community integration of individuals with disabilities. More recently, her research interests have expanded to include the empirical study of human research ethics, with an emphasis on issues related to vulnerable groups (e.g., individuals with intellectual disabilities). Dr. McDonald is also involved in the teaching and practice of program evaluation and previously lived in community with individuals with and without intellectual disabilities in a community of L'Arche in Switzerland. Dr. McDonald is the Chair of the Disability Action Group for the Society for Community Research and Action, division 27 of the American Psychological Association ( and a member of the Board of Directors at L'Arche Nehalem ( ), the Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas County and the Institutional Review Board at Portland State University. Dr. McDonald received the Stevens-Shapiro Fellowship from the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities and was an International Visiting Fellow at the University of Western Sydney in Australia.

Dr. McDonald's current research spans two core areas of inquiry.

1. Addressing barriers to advancing scientific knowledge for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Dr. McDonald has several ongoing projects related to the research participation of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Her long-term objective is to contribute to the more respective, inclusive research practices for adults with IDD. To date, these studies have focused on instrument development and the isolation of important variables affecting the inclusion of adults with IDD from three stakeholder groups: adults with IDD, IDD researchers and IRB members. In isolating important dimensions of attitudes towards the research participation of adults with IDD among key stakeholders that influence their inclusion in research, we can develop policies and practices that are responsive and sensitive to these perspectives. Moreover, her focus on instrument development provides ways to test interventions.

2. Using participatory, capacity building models of social action research to address health and employment disparities

A second branch of Dr. McDonald's research is characterized by involvement with community-based organizations and groups in which we collaborate to define problems to study, design research studies to understand and address identified problems and use findings to feed positive social change. This work encompasses two areas of significance to individuals with disabilities: health disparities and education and employment disparities.

One project is in collaboration with Dr. Christina Nicoladais and Dora Raymaker to collaborate on an academic-autistic partnership to conduct research on the needs of autistic adults: the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE; ). Currently, we are working on several projects focused on assessing the barriers and facilitators to quality health care for autistic adults and better understanding the online autistic community.

A second project has been in collaboration with Dr. Brigida Hernandez in which we have partnered with government and business collaborators to address the employment of individuals with disabilities. Specifically, we have worked to identify employer's perceptions of individuals with disabilities and gather data to examine whether employer's beliefs about employees with disabilities have scientific merit. We are currently collaborating with Dr. Margaret Vickers to replicate this research in Australia.

Lastly, Dr. McDonald works with the Center for Capacity Buildingon Minorities with Disabilities Research (the Center) at theUniversity of Illinois at Chicago. The Center is funded by theNational Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (part of the US Department of Education). The goal of this project is to collaborate with social service agencies serving ethnic and racialminorities with disabilities to build the agency's capacity forprogram evaluation (we provide training an on-going technicalassistance in program evaluation). Dr. McDonald is working with twoPortland area organizations ( ).


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Resources on Community-based Learning and Scholarship with Undergraduate Students