Special Education Researcher Receives Award for Graduate Student Mentorship

UNC Chalotte Professor Ya-yu Lo
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Ya-yu Lo, professor of Special Education and graduate program director for the M.Ed. and MAT programs in the Department of Special Education and Child Development, is the 2021 recipient of the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award. She was honored at a special Zoom ceremony Thursday, Feb. 18.

“Dr. Lo always went above and beyond in supporting me to grow in my understanding of research, ability to contribute to the field, and as a writer,” said Tosha Owens ’06 M.Ed., Ph.D. ’17, assistant professor of Special Education at East Carolina University. “Dr. Lo is unique in that she not only encourages her advisees to excel in everything they do, but she sets an example by putting forth a tremendous amount of effort in everything she does.”

Lo specializes in school-based multi-tiered interventions using applied behavior analytic approach for urban diverse learners with behavioral disorders. She has secured more than $2.5 million in external funding as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI from institutions including the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation and the European Commission. 

Dr. Lo’s students’ successes attest to her commitment and skill,” said Diane Browder, professor emeritus of Special Education and Child Development at UNC Charlotte. “What makes her truly exceptional is that she is creating greater access for those who are underrepresented as leaders and scholars in special education to find their voice and to use that voice to bring greater educational equity for students with disabilities.”

As a mentor, Lo has served as advisor or committee member for more than 50 MAT, M.Ed. and graduate certificate students on their master’s research and portfolio projects. Over 75% of Lo’s peer-reviewed publications and over 60% of national conference presentations have involved her students. Her publications with students as co-authors and lead authors have appeared in several top-tier journals in special education.

“Much of who I am as a college teacher, researcher and mentor is because of who Dr. Lo was and continues to be for me,” said April L. Mustian, associate professor and program director for Special Education at Winthrop University. “Her humility, dedication, belief in and support toward excellence, and her compassion and passion for this work are all traits that make others want to be better. I don’t know greater signs of an excellent mentor than someone with a servant’s heart and a desire to lift others up so that we can all be collectively successful.”

Lo earned a doctorate in special education/applied behavior analysis and a master’s degree in special education from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Soochow University in Taiwan. 

The Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award honors its namesake, an exceptional teacher, brilliant scholar and researcher and devoted servant of her profession and community. The award is given annually to the faculty member whose commitment to students, research and scholarly inquiry most closely exemplifies the spirit of de Silva.