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Special Education

The undergraduate program in Special Education prepares students to work with persons with disabilities and leads to teacher licensure. Students pursue an interdisciplinary major in exceptional learning with emphasis in one of three specialty areas: High Incidence Disabilities (K-8 and/or 6-12) or Multiple and Severe Disabilities. This major can be combined with other majors in Cognitive Studies, Child Studies, Child Development, Human and Organizational Development, or majors in Arts and Science. The program is field-oriented and problem-centered, with most professional courses requiring direct involvement with individuals with disabilities. Beginning first semester of freshman year, students observe and work in a variety of community and educational settings.

Tradition of Excellence

The Department of Special Education at Peabody has a rich tradition of excellence in teacher education and is routinely ranked as the top special education program in the country. A rigorous four-year program combining theory and extensive field experience prepares students to become highly skilled teachers of persons with disabilities. Special education graduates work in a variety of settings, including, resource rooms, inclusion classrooms, itinerant positions, residential facilities, and community agencies. Students are highly successful at job placement and acceptance to post-graduate schools.


Vanderbilt students seeking teacher licensure must apply through the Office of Teacher Licensure at Vanderbilt and must meet licensure requirements in effect at the time of their graduation. Each year, teacher licensure candidates should consult the current Vanderbilt Undergraduate Catalog and Undergraduate Guide to Teacher Licensure. All programs in the Department of Special Education have the potential to lead toward teacher licensure in the state of Tennessee, but many of our students work with the Office of Teacher Licensure to gain licensure in other states as well.

Recently Offered Courses

Introduction to Exceptionality; Introduction to Language and Communication; Understanding Student with Severe and

Persistent Academic and Behavior Disabilities; Managing Academic and Social Behavior; Procedures for Transition to Adult Life; Braille Reading and Writing.

Attention to Current Research Topics
Current faculty research, demonstration, and personnel preparation projects cover a wide range of areas including: assessment; communication and social skills interventions; family interactions; inclusion of individuals with disabilities in general education, community, and vocational settings; classroom instructional strategies for students who are at-risk or have identified learning difficulties; interventions for individuals with challenging behavior; interventions for visual disabilities; and teacher preparation. There are many opportunities for undergraduate students to become engaged in faculty research. The Honors Program in Special Education allows select students to work closely with a faculty mentor to develop and implement a research project.

What Our Students Say

We asked our students to comment on our program.

“My greatest professional and personal mentors are professors who've spent a great deal of time shaping me into the best version of myself. The Department of Special Education makes Peabody, and Vanderbilt, feel like home.” Sally Nichols ’15

"The Department of Special Education is truly like a family. The accomplished professors not only support and encourage, but also challenge and inspire each and every student to grow and
rise to their fullest potential."
Morgan Polans ’16

“I worked in Nashville as a summer school teacher, unaffiliated with any Vanderbilt program, and one of my professors still regularly met with me to help me improve my teaching practices throughout the summer. They truly do go above and beyond their job descriptions to help the students here succeed.” Kelsey Smith ’16

“The Special Education professors are the hardest working people at Vanderbilt, without a doubt. Besides teaching multiple challenging, thought-provoking classes each semester and completing intense research studies, they also spend the time to care about each one of their students and are deeply invested in our future success in and out of the classroom. There is no way I would have been able to finish both of my
majors if they had not believed in me.”
Samantha Schmidt ’16

After Vanderbilt

We are proud that our graduates find excellent job and academic placement after graduation. A few graduates have started their careers in the following locations:

Williamson County Public Schools
Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Chicago Public Schools
DC Public Schools
Los Angeles Unified School District
Currey Ingram Academy
Stephen Gaynor School
KIPP Academy (various locations)
Victory Education Partners
Denver Public Schools

James Wang (BS ’14), medical school, University of Memphis

Sally Nichols (BS ’15), teaching in Austin, TX

Abby Schulman (BS ’15), completing Speech-Language Pathology master’s program at Vanderbilt University

Emilie Wiener (BS ’15), completing master’s program in applied behavior analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University

Gabrielle Buono (BS’16), completing Doctor of Audiology program at Vanderbilt University

Morgan Polans (BS ’16), completing law school at the University of Florida

Kelsey Smith (BS ’16), teaching in Nashville, TN

Sarah Alfieri (BS’17), completing Doctor of Audiology program at Vanderbilt University

Katie Cox (BS ’18), teaching in Nashville, TN

Meg Phillips (BS ’18), completing Speech-Language Pathology master’s program at the University of Virginia


A primary goal of the special education faculty is to conduct research that improves outcomes for children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities. “We are highly committed to developing and validating effective academic and behavioral interventions to ensure that individuals with disabilities are best positioned to achieve successful post-secondary outcomes,” shares Christopher Lemons, Associate Professor of Special Education. “Undergraduate students learn from faculty who are conducting cutting-edge research and many have the opportunity to be involved in ongoing research projects. To me, Peabody is an exciting place to be because of the high caliber students. The undergraduate students who have worked on my research projects have brought great ideas and great energy to solving problems. I look forward to seeing what this talented group of young adults will accomplish.”


Andrea Capizzi
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Special Education
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Special Education

Special Education Website