Mary E. Morningstar

Associate Professor
Primary office:
546 Joseph R. Pearson Hall

Dr. Mary E. Morningstar is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas and Director of the Transition Coalition, which offers online transition professional development and resources for secondary special educators and practitioners. Her research agenda includes evaluating secondary teacher quality and professional development, culturally diverse family involvement in transition planning, and interagency collaboration. She is also examining the impact of inclusive secondary experiences for students with significant disabilities on postschool outcomes. Currently, she is developing a multi-dimensional model of adult life engagement for transition.

Dr. Morningstar coordinates an online masters program, focusing on preparing secondary educators across the country to provide transition education and services to youth with disabilities. She has designed and teaches several of the online classes and is currently coordinating the online masters in transition program. She also coordinates the teacher education program for teachers of students with significant disabilities, and in this role, is working with colleagues to transform special education endorsement coursework to support inclusive practices in schools and the community.

Dr. Morningstar has been involved in training, professional development and research regarding transition from school to adult life for over 25 years. Prior to moving to Kansas, she worked as a teacher for students with significant intellectual disabilities. Mary has been an active advocate for all persons with disabilities based on her experiences as a sibling of a brother with disabilities.

Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D., Special Education, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1995
  • M. Ed., Severe Handicaps, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 1989
  • B.S. Ed, Special Education, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 1982


Secondary special education and transition to adulthood, online instruction and professional development, and education of students with significant disabilities.

Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship

More info »

What an exciting event! This morning, a delegation of educators from the University of Nigeria (Nsukka) and the Center for Academic and Vocational Training for Special Needs Children in Nsukka, Nigeria visited KU to explore opportunities for collaboration with KU scholars and researchers on topics related to Disability Studies in Global or Transnational context. The event featured a fascinating exchange of presentations about scholarship and research, followed by opportunities for group discussion and lunch conversation. The Nigerian delegation discussed issues related to the role of extended family and community-based resources in raising children with special needs in African settings. Included were scholars and researchers from the KU School of Education, Kansas African Studies Center, the Hall Center for the Humanities Disability Studies Seminar and Missouri State University. In the afternoon, the group visited Liberty Memorial Central Middle School in Lawrence for a tour and discussion with educators there. The tour included visits to classrooms where instruction was taking place giving the guests an opportunity to see a U.S. school in action. After the tour the group participated in a question and answer session. This special event was organized by Dr. Elizabeth Kozleski, Chair of the Department of Special Education and Dr. Glenn Adams, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychology.

Reminder about MSLBD Building Leaders Conference!

#1 public program in nation for special education
—U.S. News & World Report
2nd nationwide for most published journal articles in special education
Wayne Sailor directs KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, to develop a national center to assist schools
A $2.5 million grant will fund research on reasons effective technology tools are underused for students with disabilities