Special Education Professor Joins the CPSE Mild/Moderate Special Education Program

Ryan Kellems

Ryan Kellems hadn’t planned on settling in Utah Valley where he grew up. He hadn’t planned on becoming a professor at BYU as his dad had been. He had no intention of studying special education. However, this fall Kellems came to the McKay School of Education’s Special Education program as an assistant professor.

Kellems’ journey to becoming a professor of special education started by accident. After graduating from BYU with his degree in history teaching, Kellems struggled to find a job teaching in Kansas where his wife was attending law school. Only after Kellems mentioned to a school administrator that he was thinking about getting a master’s degree in special education was he hired.

While earning his master’s degree in adaptive special education at Washburn University, Kellems came to love the field of special education. He developed a particular interest in the transition students with disabilities experience as they leave school, along with the post-school outcomes for those students. Kellems decided to continue school, eventually receiving his doctorate degree from the top ranked University of Kansas in secondary special education and transition.

Kellems continued to expand his research interests. “My research focuses on using mobile technology such as iPads to teach individuals with disabilities the skills needed to have a successful and fulfilling life,” Kellems said. “My dissertation used iPods to teach students with autism different vocational skills in community-based settings.”

After receiving his PhD, Kellems and his family moved to Oregon where he was a research associate at the National Post-School Outcomes Center at the University of Oregon for three years. During this time Kellems heard about a job opportunity in the Counseling Psychology and Special Education Department at BYU. Though he wasn’t looking for a new job, he thought he would enjoy it.

Now in this position, Kellems is teaching and continuing his research, which uses current technology such as iPads to assist students with disabilities as they transition to life after school. In his free time Kellems enjoys fly-fishing and has mastered tying his own flies. Kellems and his wife have three children: Liam, Nora, and Elliot.