Envision Unlimited has a legacy of innovation that has enabled us throughout our history to evolve the kind of care we provide to people with disabilities. We even added a new role to help us continue to drive the full spectrum of empathetic care and services thousands of members and their caregivers depend on every time, everywhere.
Our new Director of Innovation is Kristen Salkas. She has a deep passion for working with people with disabilities and an impressive educational background that supports her work.
Kristen holds two Bachelor's degrees from Loyola University Chicago in Psychology and Spanish Language and Literature. She also earned both her Masters in Disability and Human Development and a PhD in Disability Studies from University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). She’s currently an adjunct professor at Trinity Christian College and UIC. And she’s fluent in Spanish.
To learn more about her, we dug a little deeper.
Q: What do you enjoy about working in the area of intellectual, developmental and mental health?
K: My background is in Disability Studies, which is an interdisciplinary field that views disability as a social and cultural phenomenon rather than a physical or mental one. I don’t think there’s anywhere this understanding is more evident than in the IDD and mental health system; people with IDD and mental illness diagnoses are held back more by the barriers society puts up than by their own bodies or minds. And I see it as my goal to eliminate those barriers.
Q: What inspired you to apply for the Director of Innovation position with Envision Unlimited?
K: First of all, Envision has a great reputation. I’m proud to work for an organization that prioritizes innovation like EU does. The job itself really is my dream role. I get to use data and research to help us stay at the cutting edge of service provision. I couldn’t ask for a more practical way to apply the knowledge I learned in my Disability Studies doctoral program to make a direct impact on services and supports in this field.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?
K: I really want to use my academic background to help inform all of the programs and practices we provide and collaborate with everyone. Data is so valuable when we know how to use it, so I want to bring data from best practices outside of Envision Unlimited into our current services so we can make them the best in the country. I also want our organization to use program data in thoughtful ways so we can improve our current services to the thousands of people we support.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your off-hours?
K: I’m the mom of a toddler, so that keeps me pretty busy when I’m not at my desk. I also enjoy competing in triathlons – swimming, biking, and running. I’m looking forward to warmer weather when I can take out the jogging stroller and enjoy a run through the neighborhood with my daughter.