Congratulations to Sheila Fesko, ICI Senior Research Fellow and SGISD Associate Dean and Director!

Community Inclusion
4 min readAug 23, 2023

Congratulations to Sheila Fesko! Dr. Fesko has served in many roles at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), and most recently, as Associate Dean and Director of the School of Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD). This June, Sheila has retired from her position at SGISD and as Senior Research Fellow at the ICI.

A white woman in glasses smiles in her headshot

Sheila has been an outstanding researcher, advocate, and leader. She began working at ICI in the 1980s in the Development Evaluation Clinic (DEC) at Boston Children’s Hospital and supporting the DEC’s Work Experience and Supported Work programs. She has since led several momentous projects, including the National Service to Employment Program and the National Center on Workforce and Disability. Most recently, Sheila directed the ICI’s online curriculum for employment services professionals, the Direct Course College of Employment Services. She also led the development of the online Personal and Home Care Aide State Training with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

As SGISD’s Assistant and then Associate Dean and Director, Sheila played a central role in creating and expanding the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, supporting the academic programs, the ICI, and the Institute for New England Native American Studies.

ICI Director Cindy Thomas noted Sheila’s many accomplishments and the passion and commitment Sheila has brought to her work, while centering the school’s mission and values.

“For me personally and professionally, it has been a privilege to travel this journey with Sheila. From our early days working together in the Developmental Evaluation Clinic, to our time together as she moved into her role as Associate Dean, Sheila is someone who has been focused on mission and values. Her commitment to equity and inclusion was at the core of her work. Sheila has been an impactful leader, a trusted advisor and equally important, a kind and caring friend. As she makes this transition, she leaves behind a strong legacy and an organization well positioned for the future. She will be missed.

Dr. Fesko has also conducted impressive research over the years in areas including employment outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, disclosure of HIV status in the workplace, the aging workforce, and universal strategies to support inclusion of all employees in the workplace. She has also traveled internationally, presenting on issues related to disability.

Dr. Fesko’s passion and commitment to her work is admirable. Her long-time ICI colleague and friend David Hoff shared:

“Sheila has an amazing gift for mentoring others…I feel I speak for many when I say I owe a significant amount of my professional success to Sheila’s guidance and support. She has a wonderful, calm, ‘can do’ practical approach to addressing issues and challenges, and doing so in a clear and organized way that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of others. Key to her success has been her wonderful sense of fun, and ability to find humor in almost any situation. As a result, she is not only great company as a colleague and friend, but this has helped in making the work environment one that is enjoyable and collegial. I appreciate all she has done not only for ICI and SGISD, but most importantly, in helping to create a world that is more equitable and inclusive for all.”

In addition to Sheila’s extensive career with ICI, her leadership was instrumental to the launch and development of the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development. Kaitlyn Siner-Cappas has worked closely with Sheila for the past decade in SGISD:

“It has truly been an exciting and rewarding journey working with Sheila to grow the school over the past decade. As Sheila often said, we were building the plane while flying it, but without Sheila’s guidance, expertise, and remarkable sense of calm and humor, there would have been many more bumps. Her dedication and leadership was remarkable, whether it was around student support, critical resources, a willingness to listen and learn from others, or her creative problem-solving skills, which is why Sheila became known for the tagline, ‘We will figure it out’. I also personally owe much of my professional development to Sheila’s mentorship, care, and support, and while she will be very missed, I am grateful to have had such an extensive opportunity to work with her.”

Sheila has dedicated a lifetime to the field of disability. Her work has had a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities, students, faculty, colleagues, and partners in Massachusetts and beyond. Join us in celebrating her exceptional career at the ICI and SGISD!

Current and past ICI, SGISD, and Boston Children’s Hospital employees and their families joined Sheila Fesko (second row, fourth from the right) at her retirement party.

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Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.