Co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network Programs:

Gopen Logo

  • Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC)
  • Institute for Community Inclusion, UMass Boston, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (ICI)
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
  • Disability Law Center (DLC)

Overview of the Gopen Fellowship

Founded in 2001, the Barbara Wilensky Gopen Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for a person with a developmental disability or a family member to gain valuable knowledge and experience by working with members of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network Programs.

The selected fellow will design and implement a project of their choice to gain expertise in their field of interest. Activities are based on the fellow's interest and may include but are not limited to grassroots advocacy, public policy analysis, research and leadership development.

Concurrent with their project work, Gopen Fellows learn about public policy and disabilities, the legislative process and the role of disability agencies in Massachusetts. Fellows attend local and national public policy forums to broaden their knowledge on current disability topics.

The fellowship offers an educational and supportive environment designed for an individual who has personal advocacy experience to start working in the professional disability field. As fellows choose their project design, develop their work plan, and research and create their final product, they are mentored by Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) and Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC) staff to develop the skills they need, understand how the system works, and learn how they can create change.

The Gopen Fellow works 20 hours per week. The one-year award includes a stipend of $20,000 plus fringe benefits.


The Fellowship was established to honor lifelong disability advocate Barbara Wilensky Gopen. Barbara was a person with a disability who made a lifetime commitment to advocating on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. She was a longtime member of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, where she served as a leader for many years.

The overall goal of the Gopen Fellowship is to foster the leadership capability of an individual by supporting that individual's development of a project, to enhance their general understanding of how the system of services works both in the Commonwealth and on the federal level, and to build the capacity of the Fellow's personal leadership skills.


The Barbara Wilensky Gopen Memorial Fellowship is open to individuals with developmental disabilities or family members living in Massachusetts. The fellowship is designed for individuals who seek to increase their knowledge and skills in developmental disabilities. Eligible applicants do not have professional work experience in the disability field, nor do they have advanced degrees or professional training in related fields. Gopen fellowship applicants may have disability or advocacy experience on a personal or volunteer level.

Individuals with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Gopen Fellows and Their Accomplishments

The overall goal of the Gopen Fellowship is to foster the leadership capability of an individual by supporting their development of an original project. The Fellowship provides a general understanding of how the system of services works both in the Commonwealth and on the federal level. It also builds the capacity of the Fellow's personal advocacy and leadership skills.

Over the past decade Gopen Fellows have designed unique projects in their areas of interest, including youth recreation, legislative advocacy, self-advocate leadership development, positive behavioral supports, accessible community technology, sibling support, multicultural outreach, transportation, disability awareness and access to cultural venues.

Former Gopen Fellows continue to use the expertise gained from their Fellowship to help people with disabilities. They have attended graduate school, pursued other Fellowships, obtained employment in their area of interest and continued their disability advocacy by serving on boards and committees.

Basic Requirements for the Gopen Fellowship

  • Work a minimum of 20 hours per week for a period of 12 months. Most of this time will be spent designing and implementing a project conceived by the selected Fellow.
  • Spend at least two days per week working at ICI in Boston and one day per month at the MDDC in Quincy.
  • Attend Friday morning LEND Fellowship classes in Boston (no summer session).
  • Participate in training and other leadership activities at ICI.
  • Attend conferences, trainings and other events on disability advocacy and public policy.
  • Create a project work plan and write quarterly status reports.
  • Attend MDDC quarterly Council meetings and Public Policy Team meetings.
  • Present the accomplishments of the Fellowship at an ICI staff meeting and the MDDC's December quarterly meeting.
  • If appropriate, give a presentation at a regional or national meeting in conjunction with other individuals or colleagues (paper, poster, or verbal presentation).

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council.

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