Scholarship on disabilities and the policies shaping university research

About the Center

The Merrill Advanced Studies Center is a catalyst for scholarship on disabilities and policies that shape university research. Our conferences and publications establish new directions and build collaborative projects in both science and policy. The Merrill Center is one of 12 centers in the The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies.

photo of Fred and Virginia Merrill
photo by Wally Emerson

The Founders

The Merrill Center was established in 1990 with a generous endowment from Virginia Urban Merrill and her husband, Fred Merrill, Chairman and President of Cereal Food Processors, Incorporated, of Mission Woods, Kansas.

Virginia Merrill is a native of Lucas, Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas with training in speech correction.

The Merrills continue to be actively involved as benefactors and members of the Board of Directors.



The Director

Mabel L. Rice, Ph.D. >> is an international authority on language disorders in children and the genetics of language acquisition.

She has been named a Japan Society Fellow, and in Australia, she was recognized as a Haydn Williams Fellow. At the University of Kansas, she is the Fred and Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies. In addition to the Merrill Center, she directs the Child Language Doctoral Program >>, one of the first interdisciplinary programs in the country to train child-language specialists. She maintains an active research lab, >> and carries out collaborative studies at international levels. She also directs the Center for Biobehavioral Neurosciences in Communication Disorders.>>

With Kenneth Wexler from MIT, she developed the first test to successfully diagnose Specific Language Impairment in children ages 3 to 8. The Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment >> was released by the Psychological Corporation/Harcourt Assessments in 2001 and is being used by school districts and speech language professionals. See the online publication In The Know for a fact sheet on Specific Language Impairment in children.

photo of Mabel Rice reading to a child









photo by Earl Richardson


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