College of Professional Advancement Receives Nearly $1 Million from U.S. Department of Education to Address Georgia’s Shortage of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors

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ATLANTA – Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement recently received its second grant of nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to help address personnel shortages faced by vocational rehabilitation agencies in Georgia.

The five-year, $984,963 Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) long-term training grant will support the College’s Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program offered on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta.

Grant funding will support scholarships for a total of 40 RSA Scholars who will be recruited and trained by Mercer and employed by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and other disability-related agencies to address shortages across the state.

The College of Professional Advancement previously received a five-year, $956,956 RSA grant in 2015, which resulted in successful recruitment and training of 40 RSA Scholars. Of the 11 scholars who have graduated thus far, seven are employed by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency or related agencies, two are enrolled in a Ph.D. program and two are in the process of obtaining employment.

“I am extremely happy that through this new grant we can support and train 40 more scholars to become highly skilled rehabilitation counselors,” said Dr. Suneetha B. Manyam, professor of counseling. “As project director, I strongly encourage students who are interested in becoming certified rehabilitation counselors and who are passionate about serving individuals with disabilities to apply immediately and utilize this wonderful opportunity.”

“I congratulate Dr. Manyam and the amazing team of counseling faculty members that developed such a compelling grant proposal that reiterates our commitment to address powerfully the state’s shortage of counseling professionals equipped to dramatically improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities,” added Dr. Priscilla Danheiser, dean of the College of Professional Advancement.

The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency reports a shortage of qualified rehabilitation counselors, while the state’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that field is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2022.

In response to such data, Mercer established the M.S. in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling in 2013, with a goal of increasing the number of qualified master’s-level rehabilitation counselors, especially those who closely reflect the diverse population of the country, region and state. The program’s evening classes are designed for working adults, and its location in Atlanta serves the largest area in the state requiring vocational rehabilitation services.

“We appreciate Mercer’s commitment to create a solid foundation for future vocational rehabilitation professionals. The University’s strong curriculum will help develop certified rehabilitation counselors who know how to cultivate competitive integrated employment opportunities for our clients,” said Dr. Christine Fleming, director of vocational services for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.

“The fact that we were awarded this grant for the second time is a testament to the hardworking and dedicated counseling faculty, to our students, to the clinical rehabilitation counseling program and to the profession. I am extremely proud of our faculty and students and am especially appreciative of the tremendous support we have been given by our dean and provost,” added Dr. Karen Rowland, associate professor and chair of counseling.

“I’m excited that we have the opportunity to continue collaborating with the Rehabilitation Services Administration to educate outstanding students in clinical rehabilitation counseling,” said Dr. Kristina Henderson, assistant professor and program coordinator of the M.S. in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. “Our students are passionate and dedicated to working with and for persons with disabilities, and this grant makes opportunities to accomplish that work more accessible.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the upcoming cohort of RSA Scholars, which will begin in January. Grant funding supports three semesters of tuition, living expenses and some travel to professional conferences. For more information on the grant, contact Dr. Manyam at (678) 547-6032, and for information on the program, contact Dr. Henderson at (678) 547-6497, Marc Reece at (678) 547-6024 or Leslie Baxter at (678) 547-6411.

About the College of Professional Advancement

Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement is committed to serving post-traditional learners. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary experiences that integrate theory and practice. In addition to providing general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer, the College of Professional Advancement offers degree programs in areas including technology, public safety, public and human services, leadership and administration, health care and liberal arts. Programs are offered on Mercer’s campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as Regional Academic Centers in Douglas County and Henry County, and online. To learn more, visit professionaladvancement.mercer.edu.

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Kyle Sears