December 17, 2010
Media Contact:
Steven Lazarin
Public Affairs Assistant
The University of Texas at El Paso
915-747-6409 / 915-929-4511

UTEP’s Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Receives More Than $1 Million for Scholarships, Research

The new Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) program at The University of Texas at El Paso has received $1.125 million to address the critical need for rehabilitation counselors in El Paso and the surrounding community and to improve the employment rates for people with disabilities. 
The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has awarded the MRC program a $750,000 grant to provide scholarships for 50 graduate students enrolled in the program over the next five years. The MRC program also received a $375,000 grant over the next five years as part of a national research collaborative.
The RSA awards grants to colleges and universities to provide scholarships to students who are interested in pursuing careers in rehabilitation, such as rehabilitation counseling. In return, recipients are required to "pay back" their scholarships by working at a public rehabilitation program such as a state vocational rehabilitation agency or a federally-funded center for independent living for two years for every year of full-time scholarship support received.
Bernadette Baca, a UTEP graduate student who is pursuing her master’s of rehabilitation counseling, is one of 15 students who received the RSA scholarship at the start of the fall semester.
“I think it’s great because once you finish, you work for the government, like the VA or MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation) and that’s what I really want to do,” said Baca, who graduated from UTEP with a bachelor’s in kinesiology in 2009. “I hope to be able to go work with the VA. I would really love to work with our soldiers when they come back.”
The new Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program, which enrolled its first graduate students in August, is the first such program in the El Paso region. Graduates of the UTEP program will serve persons with severe disabilities and contribute to the number of rehabilitation counselors who are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. 
In the 2000 Census, more than 1.6 million adults (12.5 percent of the Texas working age population, age 16 to 64) reported a disability that interferes with employment. In the City of El Paso alone, estimates indicated that less than 10 percent of more than 25,000 working age adults with a disability that interfered with employment were actually employed, compared with 67 percent of adults without a disability.  
“This graduate student support will help us to expand our region’s capacity to address the needs of people with disabilities and increase the availability of rehabilitation counseling in El Paso,” said Timothy Tansey, associate professor and director of the master of rehabilitation counseling program. “Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities to gain employment and live independent lives.” 
The research grant is part of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Effective Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery Practices, established at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Stout under a five-year, $5 million grant award from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), part of the Department of Education.   
The partnership will generate knowledge and identify evidence-based vocational rehabilitation practices that improve employment rates and quality of employment for people with disabilities. Locally, El Paso public agencies and nonprofit organizations will be able to receive training and technical assistance.
Dr. Fong Chan (UW-Madison, Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education) and Dr. John Lui (UW-Stout, Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute) will co-direct this national research collaborative that includes UTEP, Michigan State University, Southern University at Baton Rouge, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR). In addition to conducting programmatic research with input from multiple stakeholders, the center will translate new knowledge and provide training and technical assistance to public and nonprofit organizations, such as those in El Paso, to incorporate theory-driven, culturally sensitive, evidence-based practices into services provided to people with significant disabilities. 
The Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program is housed in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Health Sciences at UTEP.   
Information: Timothy Tansey, 915-747-7233

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