While strolling throughout the various campuses of Mercer University, one may notice the many banners hanging alongside the lampposts that read, “At Mercer, everyone majors in changing the world.”
This message may be interpreted differently by everyone who reads it; for alumna Shivani Lalloo, it meant providing dependent individuals the tools to become self-sufficient members of society.
Lalloo is a 2020 graduate of the College of Professional Advancement’s Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program located on the Atlanta campus. She was also a participant in the College’s Rehabilitation Services Administration scholarship program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education to address the shortage of rehabilitation counselors in Georgia.
“I feel that working in the vocational rehabilitation field is very rewarding because I’m getting the opportunity to make a direct change in someone’s life,” Lalloo said. “Work often provides meaning and purpose to one’s life, and by helping people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain their jobs, I feel like I’m making a difference in their lives.”
Lalloo initially intended to study clinical mental health or marriage and family therapy. However, she eventually chose to enroll in the clinical rehabilitation counseling program due to its encouraging professors and their active spirit for those they were serving.
“After talking to Dr. (Karen) Rowland and Dr. (Kristina) Henderson, I realized this program was the right fit for me,” Lalloo said. “I really liked how there was a focus on advocacy and directly helping people with disabilities in all aspects of their lives.”
Lalloo later acquired an internship at the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, which allowed her to interact with her local community and be exposed to those with various disabilities. The internship eventually manifested into a full-time job.
“I had been placed at the Cumming unit office for a year and was contacted by HR for an interview opportunity. Because I already knew the staff, clients and providers, it was a smooth transition for me,” Lallo said. “My experiences as an intern helped me adjust faster to my full-time role as a certified rehabilitation counselor.”
Lalloo’s success story is an ode to the effectiveness of Mercer’s RSA scholarship program, which allowed her to showcase her knowledge and abilities in many ways, including on a national stage.
“My experience as an RSA Scholar was great. By being in the program, I was motivated to actively participate in the rehabilitation counseling field,” Lalloo said. “I even got to present my research at several conferences, including the National Council on Rehabilitation Education conference in Washington, D.C.”
The need for rehabilitation counselors is projected to increase further in Georgia due to the many disabled, at-risk individuals who need assistance during the pandemic. Lalloo believes her potential contributions and those of her current and future colleagues can make a resounding impact.
“I feel grateful that I can help fulfill the need of serving this specific population in Georgia, especially when there is a need for more rehabilitation counselors here,” Lalloo said. “I do hope that from hearing about my experiences other people will feel motivated to enter this career path.”