Penfield College, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Launch Advanced Rehabilitation Certification Program


MACON – Penfield College of Mercer University and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) are partnering to address the shortage of individuals in state school systems equipped to assist students with disabilities to move forward with middle school, high school and college education and into the world of work.

Penfield College's new advanced rehabilitation certification program, open to GVRA employees who hold a bachelor's degree, consists of six undergraduate-level courses over a nine-month period. Most of the work will be completed online, with one day per month spent on the Mercer campus.

The program's curriculum was developed by human services, psychology and clinical rehabilitation counseling faculty in Penfield College to equip GVRA employees to assist clinical rehabilitation counselors with their work to prepare students to navigate educational pathways to success. Dr. Marna Burns, associate professor and human services coordinator, is the program director.

“I am grateful to the drivers of this initiative, including Penfield faculty members Marna Burns, Kristina Henderson and Cameron Miller and Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency leaders Greg Schmieg and Ed James,” said Dr. Priscilla Danheiser, dean of the College. “The state's vocational rehabilitation staff selected as members of the charter class will be playing a critical role in helping to ensure positive educational and career outcomes for students with disabilities in our Georgia schools.”

The program admitted 20 individuals in its first cohort, all of which are fully sponsored by GVRA. An orientation for these students was held Aug. 26 in Macon

“The Mercer partnership supports the agency's goal of serving 100,000 Georgians with disabilities and putting 50,000 to work over the next few years,” said GVRA Executive Director Greg Schmieg. “Our goal is to promote a client-driven team at GVRA and give them the resources they need to serve as many people as possible in their journey to fulfilling careers.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first bachelor's-level advanced rehabilitation certificate program in the nation. As we implement the new opportunities under evolving federal law, specifically services to youth and students with disabilities from middle school and high school, GVRA recognized the need to develop a curriculum to prepare our professional staff with the tools to meet this objective,” said GVRA Director of Capability Development Ed James. “We are proud to sponsor the first cohort in conjunction with Mercer University.” 

About the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

GVRA operates five integrated and interdependent statutory programs that share a primary goal – to help people with disabilities to become fully productive members of society by achieving independence and meaningful employment. To learn more about GVRA and its efforts to maximize employment opportunities and independence for Georgians with disabilities, visit

About Penfield College of Mercer University

Penfield College of Mercer University, established as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2003, is committed to serving non-traditional learners and currently enrolls more than 1,300 students. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to working adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Educational programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary programs that integrate theory and practice. The College offers general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer. Another initiative called the Bridge program transitions students enrolled in Mercer's English Language Institute and other international students to undergraduate programs throughout the University. Areas of study include organizational leadership, counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, criminal justice leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology, communication, homeland security and emergency management, and healthcare leadership. Programs are offered on Mercer's campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County and Newnan, and online. To learn more, visit