Penfield College Receives $956K Grant to Support Scholarships for Graduate Program in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling


ATLANTA – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Penfield College of Mercer University a $956,956 grant to support its Master of Science degree program in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling (CLRC) on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta.

The five-year Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grant will support scholarships for students recruited for Mercer’s CLRC program. Penfield College will recruit and train these RSA Scholars and work with the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to employ them to address personnel shortages in the state.

“I am proud that, as a result of this new scholarship program, more graduates of Mercer’s Master of Science degree program in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling will be prepared to play a significant role in addressing the personnel shortages faced by rehabilitation agencies throughout Georgia and the nation,” said Dr. Priscilla Danheiser, dean of Penfield College. “Receipt of this award further reinforces our counseling program’s commitment and expands its capacity to equip individuals with disabilities to become even more highly functioning and contributing members of their communities.”

Dr. Theresa Reese, associate professor of counseling, serves as project director for the grant, and Dr. Suneetha Manyam, associate professor of counseling, serves as assistant project director. Faculty and staff members Dr. Caroline Brackette, Leslie Baxter, Dr. Gail Johnson, Becky Nelson, Dr. Donald Redmond, Dr. Art Williams, and consultant Dr. Sharon Nieb served on the team that obtained the grant.

“As program coordinator for the CLRC program, I am so excited to offer Mercer’s future students this incredible opportunity to be an RSA Scholar,” said Dr. Reese. “All of the counseling faculty members welcome applicants to prepare to assist people with physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual or developmental disabilities in maximizing their potential and realizing their goals at work, home and in the community.”

“I am happy and honored that Mercer has received this highly competitive grant. I urge all eligible individuals interested in serving those with disabilities through state rehabilitation agencies to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity,” added Dr. Manyam.

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 Penfield College 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.

“Our department is proud to help the communities that desperately require counselors trained in clinical rehabilitation,” said Dr. Williams, who serves as chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Sciences. “This field is growing rapidly, and the students who graduate from our counseling programs are notably among the most knowledgeable in their field and best able to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving their potential.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the RSA Scholars Program, which will begin in January. Grant funding will support three semesters of tuition for five full-time and three part-time students, as well as books, some living expenses and travel to professional conferences where students will volunteer and present their research. RSA Scholars will agree to work for a specified amount of time as a counselor in a vocational rehabilitation agency following graduation.

For more information on the program, contact Dr. Reese at (678) 547-6129 or; Leslie Baxter at (678) 547-6411 or; or Carmen Jones at (678) 547-6436 or

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, school counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, public safety leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology and communication. 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