ATLANTA – Penfield College of Mercer University recently welcomed its inaugural class of Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Scholars, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education aimed at addressing shortages in clinical rehabilitation counselors across Georgia. The five-year, $956,956 grant was announced last October.
“The RSA Scholars program is an incredible opportunity for these students that showcases Mercer University's growing leadership in counseling in the state,” said Dr. W. David Lane, professor of counseling. “This scholarship sets the stage for a lifelong career of service to underserved and underrepresented populations.”
The first class of RSA Scholars includes:
Amber Bartron, from Cartersville, works as a clinical assistant at Ridgeview Institute in the Women's Center for Trauma and Eating Disorders. Bartron, who previously earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology cum laude, is interested in counseling patients in rural areas to address their vocational needs.
Amber Huey, from Piedmont, Alabama, previously earned her Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is interested in vocational rehabilitation and life care planning.
Jennifer Harden, from Hempstead, New York, previously earned her Bachelor of Science in healthcare administration and graduate certificate in gerontology. She has worked as a disability specialist and retirement and benefits manager and is interested in clinical rehabilitation counseling research and clinical practice.
Jasonn Randolph, from Los Angeles, California, previously earned his Bachelor of Science in Christian ministry with a minor in counseling. He is interested in assisting the geriatric population with finding employment, navigating life transitions and coping with late- and early-onset physical and mental disabilities, as well as contributing to the body of research in clinical rehabilitation counseling.
Cara Waiswilos, who resides in Atlanta, works in the benefits department of a healthcare company. Waiswilos, who previously earned her bachelor's degree in international business with a minor in Spanish, has also worked as a hospice administrator and director of admissions at a skilled nursing facility. She is interested in counseling the hospice and long-term care populations.
“I am proud of our first cohort of RSA Scholars for their skill set and passion for clinical rehabilitation counseling,” said Dr. Suneetha Manyam, associate professor of counseling and project director for the scholarship grant. “I am excited to work with a group of scholars with such a diverse range of research interests and career goals related to the field of rehabilitation counseling.”
RSA Scholars will complete Mercer's Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling degree program. Penfield College will work with the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) to employ them to address personnel shortages in the state.
The GVRA 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.
Applications are currently being accepted for the second class of RSA Scholars. Grant funding supports 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. Suneetha Manyam at (678) 547-6032 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Leslie Baxter at (678) 547-6411 or email@example.com; Carmen Jones at (678) 547-6436 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or K. Heather Koth at (678) 547-6570 or email@example.com.
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 penfield.mercer.edu.