Jill Meyer, Ph.D., LCPC, CRC, Associate Professor and Director of Counselor Education in the Auburn University College of Education, has been named as the Principal Investigator (PI) for a pair of U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grants worth more than $3 million. The ultimate goal of both grants is to increase the number of service providers – or Vocational Rehabilitation professionals — who will help prepare individuals with disabilities for gainful employment.
The first grant is entitled “Auburn University Vocational Evaluation Forensic Certificate Program.” It is a five-year grant worth more than $2 million. The grant’s intent is to provide a contemporary evidence-based approach for improving employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities. It will do so by training 60 professionals and paraprofessionals over the life of the grant, through a new training certificate entitled Vocational Evaluation Forensic Certificate (VEFC) program. This targeted training will enhance service providers’ ability to deliver individualized services, and fill vacant VR positions.
“This is an Innovative Training grant,” Meyer said. “As PI, I will work closely with our own Dr. Julie Hill, Assistant Professor in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling and colleagues at the Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, especially with the center’s executive director Asim Ali, who will help us develop an innovative curriculum and technological supports to help fill these much-needed rehabilitation positions in the State of Alabama and around the country. We will also be partnering with two local consultants on this project. First, we have a vocational evaluation forensic expert, Dr. Mike McClanahan, working with us to ensure the quality of the forensic approach on this project. Additionally, we have a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) specialist, Ms. Gwenea Jackson, MA, CRC, who will ensure the quality of services as they apply to the State VR arena. These partners coming together is one aspect that makes this new Innovative Training grant from RSA unique. The overall goal is always to improve services for individuals with disabilities. In order to improve employment outcomes for those with severe disabilities, we need to take a new approach to training students on successful rehabilitation services.”
“Working with the Biggio Center, we will update the certificate courses while refining our online assessments and forensic resources. We will be utilizing new online software and vocational instruments in this certificate program. The Biggio Center will have a large role in developing our new online educational platform, developing the VEFC website, and helping create test-prep modules for our students. The goal of this program is to fill vacant jobs in the Vocational Rehabilitation field assisting those with disabilities gain meaningful, life-changing employment. I always look forward to helping our students learn about improving the quality of life for those who have a chronic illness or disability.”
“Vacancies in State VR and other community-based rehabilitation programs have been around for some time. RSA and Auburn saw the need for specialty training. We developed this unique approach to address the need which has been driven by the many legislative and accreditation changes in the field of rehabilitation counseling, plus the ever-evolving Covid situation. Our ultimate goal is to find and train the best people to serve those with chronic illness and disabilities.”
Asim Ali, executive director of the Biggio Center, looks forward to the opportunities afforded by the grant.
“The Biggio Center is excited to be partnering with Auburn’s vocational rehabilitation program on this grant,” he said. “Our talented instructional design team will collaborate with faculty and subject matter experts in the program to develop innovative and immersive learning experiences. This program will allow Auburn to showcase elevated student learning in engaging online courses.”
The second grant is entitled “Forging a New Future: Preparing Rehabilitation Counselors for the Changing Landscape of the Rehabilitation Profession.” It too is a five-year grant, worth a total of $1 million. The grant will fund tuition and stipends, supporting up to 55 on-campus and distance education students in the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program.
Dr. Meyer will serve as the PI on this grant as well, but will be joined by Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling colleagues Dr. Jinhee Park and Dr. Julie Hill as Co-Investigators. Similar to the Innovative Grant, this program is designed to increase the number of trained Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors. More specifically, these faculty will enhance the knowledge, skills, and competencies of future rehabilitation counselors. This grant will support Auburn in developing rehabilitation counselors who can create effective and focused employment options for consumers by counselors who can leverage available resources that help consumers and their families.
Meyer, who has been at Auburn for ten years, emphasized the importance of filling these long-term vacancies with graduates from the College of Education’s Master’s program. These grants will provide student support for the Master’s and Certificate programs.
“Of course we want to find the best students to fill the RSA Scholarship positions, and it is rewarding and exciting to be doing something so new and different. I know my partners in the grant feel the same way. The Auburn University Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program has a long-standing reputation providing successful on-campus and online training for our counseling students, but these grants will allow us to greatly expand on that experience.”