ESU Emporia State

Two grants totaling more than $2 million received by Emporia State University look to help professionals whose goals are to increase the employment opportunities for people with deaf and hard of hearing issues, and autism spectrum disorders.

Emporia State has one of just three programs in the United States that offers a concentration in working with deaf and hard of hearing people.

Through the grants, Emporia State’s counselor education department will support students with tuition, training and professional development. The grant begins immediately and will run through Sept. 30, 2024. Vocational rehabilitation personnel applying to the program will receive online instruction leading to a master’s degree or professional certification.

The grant aims to address shortages in professional services for people needing these rehabilitation services in the region. The grant awarded for the deaf and hard of hearing consumers totals $816,477, with $658,213 (81 percent) provided by federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education and the remaining $158,264 (19 percent), provided by ESU. The autism spectrum disorders funding was for $1,250,256, with $1,059,006 (85 percent) coming from federal resources through the U.S. Department of Education, and $191,250 (15 percent) provided by ESU.

“While there are several universities providing master’s level training in rehabilitation counseling in the identified four-state area, none of these universities offer a concentration in working with deaf and hard of hearing people,” Damara Goff Paris, associate professor and project director of rehabilitation services’ grants, said.

Nov. 15 is the deadline to apply for the spring 2020 cohort through Students throughout the Midwest are highly encouraged to apply. The track in working with ASD consumers will begin fall 2020.

“Our program has an excellent reputation for training rehabilitation counselors for over 50 years, and our reputation as a rigorous online program has been growing over the past few years,” Paris said. “As one of the few graduate rehabilitation counseling training programs in the Midwest and the only one in Kansas and Nebraska, we are well-positioned to increase the quality of future rehabilitation counselors for the Midwest.

“In addition, our rehabilitation counseling autism spectrum disorders program has collaboration from both Emporia State’s special education program — where an autism spectrum disorders certificate is available — and department of counselor education, as well as national collaboration from experts in the field to provide new and improved course structure and resources for future rehabilitation counseling personnel.”

As one of the few universities in the nation offering a fully online master’s degree format in rehabilitation counseling, the program aims to reach rural areas where it is difficult to access rehabilitation education and training. The graduate rehabilitation counseling concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as a 12-credit certificate, are available to a national audience.

“As a member of the deaf community, I am heartened to see such interest in deaf culture and American Sign Language by our students and our university, and excited to see that we can continue to build resources that allow our learners and community members to increase their knowledge and awareness of this population,” Paris said.

Through a previous five-year grant from 2014 to 2019, rehabilitation counseling was able to exceed its original goal of graduating 20 scholars, graduating 23 scholars by summer 2019. Of those people, 90 percent are employed by state vocational rehabilitation services or other qualifying agencies.

Emporia State University’s counselor education department has a strong identity in the region, educating more than 552 rehabilitation counselors over a span of more than 50 years. The department’s curriculum is specifically designed to provide both survey and experiential or high impact learning content as related to disability, deaf and hard of hearing issues, and rehabilitation services.

The rehabilitation counseling master’s degree program at ESU is accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. In 1999, ESU was the first university in Kansas to move courses into the digital environment; by 2003 the rehabilitation counseling program had established an online presence, and the full rehabilitation counseling curriculum became available online in 2014.

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