Working as a public relations specialist for the Center for Persons with Disabilities, Sue Reeves made promotional materials for fundraising efforts to jump-start Aggies Elevated, a new program allowing adults with disabilities to enroll in college courses.

“I caught the vision of what this program could be and how much need there was for a program like it and knew that I wanted to be more involved than I could be as the PR specialist,” Reeves explained.

So she enrolled in USU’s graduate rehabilitation counseling program — which recently landed 10th out of approximately 150 similar programs in U.S. News & World Report — allowing her to get her certification as a counselor. Rehabilitation counseling is not focused on helping those with addictions; it’s a specialization in the counseling field that helps people with disabilities.

She’ll have a much deeper background in disabilities and advocacy when she completes the program, said Reeves, who is fulfilling her internship by working with Aggies Elevated.

Reeves is one of approximately 85 enrolled in the USU program this academic year, said Jared Schultz, director of the rehabilitation counseling program and associate dean for clinical education and community outreach. The rehabilitation counseling program has been in the top 10 of the U.S. News rankings for the last two years — and in the top 15 for the last 15 years.

The latest rankings, Schultz says, are very important not only in USU’s recruitment efforts of students and faculty, but for obtaining grant funding as well. USU tied for the 10th place ranking with San Diego State University and the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Aside from the 2015 rehab counseling ranking, the program’s college, the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, has also enjoyed high rankings from U.S. News & World Report over the years.

Schultz attributes rehab counseling’s top 10 ranking in part to USU’s distance education component — something not all of the nation’s 150 rehab counseling programs have. A shortage of rehab counselors nationwide had USU officials making a “big push” to expand the program’s outreach beyond the Logan campus, he said.

Rehab counseling is “a high-need field” because counselors’ skills are useful in many areas dealing with people with disabilities — from therapy to legal.

According to the program’s website, over 95 percent of graduates receive jobs. Graduates are employed in state public vocational rehabilitation settings, Deseret Industries, university disability resource centers, Veterans Affairs and private nonprofit rehab companies.

Reeves is slated to complete her master’s in 2016 and wants to continue her work at USU with Aggies Elevated. It’s a field the former Midwestern journalist had never imagined pursuing, but one where she is thriving.

“You have to empathize with people and what they’re going through; don’t judge them,” Reeves said, explaining of the key to her approach.

Schultz praised Reeves for her work at CPD and in the rehabilitation counseling program.

“Sue is a fantastic student and has made great strides in her professional development as a counselor,” he said. “She really stands out because she has a natural, empathetic approach to people; she is open to learning new things and challenging herself, and she takes her development as a counseling professional very seriously.”

He noted that Reeves is very similar to many students who “find the profession a bit later in life, feel a strong commitment to working with people with disabilities and decide to pursue that interest.”


kopsahl@hjnews.com

Twitter: KevJourno

Kevin Opsahl is a staff writer and features editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at 435-752-2121 ext. 1016 or by email at kopsahl@hjnews.com