Rehab counseling graduate program ranked nation’s best

Matthew Leonard
Staff Writer

A professional academic journal has ranked VCU’s rehab counseling graduate program the best in the nation based on it’s research output.

An article published by the Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin ranked the top-20 programs nationally by published research from 2000 to 2009. VCU’s program came out on top with a score of 77.6, followed by the next highest score of 55.7.

“We were excited and surprised,” said Amy Armstrong, chairperson and associate professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling. Armstrong first heard about the ranking this past December.

“The other programs were really good. Some of the other schools are higher ranked nationally according to U.S. News and World Report,” Armstrong said. VCU’s department ranks seventh nationally, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Lara Barbir, a second-year graduate student in the department, said Brian McMahon, associate dean for research for the VCU School of Allied Health Professions, played a large role in the success of the research at the department.

“(McMahon) has received a couple million dollars worth of grants for the department,” Barbir said.

Armstrong said finding funding for research is an important part of what the department does. Nationally, the competition for grants has grown stiffer in recent years.

The department also receives seed money from VCU for pilot research, which can lead to stronger grant writing.

As a graduate assistant for the department, Barbir has participated in the grant writing process.

“I was a little nervous,” she said. “They just gave it to me like ‘here you go.’ But it was nice they had that much trust in me.”

The department works alongside other schools at VCU in collaborative research. Different departments will often write grants together and publish the work in tandem.

“We have a strong faculty, one that really values scholarship and research,” Armstrong said.

Research continues in the Rehabilitation Counseling department with inquiries into the well being resilience of people with disabilities, particularly related to veterans and the employment barriers they face.

Armstrong and her peers will also look into the post-traumatic growth and resilience of individuals who experience politically motivated acts of violence, as well as projects dealing with interpersonal processes, deafness and gambling.

Personnel conducted interviews for a new faculty member to join the Rehab Counseling center. Eighty applications were turned in and three of those were invited for an interview, Barbir said.

Barbir said she can see the field has grown in the two years she has worked at VCU

“When I was an undergrad student at U.Va. I didn’t even know what rehab counseling was,” she said. “Hopefully it’s going to expand and more people will be learning about what rehab counseling is.”

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