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Rumrill's Scholarship in Overcoming Disabilities Earns Him Award

Posted Sept. 6, 2010

For 15 years at Kent State University, Dr. Phillip Rumrill, professor of Rehabilitation Counseling and Director of the Center for Disability Studies, has worked to help those with disabilities reach their potential in education and employment. His dedication to such research and scholarship has earned him a 2010 Distinguished Scholar Award.

Phillip Rumrill Rumrill was one of three faculty members honored for their contributions to the university and the academy, at the Distinguished Scholar Awards ceremony held in March as part of the University Research Council's Celebration of Scholarship event.

The award recognizes full-time professors who have taught a minimum of five years and are nominated by their tenured or tenure-track colleagues. A committee then selects recipients based on their vitae, references and research accomplishments.

"It really feels like an honor. It's a humbling experience, and it means a lot to be nominated by faculty members," Rumrill says. "Sometimes it's hard to know if you've done well until you hear about things like this. I am gratified to be considered in this way. We have a tremendous amount of talent here with the faculty and graduate students. All the work that led to this award was done with the help of them, and without them I certainly would not have been able to do all of this, and it was fun too."

Rumrill's research includes issues facing students with disabilities in higher education and the study of assistive technology and reasonable accommodations. He also includes among his research interests the topics of chronic illness, career development implications of disability, workplace discrimination, program evaluation, research design and methodology, and self-advocacy strategies for people with disabilities.

Through his research, Rumrill says he works to help others gain a better understanding of the issues those with disabilities face in employment and education, and how such circumstances can be improved and impact on the individual limited.

"I am interested in the impact of people's disabilities in their work and the workplace. For all the improvements we make for people and the more work we do, the more work we realized we have to do," Rumrill says. "The research we do and the knowledge we generate transform and enhance the training our students do."

Much of Rumrill's research can be found in his writings. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 professional journal articles; 40 book chapters, measurement instruments, and training manuals; and nine books titled Employment Issues and Multiple Sclerosis (two editions), Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide for Rehabilitation and Health Care Professionals, Research in Rehabilitation Counseling (two editions), Research in Special Education (two editions), Occupational Neurology, and Emerging Issues in Rehabilitation Counseling. He has also guest edited 15 issues of professional and academic journals in the fields of education and rehabilitation in addition to having management roles on 24 federal and private foundation grants.

"Often, it is the immediate results of scholarship that receive the most attention, the funding, the publication, the keynote address. Certainly, Dr. Rumrill has made a great impact in the field in those arenas and has provided new and innovative approaches to rehabilitation counseling," says Dr. Melody Tankersley, professor of special education in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences, who nominated him for the award. "His curriculum vita is full and impressive. But perhaps one of the most remarkable things that distinguish Phil from other scholars is his generosity with his knowledge. Not only does he share with the field and with his colleagues and students, but he also shares with new researchers and leaders in other disciplines. He takes the time to encourage and guide meaningful support that in our current times seems the greatest gift one could offer another."

Besides running the Center for Disability Studies, which offers a variety of resources and programs to educate faculty and administrators about disability issues, Rumrill can be found engaged in his latest research examining the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

His recent studies involve a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education to research how the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers throughout the country provide information, guidance and training on the ADA.

The information gathered includes patterns of discrimination and employers, types of complaints and how the complaints are handled.

"We've learned a lot about how industries treat people with disabilities," Rumrill says.

He says he hopes to renew the grant that has helped with this five-year project.

"The findings from our research go back into the curriculum, improve the students' practices that they do when they go back into the field. And, there's nothing more gratifying than students coming back and telling you they've applied some of the things they've learned," Rumrill says.

By Erin C. Perkins