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UW-Madison alumni, faculty, and students sweep ARCA's top Research Awards

April 09, 2019

The American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA) recently announced its annual Research Awards, and teams associated with UW-Madison authored papers receiving first-, second-, and third-place recognition.

ARCA is the flagship professional organization for rehabilitation counselors, with the ARCA Research Awards recognizing and honoring high-quality, empirical research in the field.

UW-Madison’s rehabilitation counseling program is housed within the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Counseling and Special Education (RPSE). This UW-Madison program was rated No. 1 in the nation in March according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Graduate Schools Rankings.

This marks the fifth straight year in which researchers associated with UW–Madison have earned top honors in the ARCA Research Awards competition — with an RPSE alumnus being the lead author each time. Of the first place winners over the past 40 years of these awards, UW-Madison faculty or alumni have been lead authors on 20 of these top papers.

• The first-place award this year is for a paper appearing in the Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin titled, “Flourishing in student veterans with and without service-connected disability: psychometric validation of the Flourishing Scale and exploration of its relationships with personality and disability.” (Read the paper here.) 

The lead author on this report is University of Texas, El Paso faculty member Emre Umucu, who received a Ph.D. from UW-Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education in 2017. Co-authors on the paper with ties to UW–Madison are: RPSE doctoral students Teresa Ann Grenawalt, Antonio Reyes and Beatrice Lee; Associate Professor Tim Tansey; North Texas University faculty member and UW-Madison alumnus Jessica Brooks; Carey Gleason with the Veterans Hospital in Madison; and Professor Emeritus Fong Chan. 

The abstract for this paper explains: “Veterans are an increasing population in postsecondary education. Many student veterans have disabilities affecting their well-being and success in college. This study aims to add to current knowledge on well-being by exploring the relationship between flourishing, personality traits, and service-connected disability among student veterans. … Findings indicate the Flourishing Scale (FS) is a reliable and valid scale that could be used to measure flourishing in student veterans. Detailed findings and their implications for rehabilitation counseling are provided.”

• The second-place ARCA Research Award went to the study, “Assessing college life adjustment of students with disabilities: Application of the PERMA Framework,” which appears in the Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. (Read the study here.)

Tansey is the lead author on this report, with co-authors including: RPSE Associate Professor Susan Miller Smedema; Umucu; Northern Illinois University faculty member and UW-Madison alumnus Kanako Iwanaga; RPSE doctoral student Jia-Rung Wu; Hunter College faculty member and RPSE alum Elizabeth da Silva Cardoso; and University of Illinois faculty member and RPSE alum David Strauser.

This paper’s abstract explains that the “clearest career path to the middle class generally involves access, and completion, of postsecondary education. However, persons with disabilities are less likely to enroll or graduate from college compared with their same-age peers without disabilities. The quality of life of students with disabilities, and their well-being, may be a root cause of low graduation rates. To flourish in life is to both feel good and function effectively. Seligman developed the Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA) model that may be useful in understanding the well-being of individuals. The purpose of this study is to examine the factorial structure of the PERMA model in sample college students with disabilities and then examine the model’s relationship with outcomes important to college adjustment, such as academic achievement, relationship problems, stress, life satisfaction, and core self-evaluation.”

The abstract continues: “Ninety-seven college students with disabilities enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) were recruited for the study. Findings support a one-factor solution for the PERMA measurement model. Furthermore, PERMA was negatively correlated with factors associated with college difficulty and positively associated with factors linked to college success. The PERMA model also demonstrated that well-being mediates the relationship between functional disability and life satisfaction. Implications for rehabilitation researchers and practitioners are reviewed.”

• The third-place ARCA Research Award was for a study appearing in The Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin titled, “A Needs Driven Model of Workplace Social Effectiveness in Adults With Disabilities.” (Read the study here.) 

The lead author on this paper is UW-Madison’s Brian Phillips, an associate professor with the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Co-authors include: RPSE doctoral students Reyes, Alexandra Kriofske Mainella and Rachel Kesselmayer; and RPSE master’s degree alumnus Joseph Jacobson. 

This paper’s abstract reports: “Social effectiveness is central to workplace success. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the factors that influence effectiveness in managing the social requirements of the workplace. This study provides a preliminary analysis of a model of workplace social effectiveness for adults with disabilities. … Results from a structural equation model analysis suggest that both a communal and positive social approach predict workplace social effectiveness. The ability to connect with others partially mediated relationships between both communal and positive approaches and workplace social effectiveness. Although the cross-sectional and self-report nature of this study limits the conclusions that can be drawn, the findings lay a groundwork for further model testing and clinical interventions in rehabilitation counseling services.”