|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XXII NUMBER 1 Fall 2006|
Philip Rumrill '89
Philip Rumrill '89 would modestly claim he hasn't written the book on rehabilitation counseling, but his work at Kent State University in Ohio is certainly a chapter worth marking. A native of Westminster, Vermont, Philip is a professor for Kent State's Rehabilitation Counseling Program and the director of its multi-million-dollar Center for Disability Studies, which he founded in 1999.
His time at Keene State helped shape his future passion – as did a condition called bilateral Leber's optic neuropathy, which left him legally blind before he turned 20. After working at an emergency shelter for girls in Antrim, New Hampshire, and assisting fellow students as a tutor with the college's Aspire Program, Philip's path toward psychological and educational counseling intensified.
"I liked the notion of helping people with challenges get to a different and better place in their lives," Philip says.
He graduated from Keene State with a B.A. in psychology and M.A. in education counseling, then earned his Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas. Philip spent a few years as a professor at the University of Wisconsin in its rehabilitation center, and then made his way to Kent State, where, for 10 years, he has been training master's-level practitioners in the fields of physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, psychological, and emotional counseling.
The center's 18 grant-funded projects run the gamut from research on employment discrimination to work with young children with multiple sclerosis to community projects, stipends, and scholarships. Each year 15 or 20 of the center's students graduate and spread out around the country to help fill what Philip calls a serious shortage of rehabilitation counselors. "The disabled are a kind of minority group, and many of them have little or no access to help," he says.
He and his team of counselors are on a mission to increase self-advocacy for people with disabilities. Many individuals faced with physical or mental challenges don't know what rights they have when it comes to their disability. Philip's own experiences have led him to teach about ideals of inclusion, equality of opportunity, and consumer choice.
"They've got to know how to ask and how to invoke their rights," he says.
Outside training and research design, Philip also practices forensic work, appearing in court to offer a vocational opinion on disabilities claims, discrimination cases, and workers compensation hearings.
"I don't know how interesting my work is to anyone other than myself, and maybe my mom," Philip says, noting that she has all six of his textbooks lined up on her kitchen table. But he says he feels like he's making an impact.
"Sometimes it's the smaller things, like helping a guy with MS who can't figure out how to apply for long-term disability, that let me know that I'm making a difference."