Friday, January 24, 2020

By Victoria Brito

Dr. Bruce Reed and Dr. Elizabeth Palacios
Dr. Bruce Reed, professor and director of the UTRGV School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling, presents Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, clinical professor and graduate coordinator, with a certificate of appreciation for receiving a $1 million grant from the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration. (Courtesy Photo)

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, UTRGV clinical professor in the School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling, is heading an initiative to boost the number of master’s-level students who can get training in vocational rehabilitation (VR) at the university.

Palacios, also the graduate coordinator for Rehabilitation Services and Counseling, is managing a $1 million grant – awarded by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration – that will help fund VR students in the Master of Science program.

“The overall goal is to increase the number of VR counselors that are being put out into the community,” Palacios said.

The students who receive funding from the grant are targeted to specific programs that train them to work in a federal or state agencies as VR counselors.

Over the next five years, UTRGV’s School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling will receive $200,000 annually to fund the effort. UTRGV has received this grant in past funding cycles.

“We will be able to pay tuition and fees for anywhere between seven to 10 students in a semester,” Palacios said.

In addition to tuition and fees, the grant funds a stipend and fees to attend conferences related to VR counseling.

Students receive funds via an application process to determine eligibility based on a list of criteria.

“Over the past decade, more than 35 students have been able to utilize these funds to complete their VR education,” Palacios said.

Besides drawing more students to the program, Palacios said the grant also helps attract more faculty.

“We are trying to move closer to a Tier 1 Research Institution, and this grant helps promote that goal and research,” she said. “People in the field know our program because we receive funding from RSA. We are nationally recognized and ranked, and this grant helps to not only further establish, but also maintain, our reputation.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.