SVRI Fall 2021 Newsletter

SVRI's Emerging Initiatives in VR
In this Section

photo of Kyle Walker

The University of Wisconsin-Stout’s campus is alive again with students and faculty emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic’s social isolation and forced online instruction. While we are far from being back to “normal” a new normal appears to be forming and a new equilibrium appears to be setting in. The same is true at SVRI.

SVRI spent the last two years engaged in a strategic planning process that will reshape the work of the Institute. While the strategic planning process was progressing SVRI was also very busy putting in foundations that will support our future building efforts. In this newsletter we will introduce several emerging initiatives that SVRI hopes will impact the profession. We are very proud of these new initiatives.


Leadership Academy Logo

In partnership with UMass-Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), SVRI is establishing a new National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership (NTCTRL). The center will be the home of a new Certified Rehabilitation Leader (CRL) training program that will result in a nationally recognized credential. The center will also become a vehicle for driving research to identify evidence-based leadership practices validated by improved state agency performance. The vision for the center includes becoming a national repository of rehabilitation leadership tools, practices, and expertise.  

The NTCTRL prepares vocational rehabilitation agency leaders to support VR counseling professionals and improve services that assist people with disabilities in career development and community inclusion.

A team of VR leaders with decades of experience developed the NTCTRL training curriculum with support from CRCC, ICI, and SVRI. The training curriculum focuses on six core leadership domains:

  1. purpose-driven leadership;
  2. conscious leadership;
  3. cultural leadership;
  4. creative leadership;
  5. inspirational leadership; and
  6. collaborative leadership.

“The training curriculum has been designed to develop leaders who have the ability to transform organizations to advance the rehabilitation counseling profession and improve system outcomes. This partnership with ICI and CRCC will substantially contribute to the advancement of the profession of rehabilitation counseling.”

– Kyle Walker

To learn more, visit our website at 


SVRI is hosting the inaugural Innovation Inspiration Expo 2022 on January 24-26 virtually.

Some of the most innovative and creative solutions come from professionals who work directly with consumers and recognize needs, opportunities, and new possibilities. This expo is designed to give frontline VR professionals a forum to share new ideas, innovative solutions, and creative projects with others in the field. It is also an opportunity to be inspired by peers to think differently, reconnect with creative abilities, and revitalize professional commitment by seeing the field from an energizing new perspective.

We are excited to offer each registrant their own electronic copy of “Stop Decorating the Fish”, written by one of our keynote speakers, Kristen Cox. Kristen is presenting about innovation in the government sector and innovation in workforce development. Our next keynote speaker is Steve Wooderson from CSAVR, who is presenting on his experiences and perspective on innovation in the public VR program. Our third keynote speaker, Duane Mayes, is a UW-Stout Alumna from the Alaska Department of Labor; Duane is presenting on remembering to never forget what shaped you, what has worked well for you over the years, and what must be done to align VR with the future.

Visit our Expo website to browse the listing of 32 presentations that will be available on demand starting January 24th with opportunities for discussion and collaboration with your peers during the three-day conference. 



Project SEARCH logoThis fall SVRI partnered with Project SEARCH to provide work-based learning experiences and career exploration to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Project SEARCH provides real-life work-based learning experiences through unpaid internships that are combined with employability skills instruction, soft-skills training, and independent-living skills training essential to obtaining and maintaining successful employment. Interns learn and apply skills including teamwork, workplace safety, work ethic, understanding and meeting employer performance and behavior expectations, interpersonal communications, technology, self-advocacy, and financial literacy. The yearlong program culminates in supported job development and placement in a career pathway consistent with individual interests, skills, and abilities.

About a dozen students have enrolled and are learning employability skills in a classroom setting as well as job skills while participating in internships on campus. Internships are at the Memorial Student Center and Merle M. Price Commons doing general custodial work and helping to set up conference rooms, University Archives and Area Research Center scanning archive materials, and Facilities Management for custodial and maintenance work.

The UW-Stout Project SEARCH is staffed by special education teachers and qualified work skills trainers provided by partner organizations who work directly with the interns. Participant costs are funded by the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and program costs are funded by the participating school districts and other partner organizations. The UW-Stout Project SEARCH is a partnership of the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, L.E. Phillips Career Development Center in Eau Claire, multiple long-term support provider organizations, and several local school districts.


Heidi Decker-Maurer

Heidi's last day working at SVRI was September 14th; she started a full-time Training & Technical Assistance Manager position at Employment Resources, Inc. (ERI) on September 20th. We wish Heidi well and hope to work with her in the future in various partnerships between SVRI and ERI.

SVRI would also like to introduce three new staff hires. 

Mandy TrautmannPhoto of Mandy Trautmann

Mandy is a Case Facilitator at SVRI, working with applicants to determine eligibility for the State of Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) program. Mandy is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, has a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She enjoys many sports and is the Head Volleyball Coach at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Chela CeaPhoto of Chela Cea

Chela serves as an Editor at SVRI, providing technical writing and editing support to produce technical assistance guides, implementation manuals, toolkits, lesson plans, and plain language summaries on vocational rehabilitation topics, as well as grant proposals. She is a member of the UW-Stout Academic Staff Senate, serving on the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

Chela brings over a dozen years of editing experience to SVRI, including eight years with the United Nations. There, she collaborated with technical writers, program managers, and graphic designers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to publish high-quality training documents, marketing materials, and impact reports. Chela holds a Master of Arts degree from Ohio University in International Affairs and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Biology and Humanistic Studies. She is fluent in Spanish, has lived in seven countries, and has traveled to over 50.

Brianne MoonPhoto of Brianne Moon

Brianne is an Assistive Technologist at SVRI. In that role, she performs assistive technology assessments for a variety of individuals in need, including modifications of the environment, use of devices, and specialized training.

Prior to joining SVRI, Brianne worked for three years as a certified occupational therapy assistant in a charter school in Duluth, Minnesota. She is working on a Master of Science degree in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services from California State University-Northridge. Brianne has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Health Education and Promotion from University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant from St. Catherine University. In her free time, Brianne enjoys traveling whenever possible, spending time with family and friends, and all sports.


person with prosthetic leg sitting at a desk with a laptop openA.T. SERVICES ARE BACK IN ACTION

With the recent hire of our new Assistive Technologist, Brianne Moon, our AT services are back and open for referrals! Assistive technology is any product or equipment used to maintain or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. Brianne will be providing virtual or on-site assessments for office and industrial ergonomics, computer access, sensory (hearing & vision) technology, job site accommodations, and home modifications. 

Contact SVRI for DVR eligibility or please reach out to Brianne at or (715) 232- 2248 with any questions! 

Learn more about our AT services!


Since 2016 SVRI has been responsible for the Eligibility Determination process for Wisconsin’s Vocational Rehabilitation program. Some of the results from this ongoing partnership are as follows:

  • Creating a highly specialized unit for eligibility determinations.
  • Decreasing the average time for eligibility determination from 35 days to 23 days – a 34% reduction.
  • Reallocating an average of over 34 thousand work hours per year from eligibility determinations to vocational guidance and counseling. 
  • Decreasing per case actual cost by 5% over five years.
  • Increasing overall cost efficiency an average of 13% per year.

Learn more about EOS


SVRI is committed to providing affordable professional development opportunities for individuals in vocational rehabilitation, human resources, and management. Throughout 2021, the SVRI training team has collaborated with professionals in the field as well as highly trained staff to create an extensive catalog of on-demand webinars that focus on ethics, general VR counseling, leadership, and assistive technology. Catalog of webinars

Learn more about SVRI Training


The University of Wisconsin-Stout leadership has reached out to SVRI to obtain support from within our operations team. The following staff transitions are being made to support other University units and to further integrate SVRI on campus.

Beth Biederman has accepted a part-time reassignment at the UW-Stout Clinical Services Center (CSC). She will be working at the CSC on Monday and Tuesday and at SVRI Wednesday through Friday.

Callie Kassow and Chela Cea have accepted part-time assignments with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) working to support campus-wide research and grant opportunities.

Deb Hulleman has accepted a part-time assignment with the Graduate School to assist with creating new processes and procedures to improve business operations.



www.peqatac.orPEQA logog

The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center on Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance (PEQA) team worked closely with vocational rehabilitation (VR) personnel to design and implement capstone projects within their state agencies. Each capstone project illustrates innovative inquiry, and the application of program evaluation and quality assurance skills and knowledge within VR programs. Participants worked closely with research mentors, and designed projects to inform process and policy improvements within their organization.

The PEQA special issue is available at RCEJ Issue 10, Vol 2. The RCEJ is the flagship journal of the Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Association (RCEA), a division of The National Rehabilitation Association, and is focused on promoting knowledge translation to bridge the gap between research and practice. Most of the completed participant capstone projects will be featured in this online, open-access journal. In addition to the introduction and conceptual pieces,15 capstone articles are currently available "live", and the remaining articles will be available in the weeks to come. You are welcome to check the site regularly to access the new articles as they become available.

The Technical Assistance Center on Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance (TAC-PEQA) was funded through a grant from the Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) award number PR#H263B150004.


SVRI is a partner with The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment (VRTAC-QE). The VRTAC-QE goal is to increase the knowledge and skills of state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and community partners that help people with disabilities achieve quality employment and career advancement, with emphasis on competitive integrated employment. Learn more about VRTAC-QE

To get started with VRTAC-QE, create an account and gain access to the multitude of trainings offered that highlight ways to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities:

The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment (VRTAC-QE) is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (CFDA H264-K200003)