Marquette counseling professor awarded $750,000 grant to expand rehabilitation, mental health education program

Oct. 17, 2019

dr. lee za ong headshotMILWAUKEE — Dr. Lee Za Ong, assistant professor of counselor education and counseling psychology in the College of Education at Marquette University, has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for her project,“Increasing the Supply and Improving the Skills of Qualified Rehabilitation Counselors with Mental Illness Specialties in Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin.” 

The project coincides with the college’s new master’s-level Clinical Mental Health Counseling-Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Specialization program. The program’s curriculum is based on evidence- and competency-based practices in the mental illness rehabilitation specialty area. It aims to train scholars in rehabilitation counseling, with a specialty in mental health, to work with individuals with disabilities.

Ong’s project, with funds from the grant over a five-year period, will recruit and enroll at least 25 master’s degree scholars from diverse background and provide high-quality instruction to the scholars in clinical classes. 

“Looking forward, this grant will connect so many people experiencing mental illness in underserved communities to clinical rehabilitation counseling professional in the community,” Ong said. “The need for rehabilitation counselors in Wisconsin, particularly in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, is great.”

The addition of Marquette’s program will significantly increase the supply of personnel trained to work with people with disabilities, particularly those with mental illnesses.

“We are proud of Dr. Ong’s work and her commitment to ensuring the college is producing counselors with the expertise needed to best serve those in our communities now and in the future,” College of Education Dean Bill Henk said. “Her project and the college’s expanded program will have a positive, lasting impact.”

In addition, Ong’s grant will help the program continue cultivating already-established collaborations with Wisconsin Vocational Rehabilitation and related agencies, so that the scholars — who will receive six credits of tuition reimbursement per semester — are employed within six months of graduation.

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Shelby Williamson

Shelby is a senior communication specialist in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Shelby at (414) 288-6712 or