November 2019 – President’s Message


My name is David Rosenthal and this year I have the great honor of assuming the role of NCRE President. Our organization has a rich history, and if we work collectively I know we can continue to achieve great things. At the same time, we are faced with many uncertainties and challenges that I intend to acknowledge and address. My governing philosophy for the coming year is best summed up by the following adage: The best way to predict the future is to create it! Please allow me to introduce myself, share my vision for our work, and outline a few exciting initiatives and events so that we can create NCRE’s future together.

I was born in Madison, WI, and have been working with persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities for over 40 years. I had an opportunity to work in special education classrooms during my first year of high school. By the time I was 15 years old I knew I wanted a career focused on serving individuals with disabilities, some of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society.

I decided to study special education and I worked as a Special Educator in Madison, WI, for three years and Alaska for five years. In Alaska, in addition to Anchorage and Sitka, I taught in Tanana, AK, for three years. This small village near the Arctic Circle has a population of 300 people and 700 dogs – I had my own dog sled and team! While teaching there, I observed graduating seniors leaving the village for the big cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks. Unfortunately, many young adults returned to their community emotionally broken and unsuccessful. They lacked the requisite skills and preparation to succeed in new challenging environments.

This experience spurred my interest in vocational rehabilitation and counseling. Moving from the classroom to community-based settings was a natural evolution of my practice and I returned to Madison, WI, to enter the University of Wisconsin-Madison Master’s degree program to become a rehabilitation counselor. As I was nearing graduation, I was offered work in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. This experience provided me with challenging and enlightening opportunities to work as a rehabilitation counselor in the private sector, and for the Victorian Accident Rehabilitation Commission for over a year. After returning to the United States, I continued to work as a rehabilitation counselor in a variety of clinical settings, including the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT), several hospital environments, and working with private, insurance-based, rehabilitation firms.

These varied experiences culminated in my interest in academia and I entered the Rehabilitation Psychology PhD program at UW-Madison in 1990. I attained my PhD in 1993 and have been a rehabilitation counselor educator ever since. I want to humbly thank my mentors – Fong Chan and Norm Berven.

I have held faculty appointments at Penn State University, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. I became faculty at UW-Madison in 2002 and currently serve as a Professor of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education and Area Chair of our Rehabilitation Psychology Programs. I have previously served as Department Chair (4 years) and the Associate Dean of Curriculum and Global Affairs (4 years).

Many of my colleagues on campus ask, “What is the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE)?” I have two answers to this question. The first is descriptive: Founded in 1955, the NCRE is the premier professional organization of educators dedicated to quality services for persons with disabilities through education and research. We represent institutions of higher education and individual members and are dedicated to the preparation and maintenance of professional standards for individuals who provide service to persons with disabilities.

The second and more meaningful answer speaks to NCRE as a change agent. NCRE represents rehabilitation education and research and provides a forum to develop UNIFIED positions on training priorities, federal funding, and research activities.

Very importantly, NCRE is INDEPENDENT, which allows us to assess the viability of supporting bodies like CACREP and CRCC and make independent decisions. At the same time, we are situated with a need to be COLLABORATIVE. We must recognize the interdependence of accreditation, certification, and education, and we need to work together, while remaining steadfast as stewards of our programs and our rehabilitation counseling curriculum.

These organizational commitments require intentionality and work because our members face real challenges. We are strong in numbers and have more practitioners than ever. However, our influence is weak. We lack political power, national recognition, and often we do not speak with a unified voice. In many ways, we are splintered and chaotic. You and I – we – the members of NCRE, can confront these challenges. We have too much potential to be weak. We can speak with a unified voice. We are too mighty to be splintered. Let us embrace our diversity and find unity in our common purpose. The best way to predict the future is to create it!

I take the responsibility of NCRE President personally. It is personal because we can commit to enhancing our profession and better serving people with disabilities with a UNIFIED voice. It is personal because we must combat the insidious and mean spirited attacks on the most vulnerable in our society coming from the highest offices in the land. We must stand UNITED against the further marginalization of the poor, persons of color, persons of differing sexual preferences, women, and persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities. It is personal because we are committed to assisting those who are not fully included in all aspects of our society, and we SERVE our most vulnerable citizens and individuals.

As NCRE President, I pledge to closely work with our incoming presidents to develop a 3-year plan, and to better harness the leadership and work of our regional representatives and councils. I vow to be active and intentional in cultivating and acculturating organizational leadership. I intend to be a strong leader and govern by consensus whenever possible and by majority when consensus is not achieved. I promise to regularly communicate with our membership and commit to enhancing professional transparency and collaboration.

Some near-term goals include:

Creating a conference planning committee with representation from National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) and Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs  (CACREP).

  • Appointing a NCRE committee to Liaison with CRCC.
  • Establishing NCRE, CRCC, and CACREP monthly conference calls.
  • Including NCRE and CSAVR monthly communication via newsletter.
  • Exploring joint-sponsored or promoted trainings.
  • Advocating to include NCRE in discussions with American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), and the National Board for Certified Counselors, and National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) about portability and national licensure.

I am passionate about the potential in our field and the many talents held by the members of NCRE. Please join me in supporting NCRE’s future by committing to the following areas of focus.

  • We are stewards of our programs and we must commit to being diligent with our rehabilitation counseling CURRICULUM.
  • We must retain our disability emphasis, our vocational identity, and our history of ADVOCACY.
  • We must use our existing models to ensure we are TRAINING holistic, health-informed, practitioners with an emphasis on community, career, and workforce participation.
  • We must be present on governing bodies and boards and ensure REPRESENTATION for NCRE.
  • We must understand our new and future CONSTITUENTS and the effects of WIOA and other emerging issues.
  • We need broader STUDIES that include persons with disabilities, transition youth, and other consumers, that describe our current and future scope of practice and enable us to better speak with a unified voice.
  • We must establish meaningful, intentional RELATIONSHIPS with local disability advocacy groups to create closer alignment with consumer advocacy groups and community leaders.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that we have a rich history and if we work collectively we can continue to achieve great things. To that end, this January, we celebrate 100 years of vocational rehabilitation, and this spring we will host the 20th Spring NCRE conference. And, since the best way to predict the future is to create it, I look forward to seeing you there. It is an honor to serve in the role of NCRE President and thank you for your support.

Warmly and with great appreciation,

David A. Rosenthal, Ph.D., CRC,

National Council on Rehabilitation Education, President

November 2, 2019 – October 31, 2020