SVRI Spring 2023 Newsletter

New Director of Education, Leadership training updates, and much more!
In this Section

COMMENTS FROM BETHHeadshot of Beth Gaertner

Greetings! My name is Beth Gaertner and I will be stepping into the Director of Education role at the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SVRI). I am thrilled to start this new chapter in my service at SVRI and I look forward to leading the team that provides educational services to the field of vocational rehabilitation.

March 1st marked the beginning of my 8th year at SVRI. I began my journey at SVRI as part of the Eligibility and Order of Selection (EOS) Unit back in 2016. This unit within SVRI focuses on providing eligibility recommendations for the entire state of Wisconsin and several regions in New Hampshire. After working in EOS I had the opportunity to join the research team and participate in Wisconsin PROMISE and Project E3 in an outreach and technical assistance capacity. In more recent years I have been involved with SVRI’s continuing education efforts for rehabilitation professionals and also returning to the EOS unit as we incorporated eligibility recommendations for the state of New Hampshire into our processes. Prior to working at SVRI I spent several years working as a job coach and case manager for Community Support Network in Madison, WI. I am a proud UW – Madison grad and will soon be completing my master’s degree here at UW – Stout.

I look forward to connecting with more service providers, partners, stakeholders, and other rehabilitation professionals in my new role. In my previous experiences, I have been incredibly impressed by the dedication and passion I have seen from professionals in the field. During the coming weeks and months please reach out to me if you would like to partner, collaborate, or just chat with me about SVRI and our educational services. In the meantime, please check out some of the amazing projects that are already in process.

We have recently opened registration on several cohorts for our National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership. The completion of this coursework results in a nationally recognized credential for leaders in the field of vocational rehabilitation. For more information please visit our website.

Spots are still available in the next two sessions of the CRC Examination Preparation Workshop. This course is designed to help individuals prepare to sit for the CRC exam.

Save the date for our 3rd annual Innovation Inspiration Expo! The next conference will be held January 16-18, 2024. The Expo is a 3-day virtual conference that focuses on sharing the creative and innovative practices that are being seen today in the field.

SVRI also has a catalog of webinars available in a wide variety of topics ranging from ethics, assistive technology, leadership, and more. Feel free to browse our catalog.

For those looking for a more customized training approach we are happy to work with your organization and tailor material to your needs.

For more information about SVRI Training, contact Beth at or 715/232-5652


National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership

The National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership started the Spring 2023 Cohort in February. This cohortFreddy Jones receiving award comprises a wide variety of individuals that include directors, managers, and supervisors who work in various vocational rehabilitation industries. We are excited to offer these individuals a collaborative experience in becoming transformational leaders with the Certified Rehabilitation Leader (CRL) accreditation.

After a very successful first year, the NTCTRL graduates have responded with a 99% satisfaction rate. There were individuals who indicated they were assigned new projects or received a pay raise and a promotion. One of the participants from the first cohort received the 2022 Oklahoma Commission for Rehabilitation Services Award. To learn more about the NTCTRL, view the 2022 Annual Report.

In case you missed it, episode two of the Inside Rehabilitation Counseling podcast featured all three NTCTRL program partners. Pam Schlemon, the Executive Director from CRCC spoke with Russ Thelin from the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston and Kyle Walker from SVRI about the Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. Kyle and Russ expressed the need to redefine leadership in rehabilitation counseling, and how the CRL certification will shape the next 100 years of the profession. 

Innovation Inspiration ExpoInnovation Inspiration Expo logo

 The annual Innovation Inspiration Expo was held January 24-26, 2023, with 190 individuals in attendance throughout the three days. There was a total of 26 presentations; 12 were offered live with Q&A sessions after each presentation and there were 14 presentations available for on-demand viewing.

On day one the first keynote speaker, Kyle Walker from SVRI spoke about the need for change in the field of vocational rehabilitation. His presentation was titled The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Reinventing Public Vocational Rehabilitation Through Transformational Innovation. Kyle’s presentation focused on the urgent need for transformational reinvention within the field to stay viable today and in the future. He urged his peers to explore the paradox of innovation and disrupting the status quo.

Keynote speaker Mark Erlichman from the California Department of Rehabilitation along with Trung Le, Shayn Anderson, and Danielle Hackworth spoke about four of California’s innovation projects. Pathways to Success; Ready, Willing and Able (Apprenticeships); Community Resource Navigator; and Expedited Enrollment. The Pathways to Success Project is a Disability Innovation Fund grant which focuses on high-wage, high-demand sectors mostly in STEM occupations. Ready, Willing, and Able is a mentoring apprenticeship program that helps people with disabilities access apprenticeship pathways and secure full-time careers. The Community Resource Navigators (CRN) talked about success stories and how they secured partnerships and resources for this program. And lastly, Expedited Enrollment is based upon trusting a counselor’s professional judgment to complete the review and assessment of existing data as soon as possible. This means enrollment is started the same day when possible or within five days of application.

This year’s final keynote speakers were from the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC), Cristopher Woodfill and Ryan Odland spoke about the history of HKNC and how innovative growth and transformation have been the focus for the past 56 years. They offered information about how under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 the youth-focused summer programs were successfully infused with pre-employment initiatives. They also talked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HKNC programs and services.

A special thank you to our Sponsors:


CSAVR logo Alliance Enterprises logo


Reliable Medical logo National Training Center logo UW-Stout logo


Join the Expo email list to receive updates for the 2024 Innovation Inspiration Expo. 


Eligibility and Order of Selection Unit (EOS)business woman with a laptop

In August 2022, SVRI’s Eligibility Unit entered into a service agreement with The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation New Hampshire. Our initial referral process for New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation (NHVR) started with a small cohort of SVRI Eligibility Staff and two NHVR offices. We have recently expanded to a third office from NHVR and onboarded an additional cohort of SVRI Eligibility Staff. As of August 2022, through February 2023 SVRI has processed 216 eligibility referrals for NHVR and 4,513 for WI DVR.

Learn more about the Eligibility and Order of Selection Unit.

Assistive TechnologyMan with prosthetic leg working on a laptop

SVRI assistive technology is excited to announce our partnership with Mayo Clinic for AT assessments. Mayo Clinic and SVRI are set to conduct assistive technology assessments and make recommendations for employee accommodation requests. This will include travel throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota to meet with individuals, assess their specific needs, and make recommendations. We are very excited to begin this partnership!

Contact Brianne at or (715) 232- 2248 with any questions! Learn more about SVRI’s AT services!

Project SEARCHProject search team

This initiative focuses on preparing young people with significant disabilities for success in competitive integrated employment. Project SEARCH Menomonie is housed at SVRI in the Vocational Rehabilitation Building. This nine-month internship for young adults with disabilities includes hands-on instruction, classroom time that focuses on employability skills, and three rotations at a local business to gain experience and skills for competitive employment.

Connect with Project SEARCH via Facebook


SVRI continues to actively collaborate with system partners on a variety of research, evaluation, and technical assistance projects. We remain committed to learning and innovation, and therefore much of our work involves contributing to strong partnerships with colleagues within the state of Wisconsin and nationally. Updates on two of our current initiatives are as follows:

Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment (VRTAC-QE)VRTAC-QE logo

We enjoy working in close partnership with the QE team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to implement key training and technical support aspects of this national center. The QE Center is funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration and provides technical assistance to vocational rehabilitation (VR) personnel and partners across an array of related topics, including Career Pathways. The Career Pathways mindset helps shift the narrative from a focus on jobs to helping individuals, including those with disabilities, acquire the skills, training, and employment experiences needed to move into high-demand occupations, subsequently achieving higher wages and other quality indicators.

Through the QE Center, SVRI is leading a learning community to develop a Career Pathways Toolkit for use by state VR agencies. Twenty-four members, representing 18 state VR agencies, and additional system partners, are working to develop this resource by Fall 2023.

To access Career Pathways resources through the VRTAC-QE, please visit 

National Symposium on Rehabilitation Counseling: June 7-8, 2023National Symposium 2023 logo

The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment (VRTAC-QE) is hosting this conference to support vocational rehabilitation professionals to upgrade and increase their competencies, skills, and knowledge.

Through information-sharing and collaboration, we seek to increase the capacity of State VR agencies and their affiliates to implement and sustain strategies and practices that support individuals with disabilities to achieve quality employment and career advancement.

This conference will not require a registration fee to attend either in-person or online. Register today

Worker Connection Program

We recently began working closely with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to design and implement a process evaluation for the Worker Connection program being piloted by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

The pilot integrates new Career Navigator positions into the state’s workforce development system to help identify and engage individuals experiencing multiple employment influencers, including disability, by connecting them with existing services and supports. Examples of these supports include training programs, apprenticeships, transportation, childcare programs, long-term care and mental health resources, financial literacy programs and resources, and employment-focused services. The aim is to implement an array of evidence-based practices to better serve these individuals and promote successful employment and career-building outcomes. The process evaluation is being designed to better understand the unique role of the Career Navigators and their impact on participant and systems outcomes.

More information on the DWD Worker Connection program can be found at


Beth GaertnerHeadshot of Beth Gaertner

Beth has accepted the SVRI Director of Education role. She assumed her new duties on March 1, 2023. Beth has worked in many different capacities at SVRI and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to SVRI’s education services. She will continue to work in a dual capacity at EOS while finishing her internship. We are excited to have Beth lead this team!

Mikayla Cox

Mikayla, EOS Office Assistant, has decided not to continue in her role at SVRI due to other demands on her time. Thanks to Mikayla for her hard work in the EOS Unit; we wish her the best!

Welcome to the SVRI Team 

Kristen BarraHeadshot of Kristen Barra

Kristen is a Case Facilitator at the University of Wisconsin-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SVRI), working with applicants to determine eligibility for the State of Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) program. She brings clinical experience from working in a variety of different counseling settings ranging from outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential treatment working with children, adolescents, and adults experiencing a variety of mental health concerns.

Kristen holds a Master of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with formal concentrations in Eating Disorders and Alcohol and other Drug Abuse Counseling, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Psychology with a Minor in Health, Wellness, and Fitness. Kristen was a five-year NCAA student-athlete at UW-Stout on the women’s gymnastics team, earning Senior Scholar Athlete and National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholar Athlete accolades.

She is in the process of obtaining her LPC-IT license to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Wisconsin. She is passionate about playing a small role in helping others through her work. She enjoys being active, sports, hiking, traveling, crafts, and spending time with family and friends, and spoiling her pets Wrigley and Keke.  

Blair WekkinHeadshot of Blair Wekkin

Blair is a Case Facilitator at the University of Wisconsin-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute, working with applicants to determine eligibility for the State of Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation programs. Before joining SVRI, Blair was a Case Manager at Chippewa River Industries assisting individuals with disabilities in reaching their supportive employment goals and gaining new skills. Blair received a bachelor’s degree from UW Stout In Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Social Work. Blair enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Kacey King

Kacey recently started her internship in the Eligibility & Order of Selection Unit. Kacey participated in the Research in the Rotunda event held in Madison, WI at the State Capitol. You can check out Kacey’s presentation: Accessing Mental Health Services Across the Life Course: Barriers & Solutions

Angela SpielmanHeadshot of Angela Spielman

Angela is an Administrative Assistant II at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She provides administrative support and office management duties for the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SVRI). She works closely with the SVRI leadership team, academic departments, and other university department staff to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of SVRI. Angela holds an Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and woodworking.

Years of Service Recognition

Congratulations to the following SVRI staff members who have reached milestones in their employment at UW-Stout:

  • Beth Biederman (20 years)
  • Erin Nierenhausen (20 years)
  • Eric Berlin (5 years)
  • Katelyn Bird (5 years)
  • Christine Kerg (5 years)
  • Karen Smith (5 years)
  • Ko Vang (5 years)

 Thank you to all award recipients for your dedication and service to UW-Stout and SVRI!


Beth BiedermanPhoto of Beth receiving award from Chancellor Frank

The University Staff Appreciation Award for March 2023 was given to Beth Biederman on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Chancellor Frank along with Dean Alm presented the award to Beth for her outstanding work at SVRI and the Clinical Services Center. Her nominees mentioned her exceptional work in each department which is a strong testament to her commitment and excellence to the university community.

Kristy McCormick (EOS Case Facilitator)Photo of Kristy and Josh near Lake Wissota

Congratulations to Kristy and Josh McCormick who were married on July 10th near Lake Wissota, WI. All of SVRI wish them the best and a long and happy life together.

Megan Kelsey (EOS Case Facilitator)

Megan and Derek Kelsey were married on June 18, 2022 in Oshkosh, WI. We wish them the best and a long and happy life together.

Brianne Warner (SVRI Technologist)Photo of Brianne and Mitch near Lake Superior

We are delighted to congratulate Brianne and Mitch Warner who were married in Duluth, MN on February 4, 2023. All of SVRI wish them the best and a long and happy life together. 


New asynchronous online undergraduate degree, B.S. Rehabilitation Services

The University of Wisconsin-Stout, Department of Rehabilitation, Counseling and Human Services is now accepting applications for the Fall 2023 semester.

This is a part-time, 3-year online program targeting working professionals that want to increase their skills and competencies in supporting individuals living with disabilities. Bring your associate degree with you to UW-Stout and earn your Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation Services!

Turn your passion for people into a meaningful career related to counseling, psychiatric rehabilitation, social work, or substance abuse, and create a difference in the lives of those who deserve our support.

Please visit the website for more information:

Contact DeLeana Strohl, Ph.D., LPC, CRC for more information:

715-232-4082 or email:

IT’S EMPLOYMENT, Institute for Community Inclusion, UMASS Boston

IT’S EMPLOYMENT is pleased to offer an online, instructor-led course to support vocational rehabilitation staff and related partners in facilitating improved employment services and outcomes for individuals with intellectual disabilities who receive services through vocational rehabilitation agencies.

The Spring Comprehensive course will run from April 1 – June 9, 2023. In this course, you will learn important knowledge and skills to effectively support job seekers with intellectual disabilities throughout the employment process. You will have opportunities to interact with instructors and other participants through discussion boards, fieldwork assignments, reflections on best practices, and opportunities for practical applications. Register Today