Dr. Irmo Marini receives national recognition for achievement in rehabilitation counseling research
Posted: 04/02/2010
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Dr. Irmo Marini, professor and Ph.D. coordinator in the Department of Rehabilitation at The University of Texas-Pan American, is the 2010 recipient of the James F. Garrett Award for a Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Research.

The Garrett Award is presented by the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA) in recognition of excellence in research contributions to rehabilitation counseling over one's career. The award was presented March 21 to Marini at the American Counseling Association's annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.

"It feels good to be recognized for the countless hours I have spent over the last 17 years of writing and research," Marini said.

- Dr. Irmo Marini
According to the chairperson of the ARCA's Research Awards Committee, Joseph E. Keferl, Rh.D., CRC, associate professor in rehabilitation counseling-chemical dependency at Wright State University, the Garrett Award is not one automatically awarded annually.

"It is only bestowed when a nominee clearly demonstrates the highest level of productivity and impact to the field through their research efforts across their career," Keferl wrote in a letter announcing the award to Marini.

Marini, at UTPA since 1996, has more than 65 peer-reviewed journal publications in 24 different national and international journals and 11 book chapters. His co-edited book, "Professional Counselors Desk Reference," published in 2009, has 81 chapters, 95 contributors and is currently in more than 270 libraries around the world. He also has two new contracts for books that will be out in the next two years, both on the psychology of disability.

Marini said what he enjoys most about writing and researching is the knowledge that he is making an educational impact for students and practicing professions outside of the classroom.

"It is always satisfying to receive e-mails from students or professionals across the globe asking for more information regarding a certain publication of mine that they have read. The information makes them better practitioners, which in turn may directly or indirectly have a positive impact on the clients they work within counseling," Marini said.

"I think it is important for students in our classroom to read not only the work of other experts in the field, but to read our own research and recognize that we here at UTPA are cutting-edge experts in the field as well. I believe it's a sense of pride for them as it is with me," Marini added.

The Garrett Award is one of many recognitions Marini has received in his 18-year academic career that began following a spinal cord injury he sustained at age 23 during a 1981 ice hockey game. This was a time when he has said the future he had hoped for of a semi-pro hockey career, which relies on brawn, turned to a commitment to use his brain to make a living. He went on to earn an Honors Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1984 and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology in 1985 from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada. He obtained his Ph.D. in rehabilitation from Auburn University in Alabama in 1992.

"I became more intrinsically interested in rehabilitation psychology and counseling; essentially the question - how do people adjust to different disabilities? Why do some people adjust really well, most others not so well? What are the traits of those who do well despite tremendous odds against them? So I decided to get a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling, and have been exploring these topics ever since," Marini said.

Prior to starting his academic career at Arkansas State University, where he worked from 1992-1996, Marini worked as a student and career counselor, a disabled student specialist, a vocational director in a mental health center and as a project director for the regional Center for Independent Living. Since 1994, Marini has also maintained a private practice in forensic rehabilitation and serves as an expert witness in litigated cases where people have sustained injuries either through medical malpractice or product liability or personal injury.

"Marini's work experience over the past 25 years has undoubtedly contributed to his research interest and knowledge base, and represents the essence of his diverse research and writing agenda," said Dr. Noreen M. Graf, professor in the UTPA Department of Rehabilitation, who nominated Marini for the Garrett Award.

In her nomination Graf also pointed to his extensive mentorship and research work with graduate students, publishing with more than 30 of them, as well as Marini's roles in establishing the master's in rehabilitation counseling program in 1997 and now overseeing UTPA's new doctoral program in rehabilitation counseling which began in fall 2009.

"Irmo was largely responsible for the establishment of the Ph.D. program by developing the proposal, and securing a $750,000 RSA long-term training grant as the principal investigator for the Ph.D. students," she said.

The new Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling Program, which Marini directs, is the first program of its kind in the state. The U.S. News & World Report 2009 edition of America's Best Graduate Schools ranked UTPA's rehabilitation counseling program as one of the top programs in the country. The RSA Doctoral Long-term Training Grant will provide between three to five scholarships per year, which will include full tuition and fees and living expenses for Ph.D. students in rehabilitation counseling.

Among many faculty awards for research and scholarship, Marini was selected to receive the Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Education Award from the National Council on Rehabilitation Education in 2009. That award recognizes not only research and publishing but excellence in teaching and service.

"I've really enjoyed getting students involved in my research because it opens up their world beyond the classroom," Marini said.

His colleague Graf says the quantity of Marini's contributions to the rehabilitation counseling field over the past years is matched only by the quality of his work.

"His work is commonly cited in the works of other rehabilitation counseling professionals, and his mixture of empirical versus conceptual practical application rehabilitation counseling studies provide fellow researchers and practicing counselors' ideas for further research and/or practical counseling implications. Dr. Marini has always maintained that the research we do must have practical application value for our students and practicing counselors," she said.

For more information on the ARCA and the Garrett Award, visit For more information on the Ph.D. program in rehabilitation counseling that Marini oversees, go to