Category Archives: News

A Tribute to Tom Seekins

This tribute to RTC:Rural Co-Director Dr. Tom Seekins was originally published in the December 2016 issue of the Montana Psychologist, the newsletter of the Montana Psychological Association.  It is reproduced here with their kind permission. 


Dr. Tom Seekins(1)The following is a tribute to Dr. Tom Seekins, who is retiring from the University of Montana at the end of the academic year. Dr. Seekins, a Professor of Psychology, has served as the Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at the University of Montana since 1993. His research involves rural policy, issues surrounding rural health and disability, and disability within Native American tribes and reservations, among other topics. He is a past recipient of the Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Advocacy in 2001, the Allan Myers award from the Disability Forum of the American Public Health Association in 2006, and the Americans with Disability Act Award from the University of Montana in 2014.

Like so many of the fine faculty in the Montana University System, Tom’s entire corpus of professional work is impossible to capture within the scope of this newsletter. Following, Dr. Seekins speaks of his early experiences working with people with disabilities in Montana and how these early experiences dictated Dr. Seekins’ educational and career path, which subsequently affected the quality and even course of residential treatment for individuals with disabilities in Montana and beyond. It is followed by reflections from two colleagues who have worked with Tom the longest at the University of Montana: Dr. Meg Traci and Dr. Craig Ravesloot.

—Greg R. Machek, Ph.D. | Academic/Scientific Coordinator, Montana Psychological Association


Tom Seekins, Ph.D.Tom Seekins, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at the University of Montana

As I recall, I gave my first professional presentation at the Montana Psychological Association meeting held in Billings about 1975. I had graduated from the University of Montana (UM) with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1973. I had applied to graduate school but (fortunately) was not accepted. Subsequent events proved that to be one of my best setbacks.

Untethered from school and with no direction, I found myself looking for a job. The Sunday Missoulian provided the solution. I applied for a job as a Behavior Modification Therapist at the State institution for the “mentally retarded” in Boulder, Montana. The advertisement said that they were looking for people with a degree in psychology or a related field. I hadn’t been exposed to behavior modification as an undergraduate but still it seemed like there might be a fit. Continue reading

National Housing Workshop: Housing a priority issue for people with disabilities and older adults

RTC:Rural collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D, presenting at the NAS 2016 housing conference

RTC:Rural collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D., presenting at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine December 12, 2016 housing workshop.

RTC staff brought back some important takeaways from the recent national accessible housing workshop in Washington, DC.

RTC:Rural Director Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D. and project collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, recently returned from participating in this event that continued the dialog about the importance of housing for the health and quality of life of people who are aging and people with disabilities.

On December 12th, 2016 Drs. Ravesloot and Ward attended the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) workshop, “Affordable and Accessible Housing for Vulnerable Older Adults and People with Disabilities Living in the Community: A Workshop.”  Dr. Ward presented on a panel entitled “Design Features of Accessible Housing for Older Adults and People with Disabilities” while Dr. Ravesloot was on the planning committee for the event and moderated one of the panels.

RTC:Rural Director Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D., shared the following important takeaways upon his return:

1. Housing is a platform for the health of people with disabilities and older adults.

Continue reading

RTC:Rural researcher completes dissertation focusing on disability and wellbeing

Jennifer Wong headshotThe RTC:Rural celebrates the accomplishments of Research Associate Jennifer Wong, who completed her doctoral dissertation in Experimental Psychology at The University of Montana in December 2016.

Her dissertation, part of the RTC: Rural’s Ecology of Participation project, titled “Purpose and Satisfaction in Activities in Rural Communities Using Ecological Momentary Assessment,” explores the relationships among purpose, satisfaction, and happiness during daily activities as they relate to wellbeing.

“We know there is a difference between people with disabilities and those without impairments,” Wong said, “but not the details of how they’re different, or what is different.” In addition, Dr. Wong is also interested in how wellbeing is associated with how individuals feel in relation to how they fit in their environment.

After analyzing the data, Wong says she “can say with confidence that purpose and satisfaction in daily activities are good predictors of wellbeing.” She also found that satisfaction of daily activities is positively associated with person-environment fit during that moment.

Wong found that those who were happier early in the day also tended to feel more satisfied and feel their activities had more purpose later in the day. Satisfaction early in the day was also linked to a more positive sense of person-environment fit later in the day. These results, said Wong, could be used to develop interventions that aim to increase happiness earlier in the day, which could result in a greater feeling of wellbeing throughout the day.

Dr. Wong’s research adds to RTC:Rural research on Person-Environment Fit, which seeks to understand how characteristics of the individual and environmental features interact and influence community engagement. Continue reading

RTC:Rural “Health My Way” App being designed to increase health and wellness for people in rural communities

App icon for RTC:Rural's "Health My Way" app, which is currently under development

App icon for RTC:Rural’s “Health My Way” app, which is currently under development

One of RTC:Rural’s current projects aims to develop and test a new health-related app called “Health My Way.”

The app is being produced as part of the Ecological Decision Support for Health Promotion project led by project manager Tannis Hargrove, M.S.  The app provides a solution for individuals who live in rural areas and are unable to participate in group workshops on healthy living due to limited transportation or lack of other resources.

The idea and content for the app came from two of RTC:Rural’s previous projects. The first, Living Well With a Disability (LWD), is a health-promotion program that helps participants set and reach quality-of-life goals by developing a healthy lifestyle. The LWD program especially aims to help participants manage secondary health conditions. LWD is a 10- to 12-week program facilitated by a trained workshop facilitator who leads weekly meetings for the group.

The second project, Consumer Self-Managed Use of Rural Healthcare Services (CASM), helped participants connect to available healthcare services in their communities. CASM used some of the goal-setting and health-management content from the LWD program and addressed how to overcome specific barriers to using those resources.

“Health My Way” was developed to provide an alternative for those individuals who could not participate in the LWD program due to logistical or personal challenges.  This tool is especially important for those living in rural communities where the cost and accessibility of transportation can be substantial barriers to participation. The app is meant to be completed one-on-one with a staff member from a local Center for Independent Living, which involves more flexibility in location and time than is afforded by the LWD group meetings. Continue reading

Healthy Community Living– Real People. Real Places.

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We’re excited to share Healthy Community Living (HCL), one of RTC:Rural‘s newest projects! HCL is currently developing some fun classes, and has released a call for photos that we hope you will participate in.

Everyone should have the opportunity to live well and participate fully in their communities. HCL is committed to helping people with disabilities achieve these goals.

HCL mascot, a rainbow-colored cartoon personIn partnership with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and eight Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across the country, HCL is working to develop two classes that will help people with disabilities set and reach personal goals, live healthy lives, and learn skills that support active community living. These two classes, Community Living Skills and Living Well in the Community will encourage people to explore skills for community living both online and in person with peers and allies.

We hope you can help us with one part of this project.  As HCL is pulling together pictures and videos for the classes, we are finding that there is a lack of images that accurately represent people with disabilities in their everyday lives. Help tell the story of healthy community living by sharing photographs of people with and without disabilities at home and in their communities. Join the HCL group’s Flickr page to see the photos from others and upload your own.

Check out the HCL video below for more information! Continue reading

RTC:Rural researcher Andrew Myers recognized by national AUCD network

Andrew Myers

Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Research Associate

Our very own Andrew Myers was featured in the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) 2016 Annual Report! See his story here: Navigating Change by Identifying Needed Supports for Successful Community Living.

The story features his work at the intersection of community participation and design: “Community participation and human behavior is shaped by the social and built environments that we design. The power of these designs can be used to create inclusive communities or exclusive communities. Andrew believes that communities are stronger when we build them together.  When people have the supports they need to live their lives as they choose, they are more resilient and capable of enduring the twists and turns of life. Andrew is one of many people throughout the AUCD network who is committed to ensuring everyone has the supports they need and building a stronger and more inclusive society.”

The AUCD Annual Report covers the activities of the AUCD network during the calendar year, and features stories about leaders in the network who are helping to drive change in the lives of people with disabilities.  Andrew’s was one of only six stories nationwide featured in the 2016 report.

Andrew is a Research Associate with the RTC:Rural, and directs the Ecology of Rural Disability and the Effort Capacity and Choice projects. To find out more about Andrew and these projects, check out his bio page on the RTC:Rural website.

Congratulations to Andrew for being recognized as an AUCD network leader!

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At AUCD 2016, RTC:Rural presented research to help inform VR service delivery for people with disabilities

Catherine Ipsen, Ph.D., Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural and Associate Director of the Rural Institute on Inclusive Communities (RIIC) recently returned from the 2016 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) conference in Washington DC. At the conference, Ipsen delivered a poster presentation to approximately 40 attendees, titled “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services.”

Catherine Ipsen presenting her poster "Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation Services" at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2016 conference in Washington DC.

Catherine Ipsen presenting her poster “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation Services” at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2016 conference in Washington DC.

The conference, “Navigating Change: Building our Future Together,” focused on strong collaborations across programs and political parties to build a future where people with disabilities are able to participate fully in all aspects of life.

The presentation focused on understanding the reasons VR consumers drop out of the VR program before completing services. Ipsen & Goe (2015) tracked 355 consumers as they progressed through VR services. Over the 18-month study period, approximately one third of consumers left because they met their goals, a third left for personal reasons (such as their health or family issues), and a third left because they were dissatisfied with services.

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RTC:Rural participating in national accessible housing workshop

On December 12, 2016, RTC:Rural Director Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D. and project collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D. Associate Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, will participate in a workshop on accessible housing hosted by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS). The day-long workshop is entitled “Housing for Vulnerable Older Adults and People with Disabilities.”

Housing influences community participation, independent living, and overall health and wellbeing, especially for vulnerable populations. In the United States, the demand for accessible and affordable housing for people with disabilities and older adults greatly exceeds the supply. This imbalance will continue to grow over the coming years as the population shifts to include a greater number of older adults and people living with disabilities.

Dr. Ravesloot was approached by the NAS to be on the planning committee to represent the perspective of research in rural communities. “I am pleased that the organizers want to highlight rural, and especially that accessibility, not just affordability, is a main focus,” he said. In addition to providing planning assistance and nominating Dr. Ward to present, Dr. Ravesloot is also moderating one of the panels. Continue reading

New Research and Training Center to promote interventions for community living

A drawing of two cartoon houses. In collaboration with the University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living, the RTC: Rural has been awarded a five-year contract to start the new Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living (RRTC/PICL).

The new RTC will focus on two interventions, called “Home Base” and “Out and About.” The goal of both interventions is to increase the community participation of people with disabilities.

“We are working to level the playing field so people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to get into the community to pursue their goals,” said project Co-Director Craig Ravesloot.

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RTC:Rural thankful for stakeholder engagement at annual APRIL Conference

four APRIL conference participants talk, with RTC Rural table in background

APRIL 2016 Conference, Reno, NV

Each year, RTC:Rural staff are honored to attend the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living’s (APRIL) annual conference.  As long-standing partners with APRIL, we at RTC:Rural learn what matters most to people with disabilities living in rural America. We extend much gratitude to APRIL members for sharing their expertise and wisdom within Independent Living service delivery, as well as their real-life experiences of living in rural communities. The exchange of information and knowledge at this year’s APRIL conference, held October 21-24, 2016 in Reno, NV, was rich!

APRIL logoAfter landing in Reno, NV, we met with eleven of our partners from eight Centers for Independent Living across the nation for a day-long meeting to applaud our Healthy Community Living (HCL) project’s milestones and lay out the goals and objectives for year two of the five year NIDILRR development grant.

Updates on RTC:Rural Research: RTC:Rural Center Co-Director, Craig Ravesloot, and Program Directors Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers, provided an update on our research projects, and engaged attendees for questions and input. Click the links below to view their presentation slides: Continue reading