Cal U. program gets $1.9 million grant

September 27, 2017
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Elizabeth Gruber
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Sheri Boyle

Elizabeth Gruber and Sheri Boyle, professors at California University of Pennsylvania,  have been awarded a $1.9 million federal grant for a graduate school project that intends to enhance the health of rural residents.

The grant, from the Health Resources and Services Administration, will benefit grad students in the counselor education and social work programs and be administered over four years. These master's candidates are studying to become school counselors, mental health counselors and social work practitioners.

Gruber and Boyle wrote the grant proposal and are heading the project, which is designed to focus on helping residents medically underserved areas in five Southwestern Pennsylvania counties: Washington, Greene, Fayette, Allegheny and Westmoreland.

Funding from HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a $10,000 stipend for 30 students each year – $300,000 overall. The funding will help them work through their lengthy field placements, or internships. Those in the counselor education program have to complete a 600-hour internship, while social work program students have to finish 660 hours.

“Our graduate students already are out working in rural settings, but their internships have been unpaid,” Gruber said in a news release. “These stipends will benefit our students and relieve the additional financial burden of field placements, such as lost income, child-care and transportation costs.”

Gruber is a professor in the Counselor Education Department. Boyle is chairwoman of the Social Work Department.

The university said in a news release that the “high poverty rate and prevalence of alcohol and opioid abuse, among other factors (in those counties), have created a need for more behavioral and mental-health care practitioners to work with residents.”

A number of Cal U. students are from the five counties that are the focus of the project, and some may struggle with the cost of pursuing an advanced degree.

For information about the HRSA project, contact Gruber at or Boyle at



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