Tammy Smith, Florida

2021 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate

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How many years have you been involved in integrated employment/supported employment?

23 years

The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:

University Staff

Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in integrated employment/supported employment.

I began working in rehabilitation services 22 years ago as a direct service professional providing supported employment services for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. In 2000, I was hired as a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor and then promoted to a Program Administrator position for the State Blind Services program where I led a transition program that is still operating 19 years later. In 2003, I was hired as the Employment Program Manager by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council. During my time with the Council, I was recruited by the Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to lead the Consumer Directed Care unit. Our team revived the failing CDC+ program into a sustainable option for individuals with developmental disabilities. After earning a Ph.D., I moved into academia where I have remained for the past 14 years. In my current position as an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida, I teach aspiring master’s level rehabilitation students to be multiculturally competent professionals and I am Co-Director of our RSA Scholarship Program. Additionally, I am a researcher with focus on the development and implementation of innovative, customized employment models to promote full inclusion and self-determination for people with disabilities. In 2014, I received the National APSE Research Award in recognition of my contributions to the field. I developed the ACCESS CE intervention and associated fidelity instrument, and my team is testing its feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy with adults with autism through a National Institutes of Health grant. We are also testing ACCESS with Veterans with spinal cord injuries through a multi-state, federally funded grant. My diverse experience has provided a multifaceted view of the rehabilitation system which has helped me to identify pressing needs within the field and to develop, test, and implement programs to address these needs.

How will you be able to contribute to the growth and improvement of APSE as an organization?

I have been a staunch advocate for the Employment First (EF) movement since I first read the White Paper: Establishing a National Employment First Agenda (Niemiec, Owens & Lavin, 2009). EF philosophy, mission, and values have guided my work as an educator, researcher, and advocate for people with disabilities. I have been a member of APSE for many years serving as a Board member of the Florida Chapter for the past six years; the past five years in the role of Vice President. Our chapter partners with the Multiagency Network for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities (SEDNET) to host the Making Wellness a Priority: Healthy Minds and Healthy Futures annual conference. I serve on the Speakers, Presentations, and Program Committee for the conference. Additionally, I Chair the Future Leader’s in Employment First (FLEF) Scholarship Program. Our charge is to provide youth with an opportunity to connect with self-advocates, professionals, businesses, and leaders supporting EF initiatives. FLEF awardees have opportunities to build self-advocacy skills, develop leadership skills, influence policy changes, and add their voice to the EF movement through participation in State and National APSE conferences and on FLAPSE’s newly conceptualized Youth Board. As an At-Large member of the National APSE Board, I will contribute to the growth and improvement of the organization through enthusiastic and dedicated contribution to the Board and associated committees. I will utilize my expertise to actively support initiatives that support the mission of advancing employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities. I will work with the Board and APSE members to create positive change within rehabilitation and workforce systems through advocacy and system change efforts that improve policies, programs, access, full inclusion, and social justice for persons with disabilities. Additionally, I will promote membership recruitment campaigns that inform and engage the community in support of EF.


Tammy Jorgensen Smith has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education with a Specialization in Leadership and a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Services. She has been a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) since 1999. Dr. Smith joined the University of South Florida in 2007. She is currently a tenured Associate Professor in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program and remains formally affiliated with the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities – a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, through research grants. Dr. Smith has focused her career on the research and implementation of innovative, best practice models that are designed to promote full inclusion for individuals with disabilities and on activities that promote self-determination and quality in all aspects of life. Her primary focus is facilitating access to customized employment (CE) strategies for individuals with complex disabilities. Dr. Smith’s expertise is in customized employment strategies, vocational rehabilitation, transition, and community integration.

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