Expertise and Dedication Provide Leadership in Autism and Mental Health

December 7th, 2016

Allison Bertram and Erica Kaschalk

Every workplace encounters a time of transition; welcoming new faces while bidding farewell to familiar ones. The RCPD is going through a transition of our own as we warmly welcome Grace (Boyang) Tong as an Autism Spectrum and Psychiatric Disability Specialist, and bid Kelsey Foote farewell as she takes on a new adventure in the field.

Both Grace and Kelsey have proven to be instrumental in the success of MSU students as they work with the RCPD. Director Michael Hudson shares his thoughts: “Our program participants benefit greatly when we employ a purpose-driven staff that is deeply aware and diverse in perspective. Grace and Kelsey exemplify these mission critical characteristics. I look forward to the innovation we will deliver with Grace’s emerging leadership and I remain thankful for Kelsey’s leadership in our autism initiatives.”

Kelsey Foote has been a hardworking and dedicated member to the RCPD team for the past year. Previously working in Respite Services for Young People with Developmental Disabilities, she learned about the BOND Coordinator position opening up from one of her professors. With her interest in assisting those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, she knew the position would be a perfect fit for her.

Kelsey received her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at MSU. After taking a year off, she began her graduate studies with the Rehabilitation Counseling program in 2015. “I’ve always wanted to work in a field where I can truly impact people's lives, so that’s where I started when looking for a master’s program,” Kelsey reflected.

A class during her undergraduate senior year led her to the path she is now on. Kelsey recalled the experience: “I got paired with a young girl with a developmental disability who wanted to learn basketball; it was an amazing experience and sparked my interest in the disability community.” After researching jobs, Kelsey found the Rehabilitation Counseling Program.

At the end of December, Kelsey will take the next step in her career and work as a full-time intern at Michigan Rehabilitation Services. She wants to ultimately continue to work in disability services and would love to return to Michigan State where she can work with the college-age population and assist in the transition to higher education. Kelsey has thoroughly enjoyed her time as the BOND Coordinator and ASD lead, and her experience at the RCPD has advanced her knowledge while showing her the possibilities of the field.


(Left) Grace (Boyang) Tong.  (Right) Kelsey Foote.

Grace (Boyang) Tong joins Team RCPD with a unique experience and strong determination. After finishing her undergraduate degree in Education back in her home country of China, she reflected on her experiences and encounters with the disability community.

“Persons with disabilities [in China] are most often being supported on a material-basis,” Grace explained. “The professional services on independent living and self-sufficiencies are still missing, and the misperceptions about psychiatric disability and ASD are still very challenging.

As a result, Grace became determined to study in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program with MSU’s College of Education. Not only does the College of Ed boast a prestigious reputation, but MSU had even more to offer.

“As an international student, the big reason for me to choose MSU is the supportive and diverse campus environment. [It] has a lot of diversities and has many resources for international students to fit in, such as OISS, writing center services, and program faculties.”

She became a pre-doctoral intern at the RCPD in August of 2015 after earning her master’s degree in Counseling from the College of Education. Grace gained valuable experience working with students affected by chronic health and learning disabilities while also earning her PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling.

Following a national search for candidates, the RCPD hired Grace as a full-time specialist in the fall of 2016 for Psychiatric and Autism Spectrum disabilities. From years of studying and gaining experience in the field, Grace feels prepared and excited for the next step in her career. “I want to implement what I found out in rehabilitation research into clinical practice to ensure the best practice we can offer to our students and employees with disabilities.”