Meet the Mentors

National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership Instructors
In this Section

person sitting at her laptop outsideLearn more about the team who supports and facilitates the NTCTRL training experience. These individuals are here to instruct, support, and provide guidance and expertise to ensure the success of each participants personal leadership journey. 


Russell J. Thelin, MS, LVRC, CRC

photo of RussExpertise: Vocational Rehabilitation, Organizational Leadership, Policy Development, Youth with Disability, Business Engagement/Relations, Transition and Special Education

Russ is a senior policy fellow at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI). He has 30 years of experience working on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. This includes providing clinical counseling, supervision, executive leadership, and technical assistance within vocational rehabilitation (VR) and other organizations. Russ is a past president of the National Rehabilitation Association of Rehabilitation Leadership. He also oversaw the Utah Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and is a past member of the Utah Statewide Workforce Services Board. In his ICI role, Russ specializes in vocational rehabilitation, agency organizational and cultural change, public policy development, Social Security disability benefits, business engagement for meeting talent needs, and postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. Before joining the ICI, Russ was the Executive Director of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, where he worked for 25 years across a range of roles, including VR counselor, district and regional director, administrative services director, division director, and Executive Director.

He is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor and Utah licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor. He has completed programs in Executive Leadership in Rehabilitation (San Diego State/George Washington University), Emerging Leaders in Rehabilitation (Western Washington University), and Public Management Certification (State of Utah). Russ was presented the Ethical Leadership in Government Award (2014) by the Daniels Fund, Zions Bank, and the University of Utah Center for Public Policy Development. He also received the Garth Eldredge PhD Excellence in Rehabilitation Award (2012) from the Utah Chapter of the National Rehabilitation Association.

Email Russ at:

Kyle J. Walker MRC, CRC, CPM

photo of KyleExpertise: Vocational Rehabilitation, Organizational Leadership, Clinical VR Counselor Supervision, Professional Development & Training, Policy Development, Program Innovation, Pre-Employment Transition Services, Business Engagement/Relations.

Kyle is the Executive Director at the University of Wisconsin-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SVRI). He has over 20 years of experience working on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace and community. Kyle began his professional career with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation where he worked for 16 years in various capacities including as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Counseling Supervisor, District Director, Regional Director, Client Services Director, Administrative Services Director, and as the Director of the Utah Division of Rehabilitation Services. Kyle was actively engaged in the Utah Rehabilitation Association serving on the board for several years and as President in 2002, 2004, and 2009. Kyle was appointed as Director of the Division of Consumer Services within the South Carolina Commission for the Blind in 2015. While in South Carolina Kyle was appointed to serve on the State Advisory Counsel for the Education of Students with Disabilities. Kyle has served on the board of the Rehabilitation Counselor Educators Association (RCEA), and on the board of the Great Lakes Region of the National Rehabilitation Association.

Kyle graduated from Utah State University with a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Kyle is a nationally Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, a Certified Public Manager, and has received numerous awards during his career including the 2014 Utah Governor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership.

Email Kyle at:

Vito J. DeSantis, MPA

photo of VitoExpertise: Vocational Rehabilitation, Services and Programs for People Who Are Blind/Visually Impaired, Program Management, Technology and Service Provision, and Technical Assistance.

Vito joined the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) in 1984. From his early days at the agency, he was instrumental in research and strategic planning for what became a comprehensive reorganization and expansion of CBVI services and programs to meet the evolving needs of consumers and the onset of the technology age. Vito went on to become the manager of CBVI’s Southern Regional Office, and then manager of the agency’s Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center in New Brunswick, NJ. In the latter position, he quickly implemented program modifications that reinforced the need for students with varying degrees of visual impairment to be thoroughly trained and accustomed to using the skills of blindness through the use of sleep shades during instruction. In 2002, Vito was appointed as Executive Director of CVBI, assuming leadership of its three regional offices, rehabilitation training center, and education instructional center. He has served as president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and chaired many of its committees. This council represents all blindness agencies in the United States.

At the Institute for Community Inclusion, Vito is a senior policy and program specialist, and provides technical assistance to state vocational rehabilitation agencies across the nation.

Email Vito at:

Linda Mock, MS

photo of LindaExpertise: Vocational Rehabilitation, Transition, Special Education, Business Engagement, Policy Development, Progressive Employment, and Specialized Services for People Who Are Blind/Visually Impaired.

Linda is a senior policy advisor and program specialist at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI). She brings over 40 years of experience working in vocational rehabilitation (VR) and special education. Linda spent the majority of her career working for the Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB), beginning as a rehabilitation teacher and VR counselor and serving as the agency administrator for her last 12 years there. At OCB, she was instrumental in developing an innovative transition program, placed a strong emphasis on employment, and implemented a computerized caseload management system. She also served as a member of Oregon’s Workforce Investment Board. Linda has experienced the challenges and rewards of leading a VR agency. While an administrator at OCB, she was active with both the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, chairing the employment committees as well as serving as president of both organizations. She also chaired the management services committee of CSAVR. During her presidency of CSAVR, she spearheaded the creation of The NET, an online platform that connects businesses with job seekers with disabilities through the local state VR agency. In her current position with the ICI, Linda provides coaching and technical assistance, and contributes to research.

Email Linda at:

Julisa Cully, Med

photo of JulisaExpertise: Vocational Rehabilitation, Program Development and Management, Research, Knowledge Translation, TANF/Social Welfare, and Mental Health Services and Systems.

Julisa is the knowledge translation program director at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI). She has over
15 years of experience developing, managing, and implementing disability programs.

Julisa has held leadership roles in direct service, program implementation, and research. At the ICI, she oversees research and technical assistance centers focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities and multiple barriers in employment. Julisa is the principal investigator (PI) for the $9M Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center and the $600K Work-Based Learning Supplement. Previously, she was the PI for the ExploreVR Development Center and managed the MA Department of Transitional Assistance Vocational Specialist Initiative, an effort to engage TANF recipients in work-required activities. Julisa has been a project lead on the Vocational Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Demand-Side Strategies and the Vocational Rehabilitation Research and Technical Assistance Center on Vocational Rehabilitation Program Management. Prior to joining the ICI, she managed a clinical program through the Massachusetts Office of Community Corrections. She also was the director of recruitment for psychiatric research at Harvard Medical School.

Email Julisa at:

Neil McNeil

photo of NeilNeil is a Senior Program and Policy Specialist for the Institute for Community Inclusion/University of Massachusetts Boston. During his ten plus years with ICI he has provided technical assistance, delivered training and facilitated communities of practice for state vocational rehabilitation agencies. Projects have included the Job Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center (JDVRTAC) Business Engagement and Customized Training Teams, Transition Pathways Services Project, WINTAC Business Engagement Team the New England Regional TACE Center and the VR-TAC on Quality Management. A career VR professional, Neil worked for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission as a counselor, supervisor, Area Director and Regional Director. He led Area Offices in Quincy, Plymouth and Worcester Massachusetts. As an Area Director, Neil fostered the career development of a large number of VR Counselors and Supervisors. He has led and participated in a number of task forces and initiatives within and outside the Commission focusing on policy development, service system improvements, and staff training.

Neil is a graduate of Providence College and received a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Assumption College.

Email: Neil McNeil

Lou Adams

image of LouLou is the Past President of the National Rehabilitation Association and has provided consulting services nationally as a Training and Technical Assistance Manager for the Workforce Innovation National Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) and the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance – Quality Management (VRTAC-QM) Grants. His diverse experiences in over 30 years of collaborating with individuals with disabilities also include having served as the Training and Technical Assistance Director for the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services Technical Assistance Center and as an independent consultant to the South Korean Department of Labor. Previous to his consulting career Lou was the Bureau Administrator of the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services.

Lou is a published author in the areas of Complexity Theory applied to leadership and management and on the topics of quality and value chain analysis applied to Vocational Rehabilitation. With a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and a Master’s in Counseling, from Central Michigan University, Lou is interested in organizational culture and how values influence professional behavior and performance outcomes.

Lou and his wife Dixie live on a small lake in North Central Michigan where Lou enjoys serving on the local Regional Education Services District board and Dixie serves on the board of a small museum and a local Arts and Humanities non-profit. Known for his calm, unruffled demeanor, Lou is the kind of quiet leader who works for lasting change and not the flashy fads of the moment. He and his wife enjoy spending time with their large, blended family.

Janet LaBreck


image of JanetKnown as a national thought leader and keynote speaker, Janet L. LaBreck was nominated by President Barrack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate in 2013 as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) within the United States Department of Education.  The Rehabilitation Services Administration was established to provide leadership and resources to assist states and other agencies providing vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, independence and integration into the community.

Ms. LaBreck began her professional career in 1985 with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), where she also served as Commissioner during the last six years of her tenure.  She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the New England College of Optometry (NECO) for her innovative leadership and commitment to inclusive partnerships.  Her commitment and dedication in the field of blindness was recently honored with the dedication of the Janet L. LaBreck Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation at the New England College of Optometry.

Ms. LaBreck is a member of the Board of Trustees for both the Perkins School for the Blind and the National Braille Press.  She is President of Janet L. LaBreck Consulting, LLC, as well as a Principal Partner with Synergy Consulting Partners, LLC.

Greg Schmieg, Ph.D.


image of GregA mission-driven and results-oriented professional, Dr. Greg Schmieg is committed to excellence and success in all endeavors.  He has served as a chief executive for more than twenty-five years in both the private and public sector.  His experience includes appointment by the Governor as the first executive director of a newly created state agency, the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, with more than 1,500 state employees and a $200 million budget.  He also served as the executive director for the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, originally founded by President Franklin Roosevelt and internationally known for the treatment of polio, where he was responsible for transforming the organization into the 21st century.

His private sector experience includes serving as the chief executive officer for hospitals in Wisconsin, Texas and Georgia for a Fortune 25 corporation, where he was responsible for the overall day-to-day operations, product line development, and licensure and accreditation.  His particular areas of personal interest include transformational leadership and leadership development, stakeholder and partner development, and strategic performance analysis and plan execution.  He is a published author on such topics as private-public partnerships and wounded warriors.

Dr. Schmieg is a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the United States Navy League Award.  He has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Southern Illinois University and has his Ph.D. in Rehabilitation and Special Education from Auburn University.

Jimmy Wilson


image of JimmyMr. Jimmy Wilson is a results-driven financial executive with a flair for innovation. He utilizes an aggressive problem-solving approach coupled with measured risk-taking to drive bottom-line improvements and organizational advancement. Jimmy was initially trained as an auditor with Deloitte and has served as a Senior Financial Executive in a variety of private sector settings. With a reputation for building highly successful, collaborative financial teams, Jimmy has served in Controllerships for mid-sized leveraged startup operations and spent twenty-three years as a Chief Financial Officer with one of the nation’s leading multi-national financial service organizations. With a passion for excellence and expanding boundaries,  Jimmy is known for his ability to develop clear visions, for being patient yet persistent, knowing how to ask the tough questions, and for building strong relationships based on trust.

As Chief Financial Officer and later Chief Operating Officer of Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, it was his ability to develop and implement a clear strategic vision that allowed him to build one of Georgia’s strongest financial teams. His transformative leadership skills were crucial in mobilizing the agency to develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan to assist individuals with disabilities into competitive jobs.

Mr. Wilson focuses on establishing workplace cultures that are performance driven and values people, creativity, and continuous improvement. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force. Jimmy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Georgia State University and is an active CPA.