On June 17, 2015, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees appointed Michael J. Leahy as a University Distinguished Professor. Leahy, a recognized leader in rehabilitation counseling, professional competency research and evidence-based practices, is one of 10 MSU professors that have been named with the honor this year.
University Distinguished Professors have been recognized nationally and internationally for the importance of their teaching, research and outreach achievements. They are recommended by President Lou Anna K. Simon and approved by the MSU Board of Trustees.
Leahy has a nearly 30-year career at MSU, which includes him being director or co-director of several research entities and programs. He is director of the Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies; the rehabilitation counseling programs within this office were recently cited as the No. 1 rehabilitation counseling program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in their annual ranking of graduate programs. He is the co-founder and co-director of the RAIND Institute (Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities), a cross-college, interdisciplinary research program. The RAIND Institute includes over 60 scholars from seven colleges at MSU who work together to make important, meaningful and sustainable impact both in disability prevention and in improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities and their families.
Additionally, Leahy was one of the key individuals in conceptualizing and creating the DOCTRID Institute (Daughters of Charity Technology and Research for Intellectual Disability). This international, interdisciplinary institute—comprised of MSU and 16 universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland—collaborate together to provide evidence-based research efforts for those with intellectual disabilities and autism on a global basis.
Leahy’s career also includes having published more than 175 referred journal articles, books, book chapters and research monographs; presented more than 100 research papers; served on many committees and associations—including the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, where he served as president and has received many awards from a variety of organizations. His honors include the Distinguished Faculty Award from MSU in 2004, the Mary E. Switzer Award for Rehabilitation Leadership in 2011 and, most recently, the NCRE Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Education Award in 2015.
More than 120 MSU faculty members have received the University Distinguished Professor title since 1990. That now includes at least 12 current and former College of Education professors.
Individuals holding the professorship receive, in addition to their salary, a stipend of $5,000 per year for five years to support professional activities.