University of Iowa

Vilia Tarvydas

Vilia Tarvydas, black and white photograph
After more than 30 years working in a clinical setting and 24 years serving the College of Education, Vilia Tarvydas is retiring. She came to the University of Iowa dedicated to improving ethics in the field of rehabilitation counseling, and during her time in the college she was an esteemed professor and DEO in the department of Rehabilitation and Counselor Education.

During her time at the college, Tarvydas built a nationally top-ranked rehabilitation and counselor education program that has set the standard for other universities across the globe. Her career has not only shaped the college and its students, but the profession itself.

Former colleague, Dennis Maki, credits Tarvydas’ successful career in part to her work ethic.

“Dr. Tarvydas’ professional leadership experiences are a testament to her willingness to work hard and follow through in a timely manner,” Maki says. “She also has a commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and respectfulness of the opinions of others, in combination with her thoughtful, insightful manner.”

The inspiration for Tarvydas’ work at the college came from witnessing the outcomes of individuals — especially society’s most underprivileged and undervalued — with ongoing medical struggles who were in need of assistance. Additionally, much of Tarvydas career has been spent advocating for and improving ethics so that clinical practice would be improved.

“I wanted to influence both clinical and ethical standards of practice,” says Tarvydas.

Tarvydas decided that she could have a greater impact on the field of rehabilitation counseling by working in an academic setting.

“While I could influence the practice and get a lot of satisfaction through direct service of units, which I was doing, it was not the same platform as being able to come to a research university and through writing and training make more lasting changes that needed to be made,” Tarvydas says.

Through Tarvydas’ work at the college, as well as the many hours spent traveling to clinics to consult physicians and clients, she influenced not only the practice of rehabilitation counseling, but the ethics and standards of the field.

“I didn’t just write in journals, I went out and got my hands dirty,” Tarvydas says. “Turns out I have a knack for writing standards. I was day in and day out in the clinics seeing ethical train wrecks, like an ethics traffic cop.”

As she retires, the impact of her work has resulted in a healthier practice environment and more educated governance.

“In every one of these rules or standards, or pieces of my ethical decision-making model, I can see the face of either a patient, a client, a practitioner, or a family member, and an actual case that I was involved with in some way,” Tarvydas says.

In addition to being an exceptional scholar, educator, and counselor, Tarvydas is the recipient of multiple prestigious honors, including the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association’s James F. Garrett Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Research Award and the National Council on Rehabilitation Education’s Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Award. She also published many highly regarded texts and is one of the foremost authorities in her field.