Alum Spotlight: Kristen Marie-Weber Chang OTD’20

Portrait of St. Catherine University alum Kristen Marie-Weber Chang, OTD’20, OTR/L, CLT, in a circle with a purple background.

St. Catherine University alum Kristen Marie-Weber Chang OTD’20, OTR/L, CLT, loves being an occupational therapist. Currently working at HealthPRO Heritage in McLean, Virginia, she says, “The goal of my job is to help people’s lives be a little better. Each intervention is unique to the patient, and that variety gives me energy and enthusiasm for each day! I work hard to make sure my patients know that I’m on their team, and I'm a safe person for them to share their frustrations with. As a result, they are almost always happy to see me and ready to get to work.”

Chang knew she wanted to go back to school to get her Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree. “I enjoyed working, but found that over time I slowly forgot how to find and read research and felt like I was growing stagnant. I wasn’t sure how to grow professionally and needed to shake things up,” she says. Chang had seen St. Kate’s occupational therapy program’s presence both nationally at American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conferences and locally through Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association (MOTA) conferences. “I found that their graduates were well-rounded, skilled clinicians with big hearts, so I had a good impression of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy-Post Professional (OTD-PP) program,” says Chang. Also, her aunt Debra McDermott RN, CNP’07 went back to school at St. Kate's for her Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) degree late in her career and spoke highly of the experience to Chang. As Chang recalls, “I asked around and always heard good things! I made the jump and loved every moment.”

Catering to current OT professionals, the OTD-PP program is primarily taught online with two on-campus experiences. Chang found a community of experienced faculty and enthusiastic learners in her St. Kate’s classes. Chang had classmates from around the country, including Iowa, New York, South Dakota, and Maryland. “I always felt supported emotionally and academically. The faculty and my cohort offered encouragement when I needed it and flexibility when I was struggling, while simultaneously never allowing me to perform less than my full potential,” she says. Chang especially remembers her “Advanced Evidence-Based Practice” OCTH8070 course with Professor Julie Bass, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. Not only was it an academically rigorous course, but Chang also gave birth to her first child during the same semester as the class. “I remember joining one of the online classes while being induced at the hospital because I was so nervous about not being able to keep up! I am eternally grateful to Dr. Bass for helping me fully embrace my identity as a scholar and a mother through her words and actions. I was so worried that I would end up a failure at one or both, but I emerged a stronger person with a better understanding of who I am and what I want.”

Chang feels strongly about St. Kate’s values and mission to “educate women to lead and influence”. She says, “I am proud of being a Katie because I’ve seen the many ways that my cohort and our graduates work to serve the world. There are so many inspirational women here, and it is amazing what they have done!”  

Since graduating from the OTD-PP program, Chang has had several articles accepted for publication, partnered with a nearby university for curriculum development, and presented at multiple universities and state conferences. “Prior to attending St. Kate’s, I would have waved the urge to do big things goodbye. The entire process of the OTD-PP program fostered confidence in myself. My impulse to give things a try is now stronger than my fear of failing, and unlocking that puzzle has opened unimaginable doors professionally and personally. I am so grateful to St. Kate’s for constantly nudging and nurturing this self-discovery in its students.”

Learn more about St. Kate's Occupational Therapy (Post-Professional) (OTD-PP) program