Nation's first OTA Online students graduate from St. Kate's

Robert Gilbert, OTA graduate

Their coursework was online but the celebration was up close and personal for the inaugural group of students in St. Catherine University’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Online program who graduated in December.

Genesis Rehab Services and St. Kate's partnered in 2014 to create the first online occupational therapy assistant program to address the rising need for professional OTAs throughout the country. The first students to complete the program were joined by their families and friends at the Omni Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, for their commencement celebration.

St. Catherine President Andrea Lee, IHM, made the trip to personally confer their degrees. Bringing the prerequisite pomp and circumstance to the event were St. Kate's academic and program leaders, including Colleen Hegranes, University EVP and Provost, Penelope Moyers, dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, and Kathleen Matuska, OT department chair, as well as faculty members Diane Anderson, Rebecca Anderson and Bonnie Riley. Diane Durham, VP of education for Genesis Rehab Services, was also on hand to share in the celebration.

Ginny Stoffel ’77, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), delivered the commencement address. She paid homage to her faculty mentors, Sally Ryan, the first occupational therapy assistant to receive the AOTA Roster of Honor and the first OTA to serve on the AOTA Board of Directors and Sister Genevieve Cummings who also served on the AOTA Board.

“I entered the profession simply believing that national leadership is something one does, not really extraordinary, but something expected of professionals,” she said. “With nearly 40 years of experience as an OT leader, I know now that I had extraordinary mentors as my St. Kate's faculty. I am thankful for how they opened doors for me, and as AOTA president, I try to connect and open doors for many others. I am honored to serve as your OTA Commencement Speaker.”

Student Commencement speaker Robert Gilbert (pictured above) delivered remarks that reflect the heart of a St. Kate’s education, "Patients won't remember what we said to them, but they'll remember what we did for them."

Students completed about 80 percent of their OTA coursework online and attended five-hour weekend skills labs every 3 weeks in Richmond fora total of 700 hours of fieldwork. Of the first 14 students, 11 came from communities in Virginia, two came from Maryland and one attended from West Virginia.

by Julie Michener