High school seniors, carefully calculating their next step, spend months frantically searching for and visiting colleges to see what program could change their life. While most can look at graduation rates and alumni success, the occupational therapy class of 2016 at Nazareth College could not, as they were the first students to begin the program, established in 2011. These eleven students knew they had a passion for helping others realize and achieve their personal goals; things that can be difficult for people of all ages, from personal hygiene to housework. They put their faith in Nazareth College, and have been rewarded with amazing personal experiences and job opportunities.
Occupational therapy, while new to Nazareth, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Quickly becoming one of the most promising opportunities for career growth in the country, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says OT jobs are expected to grow 27% over the next 8 years, and U.S. News and World Report ranked occupational therapy #23 on their list of Top 100 jobs. Nazareth’s program is unique; it takes students only 5 years to obtain their Master of Science in Occupational Therapy through an accelerated program, while students at comparable colleges usually take 6.
This doesn’t make things any easier. Dr. Linda Shriber, who founded the program, says, “The occupational therapy program is extensive and rigorous… all students are prepared thoroughly so that they are able to understand the human body and how it works.” Despite the challenges, opportunities are endless and rewarding. “Before they graduate, the OT students provide hands-on clinical evaluation to clients in the community that need services who might not qualify, or whose family might want them to receive additional services,” said Shriber.
Merve Gul, a member of the first graduating class, loved having the opportunity to assist people while at Nazareth. “I definitely enjoyed meeting with clients, both kids and adults. They were very supportive and understanding of the hard work we’ve put in during clinical work.” Gul’s hard work, in combination with the skills she learned at Nazareth, paid off, as she found a job almost immediately after graduating. Gul now works at Mary Cariola Children’s Center, working with children with disabilities ages 3-12. “I have become a competent entry level therapist with the education Nazareth has provided me, and I’m thankful to be a part of this profession.” The majority of graduates from the class of 2016 have found employment, working with both children and adults on what is important to them.
The program has steadily grown since its inception, and Nazareth is now recognized as one of the best schools in the state for occupational therapy. Dr. Shriber is proud of the progress the program has made, stating that it has, “gained a reputation for preparing students to be excellent practitioners, and for the rigor of its program.” With the immense amount of excitement surrounding the program, you can expect to see even more recognition for these professionals in the future.
Images courtesy of Nazareth College Flickr