Starting her career at Governors State University in 1998 as an adjunct professor when the Occupational Therapy (OT) program was in its infancy, Caren Schranz has spent decades at GSU on a journey that has kept students and clients as her focus.
Going from adjunct to university lecturer, Schranz received her doctorate at Governors State and returned to the classroom as assistant professor, then associate professor, and now, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.
Her enduring commitment to helping others has allowed Schranz to treat pediatric patients the majority of her career through early intervention, at school systems, families’ homes, and private clinics, including her own—Kids Connection Therapy.
Now, she is celebrating recognition from her colleagues and peers. Earlier this year, Schranz earned both tenure at the university and the 2019 OT of the Year honor from the Illinois Occupational Therapy Association.
Two decades after first joining Governors State, Schranz is still inspired to help others experience full and rewarding lives by educating students at Governors State to enter the OT profession.
GSU Newsroom: Can you give some insight to occupational therapy?
Schranz: Occupational Therapy is a profession that helps people with their daily lives and gets them back to doing the things they want to do. We treat the whole person, mind, body, and soul. Occupation is not just a job; it’s what you do to get through your day. It is activities of daily living skills such as bathing, dressing, and hygiene. For a child it could be helping them to successfully participate in play and education. It encompasses social participation. I’m primarily a pediatric therapist and have been my entire career. I have had adult experiences, but mostly pediatric. The population that I’m most fond of working with is birth to 3 years, early intervention. I support children and their families with conditions such as birth injuries, or a congenital birth defects, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome to name a few.
GSU Newsroom: What’s your preference: teaching or practicing?
Schranz: They both satisfy me. I believe the clinical experiences help me be a better teacher. They help me stay current and connected to the real world, and they help me bring experiences into the classroom. Students love to hear about real-life experiences. Both teaching and clinical work offer me the chance to connect with families and in connecting with families, it supports community partnerships for the university and creates experiences for our students. It also contributes to my own scholarship, student research, as well as to the university and OT profession.
GSU Newsroom: What excites you most about your teaching and clinical work in occupational therapy?
Schranz: Imparting knowledge excites me. I’m passionate about what I do. I work really hard to get the students to have the same passion or at least understand why it’s being taught. I think my passion gets the students excited about this population—about pediatrics. I see myself as a role model—professional role model, a clinical role model.
GSU Newsroom: How does your work align with the GSU mission?
Schranz: I’m a born and raised south-suburban girl. I’ve lived in areas all around Governors State and I’ve worked primarily in all the communities connected to GSU. I see that’s where my value lies. Part of the GSU mission is to educate people and for them to be professionals. I feel we do that well here in this program.
In this chair position and faculty position, I have the opportunity to move the next generation of students into the field. I take that very seriously. The field is competitive. There are many other universities that have Occupational Therapy programs, but I’m really proud of this program. We have local students, but we also have students from throughout the state of Illinois as well as out of state. They come here because we have a strong program with established faculty and institution.