OT department proud of their GovState degrees
It’s a mini reunion every time Governors State University’s (GovState) Occupational Therapy (OT) faculty members gather in a room. That’s because all six share one very important distinction: each one graduated with at least one degree from GovState, forming an alumni group with a very important connection.
All six are graduates of GovState’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, a post-professional advanced degree they earned while practicing as occupational therapy (OT) clinicians.
The post-professional doctorate program was introduced in 2009, and Caren Schranz, now department chair, was the first to earn the degree from GovState in 2011. “It was a way to advance my clinical status while preparing to move into academia,” she said. “For me as a grad student, it was highly personalized and supportive.”
The program has attracted OT professionals who want to advance their clinical studies and/or open new professional doors, like transitioning into academia. Those were among the reasons that Luther King, assistant professor, enrolled in the program. “The clear advantage to pursuing the degree was gaining research experience and the ability to pursue study in what you love,” he said.
“(As a clinician) it’s easy to get lost in your everyday routine. The program helped me revisit why we do what we do—which is to potentially have a huge impact on someone’s life.”
King taught at the University of Florida after receiving his GovState doctorate in 2016. He returned to his alma mater as a faculty member in 2020, and now teaches foundational courses in the master’s program. Among his areas of expertise in OT is helping patients drive again after their recovery. Most importantly, he reminds his students of their impactful role in their patients’ lives. “We change their lives for the better—don’t take that for granted.”
Assistant professor Frank Czuba pursued his doctorate at GovState because “healthcare is constantly evolving and in order to be the most effective leader and manager, I needed to challenge myself to explore new ideas and identify innovative solutions to healthcare’s complex challenges.”
During his studies, Czuba said he was able to build effective skills in leadership, project management and research. He also wanted to shift his focus to mentoring and teaching, something he found meaningful in his profession but not possible in a rehab managerial role.
“The doctoral program challenged me to develop my teaching skills while aligning my philosophy with the innovations occurring in the OT profession and healthcare industry,” he said. “Now I strive to mentor the next generation of occupational therapists—so they become the highest quality clinicians, professionals, teachers and managers.”
Schranz said that the OT faculty feel a sense of unity, which enhances the program for students. “They’re a close-knit, highly qualified and diverse faculty,” she said. “It supports our University’s vision as a model of academic diversity.”
The post-professional doctorate program has been on hold since 2019, primarily due to State of Illinois budget issues, and has been redesigned to be fully online, said Schranz. “We’ve designed it with four key tenets: leadership, advocacy, academia and research.”
The revamped degree program will restart in Spring 2024 and the faculty who graduated from the previous iteration will be teaching in this version. Added Schranz: “Our faculty all have different interests in the OT world but every one of them has been impacted by their post-professional doctorate and how it’s meaningful to their students.”