Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, has announced a new Occupational Therapy (OT) Masters of Science program that can be completed in two years in its College of Allied Health. The OT program will join other rehabilitative therapeutic practices at Harding, including Cardiac Function & Interventional Technology; Physical Therapy; Physician Assistant Studies; Speech Language Pathology; and Strength & Conditioning.

In the midst of a healthcare workforce shortage and the lasting disruptions of COVID-19, Harding saw increased demand for compassionate, high-level care in Arkansas communities and beyond. Harding developed the OT program to meet that need.

“We’re proud to unveil this huge undertaking by Harding’s staff and College of Allied Health faculty,” says Dean for Allied Health and Associate Provost for Health Sciences at Harding Michael McGalliard, ScD, PT, COMT. “This interest really speaks to the hearts of our incredible leadership team at Harding and their desire to mend the brokenness left by staff shortages in the healthcare industry.”

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During the university’s research into programs of this nature, educators discovered that many students are seeking programs with a focus on becoming OT practitioners and there were no existing masters programs in Arkansas. Completing the program in two years enables students to enter the workforce sooner, earn higher wages, and pay off student loans more quickly, making it a financially sound choice compared to longer programs.

Cathy Acre, EdD, has been named program director of the OT program, bringing 30 years of experience in OT and higher education. Joining her are Paige Spillman and Melodie Mauney, both of whom are currently in doctoral programs. A fourth full-time OT faculty member, Jill Knight, will join in 2024.

“This is more than just an academic pursuit,” says Acre, occupational therapy program director at Harding. “Our students are not just receiving a high-quality Christian education, they’re further shaping their hearts and compassion to help people in need.”

The program is designed to blend Kolb’s experiential model of learning with transformative educational theory and adult learning principles. Harding’s program specifically provides students with the education necessary to become OT practitioners while experiencing a shared sense of inspired purpose, an objective that Harding President Mike Williams has championed since his first day on campus and maintains as the university celebrates its Centennial year.

Curriculum in the Occupational Therapy program will focus on the core of practice as an occupational therapist, occupational therapy process, professionalism and integrity, and global citizenship. Students will have the opportunity to complete a Level I Fieldwork experience through a university led mission, a transformative component of the program.

The program will be located in a newly remodeled space in the Health Science Building, South Main Campus. A house is also being renovated to simulate a patient’s home, so that students will be able to practice skills in a real setting.

Harding plans to host a cohort size of 24 students in its inaugural class. Those interested can apply for the Occupational Therapy program through March 6, 2024.

To learn more about the Occupational Therapy program or to apply, email [email protected] or visit Harding.edu/academics/colleges-departments/allied-health/occupational-therapy.