“This partnership is truly a win-win situation.”
In May of 1993, history was made in Casper, WY. A dozen students became the first to be educated in the field of occupational therapy (OT) at a satellite campus.
UND OT department and Casper College have had a relationship since 1989 when the first transfer Casper Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education student was accepted into the UND OT program. When Casper College contacted UND for assistance in establishing a two-year certified occupational therapy assistant program, it was soon realized that Casper needed more than that. There was a significant need for occupational therapists in Wyoming, so they decided to have UND establish a four-year bachelor’s degree program at the Casper College campus. It was the first occupational therapy satellite program in the nation, and remained the only one of its kind for many years.
Tom Clifford, Jr., Ph.D. (BP ‘67), chair of life sciences at Casper College and son of the then UND President Tom Clifford, worked with then UND OT Department Chair Sue McIntyre to make it happen.
“We started the program before it was even accredited and we needed to make sure it was accredited before the first class of students graduated,” remembers Clifford, who also teaches for the program. “When they came to visit, the accreditation team was very skeptical at first, but they quickly became very impressed with what we had put together here.”
Through the arrangement, Casper College provides classroom and office space, recruitment and pre-professional advisement and student services including student health and counseling. UND provides on-site professional advisement, admission, fieldwork coordination, retention and governance policies, online access to the health sciences library and, most importantly, a degree.
The Casper portion of the program is completely self-sufficient, with student tuition entirely paying for the program.
“This partnership is truly a win-win situation,” explained Janet Jedlicka, Ph.D., OTR/L (BSOT ‘82), OT department chair. “We provide Wyoming education of greatly-needed occupational therapy professionals and the revenue from the Casper campus allows us to have more faculty and other resources, making our UND campus program more robust.”
The programs on both campuses are nearly identical. Admission procedures are identical and the students begin the program at the same time, continuing through the program at the same rate, receiving the same degree at the end. When the industry standard moved to a Master of Occupational Therapy degree, instead of the bachelor’s degree, both UND and Casper programs switched to a master’s degree preparation in 2001.
| Ashton Wilcox-Brown (right) and Jennifer Gough are members of the UND OT Casper College’s 15th class.
A large majority of the Casper classes are offered on-site through UND adjunct faculty who are either practicing occupational therapists, or a faculty member of Casper College. The Casper site has one full-time UND faculty member and 10 part-time adjunct faculty. A few classes are offered through video conferencing or online classrooms, taught by UND campus faculty.
The same OT faculty members who teach students at UND prepare the class materials for the adjunct faculty in Casper, including all handouts, lecture notes, selection of textbooks, audio-visual materials and exams. The two sets of faculty keep in touch regularly through phone calls, email and regular on-site visits.
“This mentoring system has worked really well,” said Jedlicka. “Many of our adjunct faculty members have been with us since the beginning.”
The Casper program receives a lot of support from the clinicians in the region with many of them serving as adjunct faculty members and/or fieldwork supervisors.
“We were able to do this because we have a good pool of part-time faculty,” said Clifford. “Most of the people who work on this do it because they want to see this thing go.”
A different type of student
The Casper program does have a distinct difference from the UND campus program: its students. While most of the UND campus students are “typical” students, fresh out of high school, the Casper students tend to be older, “non-traditional” students.
“Most everyone has a long-term connection to the area,” said Jedlicka.
“Many of the students have roots here and can’t easily move,” he said. “This allows them to get a graduate degree without leaving Casper.”
The classes are also smaller in Casper. While there are approximately 35 students per class studying to be OTs at the UND campus, the Casper program has had varied enrollment over the years from 6 to 16 students.
Both groups of UND students are incredibly dedicated. Each campus has an active OT student organization and the students are involved in performing community service on a regular basis.
This May, the Casper program admitted its 15th class of students.
Of the 126 graduates throughout the history of the Casper program, many of them stay in Wyoming.
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