Department of Occupational Therapy garners Community Engagement Award

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


The Annual Civic Engagement Awards were presented at the Stone Soup Awards Program and Reception hosted by the Center for Community Engagement on November 20 at the Gorecki Alumni Center. The awards recognize excellence in community partnerships, service learning, and community-based research. Awards presented this year included the Public Scholar Award, for a faculty member demonstrating exemplary community-based research and creative activity; the Faculty Service–Learning Award, for a faculty member who makes excellent use of service learning to teach students academic content while they provide a benefit to the community; the Engaged Department Award, for a UND department or program committed to engagement of faculty and students; the Graduate and Undergraduate Student Civic Engagement Award; and the Paul V. Boswell Community Scholar Award.

The Department of Occupational Therapy received the Engaged Department Award. The award recognized the partnership role Occupational Therapy (OT) participated in with Global Friends Coalition, a local nonprofit helping new Americans in the Greater Grand Forks Community. OT students helped with job-readiness skills. In keeping with the goal of OT, students helped new Americans in other valued occupations such as home management, cooking, shopping, participating in the community, accessing the library, and becoming an active part of the Grand Forks community. The Department of Occupational Therapy started their effort last spring through the Department's OT 451 Multicultural Competency course that was taught by Associate Professor and Chair Janet S. Jedlicka, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA; and Associate Professor LaVonne Fox, PhD, OTR/L. The work of students in the course was further expanded by Assistant Professor Sarah Nielsen, PhD, OTR/L; Associate Professor Deb Hanson, PhD, OTR/L; Instructor Cherie Graves, MOT, OTR/L; and Dr. Fox to serve as a level I fieldwork site for the program's curriculum. In August of 2014, Global Friends Coalition and the Occupational Therapy Department entered into a clinical affiliation agreement. Developing the agreement took a team effort on the part of the OT faculty. The experience working with new Americans has helped students develop more confidence and the ability to adapt interventions to more effectively work with clients from various cultures.

Cynthia Shabb, executive director of the Global Friends Coalition wrote the nomination letter. Occupational Therapy is about preventing "occupational deprivation." Many new Americans are deprived of the work or career or job that they once knew in their own countries. According to Shabb, "OT students help to ease the transition so that New Americans can gain the skills they need to thrive."

In addition, Nancy Vogeltanz-Holm, PhD, director of the UND SMHS Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research was nominated for the Public Scholar Award.