Drake’s first class of OTD students embarked on a new venture for themselves and the University as they began their first term of classes in May. The cohort will advance together in the full-time program, which is both intensive and accelerated, with students earning their doctorate in only three years.
This first group of students has already formed bonds with their faculty. Taylor Crane, O1, says the cohort is in a unique position where, as the very first students, they can collaborate with faculty and help shape the future of the OTD program.
“They have been asking for feedback, and when we give it to them, they improve,” says Crane. “That’s brought us so close already.”
Currently, the cohort has 26 students and future cohorts are expected to grow to 45. The building at 31st and University that currently houses the University Bookstore will eventually be home to the OTD department. (The bookstore is moving to Olmsted.) Once renovated, the facility will offer test equipment for families and individuals with disabilities to test.
Ann Burkhardt, director of the OTD program, says the department has thus far relied on community partners to give students hands-on service learning opportunities from the start.
“We’re about our community. That’s where our clients are.”
Earlier this month, OTD students and faculty invited residents from Mosaic, a central Iowa organization providing services to adults with disabilities, to a picnic in Cline Atrium. The group enjoyed lunch and participated in varying levels of interactive activities.
“Our students really had an opportunity to shine at that event,” says Burkhardt, who underscores how stakeholders voiced interest in the first OTD graduates representing a combination of empathy for and awareness of the disabled community.
When Drake University first explored the addition of an OTD program, research revealed that 12 Iowa counties are lacking professional and educational support in the field. There are 14 students, over half of the cohort, who are from Iowa and intend to stay in Iowa.
“We have already fallen in love with this profession even more,” Crane said. “The faculty strives to make us, the students, the best practitioners we could possibly become.”
Crane said they have had several practicing professionals visit class to discuss the type of settings they work in, which have given them insight into what they might specialize in.
Crane, who has a B.S. in kinesiology from Iowa State University, interviewed with three different schools as she searched for an OTD program. It was Drake, she says, that made her feel most welcome. “I felt the excitement they had,” remembers Crane. “The interview was so interactive. It really stuck out to me and made me accept.”
She says she was also attracted to Drake because of the volunteer opportunities in the local community. She plans to do work at Courage League Sports, a non-profit adaptive sports and recreational facility in Urbandale that offers year-round program for all ages.