Slippery Rock University’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), a new organization on campus, will be holding a pasta dinner fundraiser on March 28 to help in continuing with community involvement activities.
SOTA is a club designed to bring occupational therapy students together to participate in various things, most prominently community engagement. It is advertised at a national level by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
Students that are involved in the organization are part of the school’s entry-level doctoral program in occupational therapy, which commenced this past summer. For the field, SRU’s is the only program in the state offered at a public institution.
With the profession projected to grow significantly in the next ten years, university leaders such as since-retired university president Dr. Cheryl Norton and Provost Philip Way saw it fit to arrange the specific educational program during a strategic planning process several years ago.
“The leadership identified the need to expand the healthcare program options to meet the need that society has for individuals in [occupational therapy and physician assistance],” Occupational Therapy Program Director Dr. Jeff Loveland said of the doctorate’s formation.
The program was approved by the school’s Council of Trustees in February of 2017 and by the Board of Governors of PASSHE in Harrisburg two months later. SRU’s first class of occupational therapy students, which is comprised of 28 individuals coming from as far as California and Texas, will graduate in 2021.
In workplace objective reports, such as those of the U.S. Department of Labor, Loveland spots forecasts of as much as a 25 percent increase in the need for occupational therapists within the next decade. The program will help with this expanded need for occupational therapy in society, which is not needed only in traditional forums such as hospitals and outpatient clinics.
These therapists offer assistance in a broad range of social expanses, from helping inmates in jails learn skills to help in living once out of imprisonment to guiding the homeless in competences that aid in finding a stable living environment. They also work with children who have issues in development and teenagers and adults dealing with mental health hurdles.
Areas of occupation can be defined as instrumental activities of daily living, such as rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure and social participation.
“They are anywhere you see an individual struggling with everyday normal living skills or functioning,” Loveland said. “Where [people] have difficulties, they can be participating with that individual to develop skills they need to function each and every day given the challenges of their environment.”
Members are pushed to be active in both the community and on campus. The students helped in “Backpack Awareness Day” last year, informing others on what weights could hurt their back and also in teaching about fall prevention for older adults. They are also encouraged to attend local meetings and national conferences concerning the profession.
In terms of fundraising, the young organization has held a clothing sale and a community “snack shack” to help raise money.
“We’re looking to do something on a bigger scale now and get the community and other programs involved,” said Amanda Tishko, the club’s faculty advisor who has over seven years of experience in the field. “[We want to really] get involved in the engagement of the community and students to promote a better overall quality of life.”
The pasta dinner will also feature a 50/50 raffle, gift baskets, and gift cards from local companies like Giant Eagle and Bob’s Subs.