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Online Doctor of Occupational Therapy program opens doors to a research career

July 06, 2018

Sarah Zurawski has spent one leg of her 16-year career as a school-based occupational therapist and another as an entry-level occupational therapy (OT) instructor. Now she’s getting ready for new roles — including teaching in a clinical doctorate program and conducting research — through UW–Madison’s online Doctor of Occupational Therapy program.

Zurawski is familiar with the high caliber of UW–Madison’s occupational therapy training because she teaches in the master’s program. She was intrigued by the online doctorate program’s combination of top-quality training, customization, and convenience.

“I appreciate that I can tailor the doctorate program to my specific interests and needs,” she says, “and I’ve been able to select electives that will assist me in pursuing my career goals.”

New possibilities

Zurawski: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how connected I feel to the instructors and my classmates.”

Zurawski
Zurawski
Driven by research findings and focused on interprofessional education, the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program prepares its students to work and lead in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and educational institutions. Though students come to the UW–Madison campus for an orientation and a capstone project presentation, the bulk of their learning takes place online. This includes nine semesters of courses in areas such as leadership theories, teaching techniques, and applied research methods.

Zurawski has long known that she loves to teach, but the program has also helped her envision a future as a researcher.

“I plan to pursue opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary research once I graduate, and the research skills I gain in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program will help me do this,” she says.

She has also expanded her instructional skills with a course on designing and teaching online courses. Her own experiences as an online learner have informed these studies as well.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how connected I feel to the instructors and my classmates. I know my classmates well and appreciate our diverse backgrounds,” she says.

Zurawski appreciates the flexibility online learning provides.

“Each course module is organized in two-week chunks that accommodate a busy schedule like mine,” she says.

Leadership skills

Though Zurawski is in her first year of the program, she’s already grown as a leader thanks to her coursework.

“My first-semester leadership course has given me opportunities to assess my leadership strengths and weaknesses. As a result, I’ve developed a professional development plan that will assist me in becoming a stronger leader,” she says.

Zurawski has also benefited from mentors who model leadership strategies and provide valuable advice. Plus, these relationships have helped her refine the focus of the capstone project she’ll present before she graduates in 2020.

In the meantime, she’s eager to see what she can achieve.

“It took me a little time to balance my work and family responsibilities with my school responsibilities, but I’ve found ways to adapt,” she says. “Now I’m in a good rhythm, and I’m pursuing my goals.”

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy program is housed within the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology.

For more information about the online Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree, see the program’s webpage or email otd.admissions@education.wisc.edu.

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