BISMARCK, ND — The University of Mary Doctorate of Occupational Therapy  (OTD) program continues to set the highest academic standards in its field of study. It recently became the first and subsequently the only program of its kind in North Dakota and Montana to receive a seven-year stamp of approval from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The University of Mary OTD met all the compliance standards in each of its three locations — Bismarck, Fargo, and Billings, MT, — to become accredited.

ACOTE praised the new University of Mary OTD program at its three sites with a list of a dozen major strengths that include hands-on fieldwork experiences in the United States and international level I experiences, along with its pro-bono clinics.

“The academic fieldwork coordinator is lauded for overseeing culturally rich field work experiences.  The unique Peruvian level I fieldwork, which has become a hallmark of the program, brings to life the mission of the university to serve the religious, academic, and cultural needs of the region and beyond,” said ACOTE in a stellar Report of the Accreditation Council (RAC) summary that also included suggestions for professional development and an aggregated program evaluation at its North Dakota sites, while also highlighting the future hiring of a fieldwork coordinator and enhanced interprofessional team dynamics at the Billings location. “They supported establishing a satellite occupational therapy campus leveraging a building and community resources and pro-bono clinic that supports the development of leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and practice in the occupational therapy students. The clinic is expanding to provide opportunities for additional interprofessional collaboration within the School of Health Sciences and has led to enhanced services for the underinsured and uninsured of the communities Bismarck and Fargo and demonstrates the Benedictine values of stewardship, community, justice and peace.”

In addition to pro-bono clinics at all locations, students also take part in interdisciplinary experiences in the three cities. According to the RAC, the University of Mary OTD faculty set a benchmark for blended online and on-site learning for students, especially during COVID-19.

“Their history of integrating virtual learning experiences with face to face, traditional classrooms has enabled them to pivot in the pandemic era, successfully providing rich learning experiences that ensure the progression of students toward their professional goals,” the RAC summary stated.

“The occupational therapy faculty are recognized for embracing the School of Health Sciences vision in which they envision a thriving center of excellence that prepares leaders in the renewal of health care to embody respect and compassion for the dignity and diversity of life.”

Leading the faculty and setting the rigors of excellence among its student-body is Dr. Janeene Sibla, chair of the occupational therapy program at Mary. Sibla orchestrated the program’s transition from the master’s to the OTD, “developing the program into one that fully represents the School of Health Sciences mission to prepare health care professionals, anchored in moral courage, who respect and defend the dignity of the human person as well as the philosophy of the profession of occupational therapy. She is a strengths-based leader that successfully teams faculty across the curriculum and across campuses. This has resulted in a faculty that plans together, ensuring that the students regardless of home campus, experience community and excellence and consistency  of content and assessment,” said the RAC.

Dr. Janeene Sibla
University of Mary
Chair, Occupational Therapy Program

Sibla credits her dedicated and caring faculty who have a broad range of practice experience and expertise, and the self-driven students for the program’s success and rise to prominence in the OTD field.

“During the pandemic we placed 100 percent of our students on their level II fieldwork experiences for a 100 percent on-time graduation, when many colleges and universities struggled with significant delays,” said Sibla. “Our doctoral and capstone experiences, which occur in the final semester of the curriculum, are student driven and developed with a focus on providing services to community agencies and organizations. The students have very unique ideas and plans. Students develop mentoring relationships with faculty through the roles of advisor, research preceptor, and doctoral experience and capstone mentor. Students and graduates of the OT program are well known for their professional skills.”

According to US News (2020), OT is ranked 17th for Best Health Care Jobs and 28th for Best 100 Jobs, with a starting salary of $68,000 national average. The University of Mary has a 100 percent job placement rate for OT graduates.

To learn more about the University of Mary’s OTD program visit our website or email enroll@umary.edu to enroll.