FARGO, ND — University of Mary continues to grow its programs and enrollment. Today, Mary, North Dakota’s only Catholic university, announced it will be the first college to offer a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approved Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree in North Dakota and is also expanding its academic offerings by opening a new on-site OTD program in Fargo pursuant to accreditation approval expected in December 2017, by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea and Occupational Therapy Program Director Janeene Sibla answer questions from the Fargo media after announcing the school’s plans to offer the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy and expand into Fargo

“Our OTD program will be the only one between Wisconsin and Oregon,” said University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea. “God continues to call us to serve others in need, both near and far, just as our founders, the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, did as they came to these prairies over a century ago with a vision and commitment to serve this region by opening a hospital in Bismarck —the only one from Minneapolis to Seattle. This premier OT program is in demand in Fargo and around the country, just as it has already been proven successful in Billings and Bismarck.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational therapy job outlook between now and 2024 is growing at 27 percent—much faster than average. Entry-level education needed is a master’s degree and government statistics also shows the median pay at $81,910 per year.

This post professional program is designed to enable occupational therapists to develop roles and skills stretching beyond that of a therapist-clinician to provide advanced clinical practice management, teaching, research, administrative skills or even private practice.

“The Fargo program will accept a new cohort of students each year and employ two full-time occupational therapists who have terminal degrees,” said University of Mary’s director of Occupational Therapy and professor Dr. Janeene Sibla, who plans to submit its candidacy application in August. “The lecture portion of the curriculum will be delivered through live interactive video conferencing, while labs are held separately at each individual site (Bismarck, Fargo, Billings).”

Students who are interested in the program can begin applying in July 2017 through Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). Classes will begin in the summer of 2018 with an online course, and then continue at Mary’s campus locations in Fargo, Bismarck, and Billings in fall 2018.

Katie Rosenfeldt, a second-year occupational therapy graduate student at the University of Mary in Bismarck, is a Moorhead, MN, native. The Bismarck location, the personal attention from the small class size, the Benedictine values and word of mouth from current students, all played a big role in attracting Rosenfeldt to the University of Mary OT program.

Katie Rosenfeldt, an occupational therapy graduate student at the University of Mary and native of Moorhead, MN, talks at press conference

“If there would have been an opportunity to attend the University of Mary at this Fargo location, I definitely would have taken it because of it being in my home area,” said Rosenfeldt. “Since this new program is expanding into Fargo and is the only educational institution offering it in the FM area, this will open the door for a tremendous amount of leadership opportunities for fellow colleagues in the OT profession.”

Occupational therapists have become an integral part of the healthcare industry, treating patients who are the injured, ill or with disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover and improve the skills needed for daily living and working as they strive to regain independence.

The University of Mary is committed to serving the peoples’ needs of this region and beyond, as it remains the only OT program in Montana and the first doctorate program in North Dakota. This becomes the fourth doctorate degree offered at the University of Mary preceded by Physical Therapy (2003), Nursing (2014), and Education (2015).