Autumn Wacker O’Hara ’11 chose to pursue her degree at Shenandoah because of its flexible, hybrid Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program, which allows students to develop as leaders and scholars with a balance of online and in-person coursework.
“There is so much information out there and so much that occupational therapists can do and be involved in,” said O’Hara. She encourages students to “research all there is out there, find your passion, and then pursue your passion,” as she did when she became involved with Ride-On Ranch.
O’Hara, a certified therapeutic riding instructor, is the executive director for Ride-On Ranch Equine Assisted Therapies, a non-profit organization located in western Loudoun County, Virginia. “The mission of Ride-on Ranch is to provide therapy to as many people as possible with cognitive, psychological and physical disabilities, by building social, physical and emotional skills through the use of hippotherapy and other equine-assisted activities,” said O’Hara. “Ride-on Ranch reaches a variety of people by using a holistic approach, providing the right activity for everyone who comes out to the ranch.”
At Ride-On Ranch, visitors are able to interact with many animals including sheep, cows, dogs and donkeys, enabling them to get the true ranch experience. “I’ve seen clients make extensive gains through the use of hippotherapy,” explained O’Hara. “I have seen kids talk, walk and play with their peers who could not do so previously.”
O’Hara credits Shenandoah, where she is also an adjunct assistant professor for occupational therapy, with giving her some of the tools she needed to succeed. “With a master’s degree from Shenandoah University comes a network of health professionals as well as the education needed to pursue my dreams,” said O’Hara.
Occupational therapists, like O’Hara, with a master’s degree in occupational therapy or a related field, have the unique opportunity to pursue another advanced degree from Shenandoah. The Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is for professionals who want to advance in leadership and develop as evidence-based scholars. The online 30-credit program can be completed in one or two years. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2020!
For more information about the Post-Professional OTD program, please visit https://www.su.edu/occupational-therapy/post-professional-occupational-therapy-doctorate/.
Written by Darius Hardy ’18 and Colleen Large