Welcome to the Friday Faculty Spotlight, which is focused this week on Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Morghen Sikes, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L. Here’s your chance to learn a bit more about Dr. Sikes, who received the university’s 2021 Transformative Teaching Award at the graduate level. In her full Friday Faculty Spotlight here at su.edu, you’ll find out about why she came to Shenandoah, her focus on health behavior change, her teaching style, and a few little-known fun facts.
If there’s a faculty member you feel the university community needs to get to know better, just fill out the Friday Faculty Spotlight submission form. Friday Faculty Spotlights appear in the SUN-e and on the university’s website. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about Shenandoah appealed to you as you were considering coming here to teach?
The culture of Shenandoah is really what drew me here from Alabama. The camaraderie among faculty/staff, and the support I feel as a new mom, researcher, educator, and really, as a human being, is pretty special. I also appreciate the multiple programs I have the opportunity to teach in, along with the freedom to run wellness programming for our community. Not many places would provide that type of flexibility and freedom.
What are your areas of research? What inspired these interests?
I am interested in health behavior change, maintenance, and general health behavior promotion. I focus primarily on programming for survivors of brain injury right now, but I’m working on some things to support students in wellness endeavors and health behavior participation. I think I was inspired by experiences as an OT practitioner the most, and the lived experience of the lack of focus on behavior change and participation within the current health care continuum. For me, I’m at my worst when I’m unable to do the activities that are most meaningful for me, like crafts and hobbies. As an OT, I’m in a really unique position to utilize that type of behavioral engagement for improving well-being.
What’s most important to you as a teacher?
Easy. The relationships with my students, for sure.
What’s the key to building strong connections with students and keeping coursework engaging?
Consistently requesting and incorporating feedback from the students has been the most helpful method for me to maintain coursework relevance. I provide multiple options for completion. For example, discussion boards can be completed as a written post or as a recorded video, as a PowerPoint presentation, an illustration or an infographic. I put a large amount of responsibility on my students to identify their preferred method of engagement with my coursework topics, and allow them the flexibility of engaging in that way.
What do you hope students take with them from their time working with you?
Above all else, I want students to feel valued for their unique perspective and contribution to our wonderful field of OT. I heavily focus on equity and inclusion as consideration points in all my classes, and students seem to respond quite well. I prefer to consider my students as future colleagues, and I really look forward to working with them all once they blossom into practitioners.
What’s a little-known fact about you?
Probably that I’m a big ’90s hip-hop fan. Or that I’m pretty heavily into the horror genre.
What do you do in your free time?
Mostly hang out with my 2-year-old. We spend a lot of time outside in our garden, and at local animal parks. As I mentioned earlier, I also love crafting, music, and horror movies when I’m not in Mama-mode.