COTAD-ED: Promoting Diversity in the Classroom and Beyond

COTAD-ED leaders and members at the 2018 AOTA Conference

Led by Dr. Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, OTR/L of the Medical University of South Carolina (Medical University of South Carolina) in collaboration with Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L (West Coast University) and Stephanie Lancaster, MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS (University of Tennessee Health Science Center), the recently established COTAD-ED subgroup is taking off! Since the group’s formation in 2017, it has grown from a few like-minded colleagues to a group of knowledgeable, forward-thinking academicians and clinicians who are dedicated to promoting professional diversity and culturally humble practice within their academic programs.

At the October 2017 AOTA Education Summit in Fort Worth, TX, Dr. Smith and former COTAD Board Member Dr. Natasha Smet, OTD, OTR/L delivered a pre-conference institute / presentation titled “Promoting Diversity in the OT Workforce Through Holistic Admissions: Digging Through Data to Discover the Gems,” which was highly informative and well-received. While in Fort Worth, Dr. Smith held the first-ever COTAD-ED meeting with OT instructors and leaders from across the country. Though the group was small, the passion was palpable and the conversation rich with discussions related to holistic admissions, program diversity, recruitment of OT/A students and faculty, and increasing awareness of cultural competence issues. Over the next few months, even more current and potential OT educators requested information about how to join the group and better serve their students, academic institutions, and clients on diversity-related matters.

Six months later, at the 2018 AOTA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dr. Smith and Lancaster hosted a second COTAD-ED meetup. Participants had the opportunity to participate in a dialogue titled “Discussions on Diversity” and share ideas, challenges, and information on this topic. Additionally, attendees were able to network and build connections with fellow instructors, researchers, and program leaders. As COTAD-ED continues to grow, recruit members, and increase its education and outreach efforts, we are sure its members will continue to have a powerful impact on occupational therapy students, faculty members, clients, and others.

In the future, COTAD-ED meetings are tentatively planned for twice each year, at the annual AOTA conference and the annual academic leadership council meetings. Members will have the opportunity to contribute to conference presentations, share resources related to diversity issues, and become part of a growing network of leaders committed to professional diversity in our profession and on campuses across the country.

If you are an OT program instructor, academic fieldwork coordinator, program director, or hope to become one, become a COTAD-ED member today to get connected with some of the profession’s foremost leaders in diversity. Email Dr. Smith at or Stephanie Lancaster at for more information.

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