Read on to learn about how this COTAD Chapter has made a difference in the lives of students and community members!
Left to right: Mary Grace Sansait, OTS (Public Relations Chair); Jeanne Uwera, OTS (Co-Chair)
Kara Howansky, OTS (Co-Chair)
Western New England (WNE) University COTAD Chapter was officially established in 2018 and has come a long way from where it started! In the past few years, we have worked hard to host educational events on topics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, advocate for changes within our educational program, and create safe spaces to discuss topics not commonly addressed in OT curricula.
At the start of the Fall 2020 semester, Chapter members wrote a letter to faculty members requesting several changes be implemented in order to enhance lectures, curriculum, and overall support of students in the occupational therapy program at WNE. Some of the requests included considering ethnic and cultural differences when teaching occupations such as ADLs and IADLs and using images, content, and publications by people with diverse skin tones, ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities in in Powerpoints, research articles, syllabi, and lectures. We met with each faculty member to discuss potential changes in their courses, which was very successful. WNE faculty members were extremely supportive and have already implemented some of these requests into coursework and curricula!
Additionally, we were so inspired by COTAD’s “Ignite” Series that we decided to create our own series for our Chapter called “Evolve.” The goal of this series was to address current events and increase awareness of issues related to diversity, equity, and justice from occupational therapy practitioners with expertise in these topics. We also believed it was necessary to address complex topics such as racism and healthcare disparities for transgender people to enhance our knowledge as future practitioners and implement real change within our program and on campus. Although our class was not in person for WNE’s summer semester, we were able to utilize virtual platforms to host three “Evolve” events.
For the first event, Chapter Co-chair Jeanne Uwera, OTS, collaborated with professor Amy Burton, OTD, OTR/L to lead a presentation on “Educating and Empowering Children to Challenge Racism.” The second installment was a presentation by Dale Coffin, EdD, OTR/L titled “The Black Experience: Student to Academia.” Dr. Coffin discussed achievements and challenges she experienced working in academia and how her experience has helped her support current students in Long Island University’s OT program. The final event was a presentation by COTAD Board member Devlynn Neu (they/them), MS, OTR/L, LSVT BIG (also known as The RainbowOT). Dev shared their experience and knowledge during a session titled “The OT’s Role in LGBTQIA+ Care and Breaking Down the Binary” to educate attendees on transmasculine and transfeminine equipment, gender neutral language, and how to provide quality OT interventions for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. With every “Evolve” event, we were able to increase attendees’ understanding of occupational therapy practice as an avenue to improve meaningful participation and quality of life for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
As our Chapter continues to grow, we hope to continue the important work of providing information on a variety of topics and emerging areas in OT practice to help students become practitioners who are well-equipped to provide effective interventions for clients with a wide variety of needs, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds. In the future, we are planning to increase our social media presence to continue developing relationships with other experts and students in the OT community and expand the WNE COTAD Chapter presence on campus.
If you are interested in learning more about the speakers we have hosted, seeing past events, or attending upcoming events, you can follow our Instagram @wnecotadchapter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.