Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of profiles of new full-time faculty who have joined the Keuka community.
A graduate of Keuka’s occupational therapy (OT) program, Michele Bennett has firsthand knowledge of what sets it apart from programs at other colleges.
“I love Keuka; the environment is engaging, and I have a sense of pride that goes with being part of this community,” said Bennett, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2005 and a master’s degree the following year.
While teaching full time is new to Bennett, teaching at Keuka is not. She has served as a guest lecturer in several OT classes and was an adjunct instructor last year. This semester, the assistant professor teaches the occupational development classes and serves as coordinator of fieldwork experiences in non-traditional settings.
“I have always wanted to teach,” said Bennett, “but when I heard about OT after working with people with disabilities for many years, teaching in an OT program was a perfect fit. I get to continue the one-on-one clinical work with patients, while teaching college students and giving them the foundation to become excellent practitioners.”
One of the reasons Bennett enjoys her job are the moments when her students get it– understand a concept or treatment.
“I have taken the clinical skills gained in working with a variety of populations in physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, acute care facilities, and long term care facilities, and am enthusiastic about sharing those experiences with the students,” said Bennett. “I want students to receive a ‘real’ look at what it means to be an occupational therapist and what a fulfilling career and lifestyle it truly is.”
That’s why Field Period and experiential learning are so important, said Bennett, who is pursuing a doctorate through Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Field Period allows students to see the [day-to-day] work and make determinations that are much more informed about their own future career choices,” she said. “They also get to see the effects this type of profession has in treating people in a holistic manner. OTs cannot ‘fix’ people, but they can help individuals or their families and friends through tough times and identify occupational balance in their lives.”
Bennett also relishes the opportunity to share her passion for the profession with students
“OT means taking the time to be knowledgeable in the health care field, becoming proficient in multiple areas of that field, and using the knowledge and skills to help people,” said Bennett. “OTs must be motivators, teachers, organizers, and have the patience and skill to juggle all the ‘hats’ that we wear.”
From the other side of the desk, Bennett said “it’s interesting to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of academia as a professor, compared to being a student or alumnus. I can see the work that goes into curriculum development to ensure standards are being met.”
If there was one thing Bennett would like her students to take from her classes it’s to love what they do.
“I am an occupational therapist and my career and the profession are ever changing,” she said. “It is exciting and I love working with people. I want students to feel that same energy I have, get excited about going to work every day, and realize they truly can make differences in people’s lives.”