A year-and-half ago, Keuka College junior Desiree Marsh, an occupational therapy (OT) major from DeRuyter, was killed in an automobile accident.
Now, members of Marsh’s class have helped create a scholarship in her name to assist Keuka students enrolled in the OT master’s program with some of their financial costs.
“Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE), the OT honor society, wanted to establish the Desiree Marsh Memorial Scholarship to honor Desiree because she had such an impact on our whole class, and we wanted to commemorate her in some way,” said Emily Conrad, a senior OT major from Geneva, who serves as PTE president.
In the world of higher education, the niche Keuka has carved with its occupational sciences program is virtually unparalleled for a small, private, liberal arts college.
In 2010, three state-of-the-art occupational therapy (OT) labs opened where students are taught cutting-edge OT techniques. Keuka boasts a pediatric play lab, a clinical care lab and a community living skills lab, set up much like a small apartment, where some 95 upperclass and graduate students take classes in occupational science. Nearly all students in Keuka’s OT program go on to a fifth year of study at the graduate level, in order to qualify for the certification exam that must be passed to obtain a permanent license as an occupational therapist.
A unique change to the program is that while Keuka’s OT students are building diverse, hands-on skills, it’s not all happening inside the walls of hospitals or schools. Traditional placements like a hospital are now supplemented by non-traditional placements, said Jean Wannall, Ph.D., who coordinates field work placements for OT students and is a full professor in the program.
“We’re seeing fewer jobs in traditional settings because of the changes in Medicare and Medicaid,” said Wannall.”A lot of agencies are downsizing and letting therapists go, so we are training therapists to be entrepreneurs, to go out and seek places where there could be a niche. At hospitals, the length of stay is shorter and shorter these days as people are being pushed out into the community quicker and quicker. More care is happening out in the community.”
In addition, OTs may find more work with assisted living communities or home health care as more members of the aging population try to stay in their own homes as long as possible, Wannall said. Keuka lies in Yates County, one of the poorest counties in the state, and other opportunities for non-traditional OT support may lie in areas with migrant workers, those who are illiterate, or other needy individuals, she said.
Reis Cunningham ’13 has always been interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Keuka College “works” because, as he puts it, “I’m paying for it.”
Fortunately for Cunningham, the College offers that opportunity to two students each year. Keuka is one of the few schools in the country where students serve on the governing board and Cunningham took part in his first Board meeting Sept. 30.
Cunningham was elected by his peers to the Board of Trustees and is serving the first of a two-year term. Senior Molly Flanagan is the other student representative.
Flanagan, in her second year as a trustee, told Cunningham that student trustees are expected to contribute; it’s not a ceremonial position where they sit and observe as others make recommendations and decisions.
An interest in teaching smaller classes in order to foster greater student interaction is part of what brought Ithaca resident Laurel Hester to a new post at Keuka College this fall.
The small-college feel got in the assistant professor of biology’s veins during her own undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College, where she double-majored in biology and history. As a graduate student, Hester discovered she had a love of teaching, especially teaching biology, and as she worked toward her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, she began putting that passion into play. She went on to teach at the University of South Carolina, and later Cornell, where she taught as many as 400 students at a time in large lecture halls.
“The chance to teach smaller classes where I can really get to know the students and teach a wider variety of classes in a more interactive way is really what drew me here,” Hester said.
Story by Ryan J. Nichols ’12, Photos by Sarah Marquart ’14
Sophomore Emily Wilson, an occupational studies major from Binghamton, organized a walk on campus Saturday, Oct. 22, to raise awareness of mitochondrial diseases.
Wilson is acutely aware of mitochondrial diseases; her younger brother Tyler was diagnosed with “mito” when he was 18 months old.
Mito results from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. There are many different forms of mito, and they can affect different parts of the body. People who suffer from mito do not all share the same symptoms and some people may be affected more severely than others. In Tyler’s case, it is not know what form of mito he has.
Wilson said Tyler has difficulty walking and talking. He uses a machine to help him communicate better, but when he is at home, he uses sign language to talk with his family. Emily said mito is progressive and affects people differently.