Occupational therapy helps people live life to its fullest. Our therapists do this by helping people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of occupations or everyday activities. Occupational therapists have a holistic perspective that considers the physical, psychological and social needs of its clients and the context in which they live, work and play. Adapting the environment to fit the person is an important aspect of service.

The doctor of occupational therapy degree is designed to support the institution’s mission of offering graduate and professional education; promoting excellence in teaching and learning; supporting research, scholarly activity, and creative activities; and providing service to South Dakota.

Our Mission

The mission of the department is to prepare occupational therapists who value:

  • The use of meaningful occupation to influence health
  • The unique attributes of the clients they serve
  • Critically using and creating evidence which supports their practice and contributes to the advancement of the profession and society
  • Innovative services for diverse communities and cultures

Our Vision

USD's department of occupational therapy shall be known for:

  • Preparing occupational therapists with exceptional expertise in interprofessional practice and healthcare leadership
  • Faculty with significant scholarship
  • A contemporary teaching and learning environment

Philosophy of Learning

Consistent with the School of Health Sciences and the Occupational Therapy Program mission statements at the University of South Dakota, one of the occupational therapy department’s goals is to use active learning strategies that are designed to ensure graduation of occupational therapists who are skilled in the use of occupation to foster health and well-being. In line with the articulated program mission statement, our philosophy of learning is based on the basic principle of active learning, grounded on the notion of “free will”. This philosophical principle denotes that human beings learn by engaging in meaningful activities that facilitate exploration, problem solving, reflection, discovery of personal strengths and limitations, behavior change, and participation in co-construction of discourse on significant issues affecting society (Dewey, 1938; Ginsburg, 2009). This engaged learning approach is what has been referred to as “learning by doing” and is associated with Dewey’s (1938) version of the philosophy of pragmatism. It is a philosophy of learning that is consistent with the fundamental principles of occupational therapy.

Based on the above described philosophy of learning, we see human beings as active learners collaborating with each other to explore and develop knowledge that benefits all humanity. We share the constructivist perspective where knowledge is perceived to be actively generated by a community of scholars within meaningful contexts. This denotes that human beings learn best by doing, being involved in their environments, engaging in service activities, and participating in the construction of knowledge through collaborative scholarly activities. In other words, we agree with those who believe that the goal of education is to teach students how to search and discover knowledge, communicate with peers, and solve problems in partnership with occupational therapy educators (Bitner & Bitner, 2002).

Philosophy of the Program

In line with the philosophy of learning, the occupational therapy program at The University of South Dakota propounds a vision that is consistent with the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Philosophy of Occupational Therapy Education (2007). We emphasize the proposition that humans are complex beings who are in dynamic, active interaction with their environment through participation in occupations. This interaction facilitates growth, change, and/or adaptation leading to further participation in meaningful occupations that support survival, self-actualization, balance, and well-being. Consequently, we see occupation as a learning tool whose skilled use helps students learn experientially and actively, resulting in development of insight regarding the importance of occupation in human growth, adaptation, self-actualization, and sense of well-being. Collaboration between students and occupational therapy educators is crucial in facilitating this process of learning.

Occupational therapy educators are committed to the development of meaningful activities and learning experiences, preferably occupation-based, in addition to didactic instruction. They act as role models to help students internalize the collaborative process of learning. This facilitates building upon prior knowledge, integration of academic knowledge, clinical reasoning, and self-reflection. The ideal outcome of the process is a graduate who is able to synthesize knowledge and experiences acquired in the curriculum, and apply learned skills to help improve the quality of life of individuals and populations, with or without impairments in a diverse and multicultural society. The graduates will maintain high ethical standards of practice based in evidence and grounded in interprofessional practice for the benefit of the individuals and populations they serve. Furthermore, we see such a graduate as a critical thinker who engages in lifelong learning in order to be informed, to improve skills, and to contribute positively to the growth of the profession, both regionally and beyond.

Our program welcomes opinions and feedback about our policies, program, and services. We are committed to ensuring that students have access to appropriate procedures for communicating concerns and registering appeals.