Occupational Therapy Department receives $3.25 million federal grant to support graduate-level diversity initiatives

Mount Mary’s graduate occupational therapy program has been awarded a five-year $3.25 million grant from the federal HRSA to support diversity efforts through the creation of the PromOTe Success Scholars.

The PromOTe Success Scholars program will help increase retention and graduation rates of limited income and under-represented students within the Occupational Therapy Master of Science program.

The program focuses on creating a more diverse population within Mount Mary’s occupational therapy (OT) program by providing scholarships and academic support for limited-income students and under-represented minority students.

With ongoing support, the PromOTe Success Scholars program seeks to transform the OT profession, creating a more diverse field. The percentage of occupational therapy practitioners identifying themselves as African American or Black is 4 percent, Hispanic or Latino is 3.2 percent, and Asian is 6 percent (The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., 2015).

“With the PromOTe Success Scholars program, we will contribute to the growing diversity of our student population both at Mount Mary University and in the master’s Professional Entry Occupational Therapy Program,” said Kari Inda Ph.D., professor and chair of the OT department. “With this program, we are advancing our goal of a more diverse occupational therapy profession that serves the needs of people who are medically underserved in our community.”

The objectives will address five areas of disparity in the OT master’s program: financial, academic attrition, value, identity as an occupational therapist, and professional practice as an OT student.

Some objectives for this initiative include:

  • Addressing the PromOTe Success Scholars’ financial need by providing an average $26,000 scholarship to 25 students annually
  • Enhancing PromOTe Success Scholars’ academic performance with additional tutors and national certification exam prep sessions
  • Monthly informational meetings with guest speakers to address challenges in their field
  • The creation of a Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) Student Chapter and minority student mentorship program.

The program will achieve these objectives through a comprehensive set of strategies that include targeted recruitment efforts, financial assistance, tutoring, comprehensive support, specialized exam preparation, special events and training in empathy.

“The PromOTe Success Scholars will strengthen our OT program and increase the integrity of the occupational therapy profession by bringing diverse perspectives to Mount Mary University and to the profession,” said Cheryl Bailey, PhD, Dean of the School of Natural, Health Sciences, and Education.

Mount Mary has an ongoing commitment to equal education among students as demonstrated through Jewel Scholars, Grace Scholars, and the Promise Program. Mount Mary was recognized for these efforts in the 2020 Best Colleges Report, receiving top mentions for ethnic diversity index, social mobility among Pell Grant recipients, and overall placement among private institutions in Wisconsin.

This program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $3,250,000 with no financing from non­governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.