Apr 19, 2024  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Occupational Therapy Department

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Department Chairperson: Ranelle Nissen, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L

Department of Occupational Therapy
Sanford Coyote Sports Center, Room A375A
Phone: 605-658-5999
Fax: 605-658-5637


Click on any of the following programs for information:



Moses Ikiugu, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA,  Texas Women’s University. Specialization: Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Occupational Therapy Theory, and Application of Theory to Practice.

Associate Professor:

Shana Cerny, O.T.D., M.S., OTR/L, BCP, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Specialization: Human Development, Pediatric Rehabilitation, and Infant and Child Mental Health.
Ranelle Nissen, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, Texas Woman’s University. Specialization: Rural Practice, Geriatrics, and Student Fieldwork Education.

Assistant Professors:

Mackenzie Feldhacker, O.T.D., OTR/L, CLT-LANA, Creighton University. Specialization: Neurorehabilitation, Productive Aging, Lymphedema Therapy.
Hebert, Karen, Ph.D., University of Missouri. Specialization: Psychological Sciences - Cognition & Neuroscience.
Whitney Lucas Molitor, O.T.D., M.S., OTR/L, BCG, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Productive Aging, Health Promotion, Low Vision, and Cultural Implications on Occupational Performance.
Jessica McHugh, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, BCP, Texas Woman’s University. Specialization: Pediatric Practice, Autism, Private Practice.
Allison Naber, O.T.D., OTR/L, CLT-LANA, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Upper Extremity Rehabilitation, Occupational Health and Injury Prevention, Lymphedema Therapy.

Adjunct Instructors:

Katie Caven, M.S., OTR/L, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Pediatric Practice.
Beryl Olson, M.S., OTR/L, University of North Dakota. Specialization: Rural Practice, Leadership and Management

Emeritus Professor:

Barbara Brockevelt, Ph.D., M.A., OTR/L, FAOTA, Chairperson, Nova Southeastern University. Specialization: Human Development, and Child Well-being.


Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.)  

            Mental Health
            Neuroscience & Rehabilitation

Post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy   

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.)

Program Description

Occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that incorporates meaningful occupations into the therapy process to enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest. Occupational therapists assist people in achieving their goals, maintaining or rebuilding their independence, and participating in the everyday activities that they need to do or that simply make life worth living.

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at the University of South Dakota is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association. ACOTE is located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200 North Bethesda, MD, 20852-4929. The telephone number, c/o AOTA, is (301) 652-AOTA, and the web address is www.acoteonline.org.

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS (O.T.D. - entry level only)

Specific prerequisite courses are required. These include:

Majors Biology (Must include a lab) 3 semester credit hours
Human Anatomy* 3 semester credit hours
Human Physiology* 3 semester credit hours
Statistics 3 semester credit hours
General Psychology 3 semester credit hours
Cultural Anthropology or Introduction to Sociology 3 semester credit hours
Lifespan Development 3 semester credit hours
Psychology of Abnormal Behavior 3 semester credit hours
Medical Terminology 1-3 semester credit hours
College Physics (Recommended but not required)  
Orientation to Occupational Therapy (Recommended but not required)
   *Or a combined Human Anatomy/Physiology course with a minimum of 6 credit hours taken over 2 semesters.
  • Cumulative, prerequisite, and science prerequisite GPAs of 3.0 (as calculated by OTCAS) or better based on a 4.0 scale are required.
    • No grade of C- or below will be accepted.
    • When calculating prerequisite and science prerequisite GPAs: if a course has been taken twice, the highest grade will be applied to the student’s GPA; if taken more than twice, the average will be calculated and applied to the student’s GPA.
  • A minimum of 7 of the 9 prerequisite courses must be completed prior to application.
  • A minimum of 2 of the 3 science prerequisite courses must be completed prior to application.
  • The GRE is required. GRE scores may not be more than 5 years old. *The GRE General Test at Home will be accepted for fall 2021 applications.
  • Three letters of recommendation and completion of a personal statement are required as part of the OTCAS application (see below).
  • A personal interview with the Occupational Therapy faculty by invitation.
  • Applicants must successfully complete a criminal background check upon acceptance.
  • Additional requirements exist for international students and applicants with degrees from other countries.

Accelerated O.T.D. Standard Program [key word search: 3+3 or 3 plus 3 program]

3+3 PROGRAM OPTION (by application to the program through OTCAS)

This program is available, by application, to eligible University of South Dakota students in the following programs with the O.T.D. standard program and:

  1. Neuroscience, B.S.-Cognitive Neuroscience specialization only
  2. Kinesiology and Sport Management, B.S.-Exercise Science specialization only

The following restrictions apply:

  1. be enrolled in a USD undergraduate program;
  2. earn 90 undergraduate credits by the end of the junior year; 1
  3. meet all major, distribution, general education, and testing requirements in accord with institutional and regental policies, guidelines, and requirements by the end of the junior year;
  4. have at least a 3.25 cumulative GPA by the end of the junior year, and earn the following scores on the GRE: 40th percentile rank Verbal, 45th percentile rank Quantitative and a writing score of 4.0; 2
  5. submit to the Occupational Therapy program a statement of interest regarding entry into the 3+3 program option by the beginning of the third semester;
  6. receive a letter of recommendation from the Neuroscience, BS program director or from the Kinesiology and Sport Management, division chair attesting not only to the student’s intellectual strengths, but also to the student’s maturity, work ethic, and overall readiness for graduate school (in addition to the letters required from an occupational therapist or other health or social service provider and an employer as part of the standard OT admissions process);
  7. complete the standard application for admission to the OT Program through OTCAS. This may be completed as early as sophomore year of the undergraduate curriculum if the following requirements are met and maintained: overall GPA of 3.5, science GPA of 3.2, No Cs in pre-requisite courses, GRE completed with minimal scores as defined above

1 SDBOR Policy 2:8
2 If a 3+3 program applicant moderately deviates from these requirements, and demonstrates evidence of extraordinary character, leadership, and maturity, the Occupational therapy program reserves the right to make an exception and grant admission in that case.

[key word search: 3+3 or 3 plus 3 program]

Application Deadline

Applications for admission are available through the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS), a service of the American Occupational Therapy Association. OTCAS allows applicants to use a single Web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple occupational therapy education programs and to monitor their application status online. Please visit www.otcas.org for application instructions. Early Admission deadline is the first working day in October and General Admission deadline is the first working day in February in the year prior to the fall entrance. Please contact the Department of Occupational Therapy for verification of current requirements.

  • In order to complete your Graduate School application to the University of South Dakota, you must submit a $35 application fee, in addition to the OTCAS fee. The USD Graduate Application Fee cannot be waived or deferred and it is nonrefundable. The fee can be paid on the USD Deposits and Fees website.
  • Admission
    Applications are accepted until the first working day in February for enrollment the following fall semester. Invitations to interview will be offered to select applicants based on review of the written application materials. Admission interview dates are posted on the website.

  • Fall Application Review
    • 6 of 9 prerequisite courses completed
  • Spring Application Review
    • 7 of 9 prerequisites must be completed by the end of the fall 2020 semester
  • All Application Reviews
    • A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (as calculated by OTCAS on a 4.0 scale);
    • A minimum science prerequisite GPA of 3.0 (as calculated by OTCAS on a 4.0 scale);
    • A minimum prerequisite GPA of 3.0 (as calculated by OTCAS on a 4.0 scale);
    • No grade below C in prerequisite coursework;
    • 2 of 3 science prerequisite courses completed;
    • GRE scores may not be more than 5 years old; and
    • Complete application must be received by October 1st
  • Occupational Therapy Scholar Program
    This program allows the undergraduate student, beginning in his or her sophomore year, to apply for acceptance into the Occupational Therapy program while completing his or her undergraduate degree. Students accepted into this program are guaranteed a seat in the OT program the fall semester after they complete their undergraduate degree. Applicants for the Occupational Therapy Scholar Program must meet the following criteria:
  1. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 (as calculated by OTCAS);
  2. A minimum science prerequisite GPA of 3.2 (as calculated by OTCAS);
  3. No grade below B- in prerequisite courses;
  4. A minimum score at the 40th percentile rank for Verbal Reasoning and at the 45th percentile rank for Quantitative Reasoning on the GRE revised General Test; and
  5. A minimum GRE Analytical Writing score of 4.0

If an applicant is accepted under the OT Scholar program, they must maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA, a 3.2 science prerequisite GPA, and a 3.5 prerequisite GPA to guarantee their position in the class.

Students may apply for this program from February 1st of their sophomore year to April 1st of their junior year of college. Applications will be processed as they are received. Personal interviews will be scheduled for qualified applicants.

Post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.) 

Department Chairperson: Ranelle Nissen, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L 
Post-professional O.T.D. Program Director: Shana Cerny, OTD, OTR/L, BCP 

Department of Occupational Therapy 
Sanford Coyote Sports Center, Room A375A 
Phone: 605-658-5999 


Program Description

The post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy at the University of South Dakota is designed for licensed occupational therapists who graduated with a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy and wish to advance their careers through the development and application of new knowledge and skills. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree is conferred upon completion of a five semester, 31 credit-hour online curriculum, which is uniquely tailored to the professional aspirations of each practitioner. A capstone with focused activities is completed in the student’s work setting. A faculty member and a practice expert who share the student’s professional interest serve as mentors during capstone activities. The program is offered fully online with 2 required on-campus visits for Orientation and the Capstone Defense. 

Program Eligibility 

To be eligible for the post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.), applicants must meet the following requirements: 

  • Possess a current U.S. license to practice occupational therapy 
  • Hold a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy (M.S., M.S.O.T.) or Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.T) 


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://www.usd.edu/graduate-school/apply-now and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and master’s degree in Occupational Therapy (in English or with translation) must accompany an application. Official transcript of all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels are required for all students. The USD Graduate School and/or academic units retain the right to require credential evaluations from organizations, such as Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES), for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary. 
  3. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the following English-speaking countries: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada (Excluding Quebec), Australia, and New Zealand are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT) or 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), a minimum IELTS score of 6.0, or a minimum PTE score of 53 is required for graduate admission. 
  4. A professional summary statement (no more than 1000 words) outlining professional goals and objectives, your areas of interest in pursuing your degree, your plan to utilize your degree, and your potential as a leader and change agent in the field of occupational therapy.
  5. Resume/CV which includes work history, continuing education since graduation, professional memberships, service activities, awards received, leadership positions, and publications/presentations.
  6. Two (2) letters of recommendation.
  7. Copy of current Occupational Therapy license.
  8. Successful completion of criminal background check upon acceptance.

Subject to faculty approval, those who do not meet all the criteria above may be admitted on a provisional basis.

Application Deadline

  • June 30
    • Fall start

SCHOLARSHIPS (O.T.D. entry-level only)

  • Sanford Health VanDeMark Scholarship in Occupational Therapy
    Students who have completed the first academic year of the graduate occupational therapy program at the University of South Dakota with a GPA in the top 50% of the class will be considered for this scholarship. Nomination and selection are made by the faculty of the Department of Occupational Therapy based on academic performance and leadership.
  • Dorothy Anne Elsberry Scholarship
    An occupational therapy student at the University of South Dakota who has demonstrated the qualities and performance which emulate the values that were important to Dr. Dorothy Anne Elsberry throughout her career in occupational therapy education are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Selection is based on the student’s creativity, pragmatism, promotion of Occupational Therapy, support of the core principles of occupational therapy, scholarly achievement, service to others, and an outstanding participation in extracurricular professional activities. Applicant must have completed one year of the OT program at USD,  and must have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.2 in the OT program.
  • Faithe Family Scholarships
    Students accepted into the occupational therapy program at USD who have demonstrated high achievement, a desire to serve the healthcare delivery system, and who show financial need are eligible to apply for these scholarships. Selection is based on GPA, OT program application and a written essay.  Awards are available for Year 1 and Year 2 students.
  • Wanda and Tim Hannahs Scholarship
    The Dakota Hospital Foundation (DHF) provided funding to create a scholarship endowment to honor Wanda and Tim Hannahs of Vermillion, South Dakota. Wanda was an employee of Sanford Vermillion who experienced a spinal cord injury following a car accident. The endowment provides scholarships for students enrolled in the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs at the University of South Dakota on alternate years. Selection criteria include high academic achievement, leadership, and service during the graduate program.
  • Goodcare Rehab LLC Occupational Therapy Scholarship
    Goodcare was founded by Kelly Randall, an occupational therapist and graduate of USD’s Occupational Therapy Program.  His vision for bringing big city rehabilitation services to rural communities as been embraced by clients and their families as well as healthcare facilities in the upper Midwest since 2006. Goodcare AtHome Rehab, a division of Goodcare started in 2014, brings the therapist directly to the client in the most appropriate setting to achieve the best outcomes, where it matters most, AtHome.

    The Goodcare scholarship shall provide an award for students accepted and currently enrolled in the Physical or Occupational Therapy program at the University of South Dakota. The scholarship will be awarded to an OT student in even numbered years, and to a PT student in odd numbered years. OT students will be invited to apply for this scholarship award in the fall of their 2nd year.

  • AOTF
    In partnership with the South Dakota Occupational Therapy Association, AOTF ahs established the Harlan and Rita Temple Endowed Scholarship which is available to students in OT and OTA programs with a preference for students who are South Dakota residents and members of the South Dakota Occupational Therapy Association and who have completed one full year of occupational therapy coursework are invited to apply.

  • Leonard and Viola Strutz Health Sciences Scholarship
    Students enrolled in the School of Health Sciences who are majoring in Nursing, OT, or PT are eligible for this award. An OT student is selected every three years based on a written essay.


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