May 28, 2024  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Occupational Therapy Department

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:


Emeritus Professor:

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


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: Child & Adult Advocacy, Trauma Informed Care, Pediatric Practice, and Infant and Child Mental Health.
Ranelle Nissen, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, Texas Woman’s University. Specialization: Rural Practice, Telehealth, Geriatrics, and Dementia Care.

Assistant Professors:

Mackenzie Feldhacker, O.T.D., OTR/L, CLT-LANA, Creighton University. Specialization: Neurorehabilitation, Productive Aging, Lymphedema Therapy.
Karen Hebert, Ph.D., OTR/L, University of Missouri - Columbia. Specialization:  Neurorehabilitation, Cognitive Neuroscience, Emotional Processing, and Productive Aging  
Whitney Lucas Molitor, Ph.D., O.T.D., M.S., OTR/L, BCG, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Productive Aging, Health Promotion, and Interprofessional Education.
Jessica McHugh, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, BCP, Pn1, 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, and Student Fieldwork Education.

Affiliate Instructors:

Katie Ericsson, O.T.D., University of South Dakota.
Carrie Menke, M.S., OTR/L, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Pediatric Practice
Cindi Tank, M.S., OTR/L, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Adult Rehabilitation
Kristin Wittmayer, M.S., OTR/L, University of Mary. 


Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.)  

            Mental Health
            Neuroscience & Rehabilitation


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

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

Specific prerequisite courses are required. These include:

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 in fulfillment of a prerequisite requirement. 
    • 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 6 of the 9 prerequisite courses must be completed prior to application with no more than two prerequisites to be completed after the fall semester prior to admission. 
  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses will be considered by the admissions committee. A minimum score of 4/5 must be met for any prerequisite coursework. An official score report must be sent to us by the application deadline to verify qualification of AP coursework. Credit must appear on the official college transcript and be equivalent to the appropriate college-level coursework in order to be considered.
  • CLEP credits will be considered by the admissions committee on a case-by-case basis.
  • Pass/Fail coursework will not be accepted in fulfillment of prerequisite requirements with the exception of medical terminology.
  • All prerequisites must be taken within 10 years of applying to the program.
  • Essay/Personal statement
  • Work or volunteer experience in occupational therapy or a related area (recommend 30 hours in at least 3 different areas of practice)
  • Community involvement and leadership experience
  • A minimum of 2 of the 3 science prerequisite courses must be completed prior to application.
  • 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
  3. Health Sciences, B.S. -Clinical Studies 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.
  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 the Kinesiology and Sport Management, division chair, or the Health Sciences Major, program director, 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 for application instructions. The deadline for preferred admission is the first working day in October. Applications are accepted through 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.

  • All Application Reviews
    • 6 of 9 prerequisite courses completed at application submission with no more than two prerequisites to be completed after the fall semester prior to admission. 
    • 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;
  • 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;

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.


  • 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.

Student Learning Outcomes for Occupational Therapy (O.T.D.)

  1. Students will acquire, as a foundation for professional study, a breadth and depth of knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences and an understanding of issues related to diversity. 
  2. Students will be educated as a generalist with a broad exposure to the delivery models and systems used in settings where occupational therapy is currently practiced and where it is emerging as a service. 
  3. Students will achieve entry-level competence through a combination of didactic, fieldwork, and capstone education. 
  4. Students will evaluate and choose appropriate theory to inform practice.  
  5. Students will articulate and apply occupational therapy theory through evidence-based evaluations and interventions to achieve expected outcomes as related to occupation.  
  6. Students will articulate and apply therapeutic use of occupations with persons, groups, and populations for the purpose of facilitating performance and participation in activities, occupations, and roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings, as informed by the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework.  
  7. Students will plan and apply evidence-based occupational therapy interventions to address the physical, cognitive, functional cognitive, psychosocial, sensory, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts and environments to support engagement in everyday life activities that affect health, well-being, and quality of life, as informed by the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework.  
  8. Students will be prepared to be a lifelong learner to keep current with evidence-based professional practice.  
  9. Students will uphold the ethical standards, values, and attitudes of the occupational therapy profession.  
  10. Students will understand the distinct roles and responsibilities of the occupational therapist and the occupational therapy assistant in the supervisory process for service delivery.  
  11. Students will effectively collaborate with and supervise occupational therapy assistants in service delivery.  
  12. Students will effectively communicate and work interprofessionally with all who provide services and programs for persons, groups, and populations.  
  13. Students will advocate as a professional for access to occupational therapy services offered and for the recipients of those services.  
  14. Students will be an effective consumer of the latest research and knowledge bases that support occupational therapy practice and contribute to the growth and dissemination of research and knowledge.  
  15. Students will demonstrate in-depth knowledge of delivery models, policies, and systems related to practice in settings where occupational therapy is currently practiced and settings where it is emerging. 
  16. Students will demonstrate active involvement in professional development, leadership, and advocacy.  
  17. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize in-depth knowledge in a practice area through the development and completion of a doctoral capstone in one or more of the following areas: clinical practice skills, research skills, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, education, and theory development. 

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program utilizes an online learning platform for all course content and courses during the third year of the program are delivered online in conjunction with the experiential learning placements for Level II Fieldwork and Capstone. The University of South Dakota has established minimum technology requirements for participation in online courses. These are outlined under the “Technology Requirements” section in the Online Student Handbook. This document can be found here