Occupational Therapy department program and professor receive recognition

Sady Swanson

Dr. Karen Alters answering question with a group of students from her first year OT 610 Professional Decision Making. (Photo credit: Maria Nateras)
Dr. Karen Alters answering question with a group of students from her first year OT 610 Professional Decision Making. (Photo credit: Maria Nateras)

Colorado State University’s Occupational Therapy graduate program has been recognized for its outstanding program and faculty by multiple different sources in the past few months.

Graduate Programs, a site where students can go to rate graduate and professional programs, ranked the program number one in the country, according to Robert Gotshall, interim occupational therapy department head.


“(Being ranked first) is a good recruiting tool,” Gotshall said. “It also sets a standard for us. If we want to retain that ranking you can’t just sit back and rest.”

Gotshall said the website bases it’s rankings off of many things, but three of the main things are educational experience, faculty access and support and career support and networking.

“In terms of our educational experience, it really comes from the faculty themselves,” Gotshall said. “They are very much student oriented.”

He also said the program offers opportunities for students to get field experience.

“I think those experiences are what really are helpful in their career networking because they are really practicing occupational therapy in those settings,” Gotshall said.

According to Gotshall, the occupational therapy department trains and certifies the field work educators where students do field work to ensure students are learning what they need to, something that is unique to CSU.

The program was also ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, an outside ranking system not based on student input.

Dr. Karen Atler, assistant professor in the occupational therapy department for 14 years, was awarded the Marjorie Ball Award of Merit by the Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado and College of Health and Human Sciences Tenure Track Faculty Teaching Excellence Award by the University.

“I feel really honored to join a group of people who have been recognized for their service to the occupational therapy community here in Colorado,” Atler said.

Atler said she believes the occupational therapy program at CSU prepares students to be effective occupational therapists. She said it prepares them by integrating teaching with the student’s fieldwork and research and provides many different opportunities in the department.


“I think one of my visions here at CSU is to connect teaching with research with service,” Atler said. “I’d like all of those three parts to really come together as a way to work with students and also to advance the profession, from a research perspective, while serving the community.”

Second year graduate student in occupational therapy, Lindsey Stephans has known and worked with Atler since 2013.

“Dr. Atler is one of the best teachers I’ve ever met,” Stephans said. “She is incredibly well-read and informed on her topic. This allows her to connect students’ ideas to earlier readings and a wide range of topics, helping students to see a broader context and to become more familiar with the scholarship in our field.”

Stephans said that Atler, as well as the rest of the faculty in the occupational therapy department, inspire students in the program because they are so experienced and well versed in the area they are teaching. She said she appreciates the faculty effort in creating a curriculum that prepares students for the field of occupational therapy.

“I think CSU OT truly cares about the students, kind of creates a community, and certainly students a huge part of that,” Atler said. “I think we are not just providing an education, we are really helping them develop as professionals, and that’s more than knowledge.”

Collegian Reporter Sady Swanson can be reached at news@colloegian.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.