The Department of Occupational Therapy represents a unique academic collaboration between the Fayetteville flagship campus of the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Thus, the department's mission embodies both institutions' shared aim to enhance the health, well-being and quality of life of the people of Arkansas, our nation and our world. Through transformational teaching and learning, the U of A, UAMS and OTD prepares students to have a greater impact on individual and community health and wellness — enabling students to generate scientifically informed, occupation-centered solutions in traditional and role-emerging healthcare arenas.

Our holistic admissions process allows us to admit a diverse range of students who will become innovative practitioners and ethical leaders committed to inclusive excellence, relationship-centered care and occupational justice for individuals, groups and communities across their local areas, throughout Arkansas and the world. By enabling occupational therapy students to become innovative, caring, globally-minded scholars, practitioners and advocates, the department advances an inclusive, emancipatory and participatory vision of society situated at the intersection of the missions of the U of A and UAMS.


The Occupational Therapy Department reflects the philosophy of our profession — that because occupation entails everything we want, have or need to do, occupation is life-supporting. Across the lifespan, occupations provide meaning to people, families, communities and populations. Because occupation is so central to human functioning and flourishing, it is not only understood as a basic human need, it is fundamental right.

As stewards of an occupational justice perspective of health, we share the belief that "all individuals have an innate need and right to engage in meaningful occupations throughout their lives" (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2011, p. S65). In addition, we recognize that participation and engagement in occupations can and must be used to advance the health and well-being of individuals, groups and populations (Fischer & Marterella, 2019; McLaughlin Gray, 1998). Finally, we believe that occupation occurs across diverse personal and environmental contexts that influence participation and occupational experience (AOTA, 2020). Since occupation is the unifying hub of our profession, occupation lies at the center of our curricular design.

Our view of humanity and learning is congruent with the profession's philosophy of education (AOTA, 2015). Students are social beings who learn, grow and construct meaning in and through their associations, contexts and teaching-learning environments (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Kirby, 2013). Thus, our curricular design is built around Fink's (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning and Hooper's (2017) Subject-centered Integrative Model for Occupational Therapy (SCIL-OT). Both approaches utilize relational, integrative and ultimately transformative methods that foster personal growth and socialization to the profession.

We have purposely created a curriculum that provides learners with identity-shaping opportunities that challenge their worldview since students learn most intensely and deeply when faced with personally meaningful situations that call their prior knowledge or experience into question (Fink, 2013). Our faculty view learning as an iterative, interactive and recursive process where students take on challenges of increasing complexity as they grow in their confidence and competence. This philosophy enables students to increasingly act with authority, "empowering them to invent their own futures as well as that of occupational therapy" (Wood et al., 2000, p. 594) and to embody characteristics outlined in the program's mission.

An occupation-centered curricular design such as ours requires the learning community to "hold both teacher and student alike accountable for what they say and do" (Palmer, 1998, p. 177). By accountable, we mean that our instructional methods and assessments of teaching and learning make explicit the link between the dynamics of occupation and the core knowledge, attitudes and skills students must possess as they develop identities as occupational therapists (Bailliard, 2014).