Occupational Therapy Scholarships | Beaufort County Now | Donors make largest planned gift in allied health history | east carolina university, ECU, occupational therapy, scholarships, donors, largest gift, december 16, 2020

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Occupational Therapy Scholarships

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Erin Ward.

Laura and Randy Strickland, left, tour ECU’s occupational therapy department in 2015.


"We think it’s important for alumni to give. Students have a really hard time managing the expenses of higher education. That’s why scholarships are so important. I’m a first-generation college student. ECU made a huge difference in my career. The program there is the basis of everything I did afterward."
  – Dr. Randy Strickland, professor of occupational therapy

    We fill our days with regular activities — we get dressed, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, text a friend, drive the car, check email — often without having to put much thought or effort into them. But how can we do these activities when dealing with major health challenges? Occupational therapists help people regain the skills and tools to do what they need to do every day.

    As university professors of occupational therapy, Drs. Randy and Laura Strickland know how critical the profession is and see the potential each student has to touch hundreds of lives as a practitioner.

    That's why the Stricklands made a planned gift to ECU to support scholarships in the Department of Occupational Therapy — the largest single donation in the history of the College of Allied Health Sciences. The Dr. Lewis Randy Strickland and Dr. Laura Schluter Strickland Scholarship will support occupational therapy students earning doctoral degrees.

    "We think it's important for alumni to give. Students have a really hard time managing the expenses of higher education. That's why scholarships are so important," Randy said. "I'm a first-generation college student. ECU made a huge difference in my career. The program there is the basis of everything I did afterward."

    Randy received his bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from ECU in 1975 and earned his master's and doctoral degrees at North Carolina State University. He is a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association and professor at Spalding University, where he developed the school's occupational therapy program. His wife, Laura, also teaches in the program at Spalding. She received her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from the University of Texas Medical Branch and master's in behavioral health from the University of Houston. She also has a doctorate in leadership from Spalding. Due to the pandemic, the pair are teaching classes virtually from their home in Southport.

    "I've long known Laura and Randy Strickland to be strong supporters of the College of Allied Health Sciences and particularly of our occupational therapy program. Their generous gift comes at an important time as it will prepare for the post-pandemic rehabilitation needs of our local communities and the development of an innovative clinical doctoral program," Dean Robert Orlikoff said. "Through this support, our students will be better able to help patients participate in the activities of daily living more independently and thus improve their quality of life."

    The Stricklands are supporting doctoral scholarships specifically because they feel a doctorate equips practitioners with the ability to provide the best care options.

    "Many programs across the country are moving to the doctoral level. It's important for ECU to advance its programs to be viable well into the future," Laura said.


"Their generous gift comes at an important time as it will prepare for the post-pandemic rehabilitation needs of our local communities and the development of an innovative clinical doctoral program."
  – College of Allied Health Sciences Dean Robert Orlikoff

    ECU does not have a doctoral program for occupational therapy but is developing an entry-level clinical doctorate with plans to begin offering a curriculum in 2023 in addition to a master's degree.

    "Currently a doctorate is not required to be an occupational therapist. However, there has been a lot of discussion and action taken within the field to advance the profession in that way. Offering both gives students more flexibility," said Dr. Denise Donica, associate professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

    The department continues to grow and develop in other ways. It was ranked for the fifth consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report for best graduate schools in occupational therapy. And faculty member Dr. Anne Dickerson recently earned the Governor's Award for Excellence in Public Service for her work with the driving and community mobility bootcamp for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.

    In addition to their planned gift, the Stricklands have contributed to ECU's occupational therapy program for more than 10 years. They view their giving as an investment in the future.

    "You may never see exactly where your donation goes, but we believe the university will be good stewards of that investment and that it will make a difference," Randy said. "It's amazing to see what ECU and the College of Allied Health Sciences have become, and we're excited for the future."


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