By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
A $900,000 City of Muskogee Foundation grant gives Northeastern State University another jump start on its occupational therapy program, officials said.
“This will really help us start the program,” said program director Dr. Judy Melvin. “There is a lot of expensive equipment we have to buy.”
NSU plans to offer a master of science degree in occupational therapy for the spring 2014 semester. Rooms at the Muskogee Campus, 2400 W. Shawnee Bypass, are being converted into laboratories for the program.
The City of Muskogee Foundation grant is a three-year award that will be used to help offset the program’s startup costs. NSU envisions a 30-month program focusing on training occupational therapists for rural areas in eastern Oklahoma, a media release said.
This is the second major boost for the program. In March, the Gailey family donated $200,000 to set up an multifunctional living skills lab at NSU Muskogee.
City of Muskogee Foundation Executive Director Frank Merrick said he was excited about awarding the $900,000 grant.
“We felt confident about the leadership at NSU,” Merrick said. “We’ve been working on this with them for a good while. It is the hope of the Foundation that the program will become self-sustaining, that they will no longer need our grant to keep going.”
NSU officials said the program already has generated interest.
“We already have numerous students applying, and they can still apply,” Melvin said. “I’m getting calls from people still in high school wanting to make sure they’re taking the right classes.”
She said the program also has generated interest from “people who have been working for a while.”
“There is such a need, so many great opportunities for people with occupational therapy backgrounds,” Melvin said. “This is a career where you can find a lot of opportunities. There is such a need in this area with its aging population and growing population.”
Dr. Martin Venneman, NSU’s dean of science health administration, said the university has already hired faculty for the program.
“They should be on board in mid-September, developing the curriculum,” he said.
NSU Muskogee Dean Dr. Tim McElroy said, “This is a positive for us as we develop the Muskogee campus into a center for health care.”
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com.