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Gannon’s Gulf Coast Guide: GU Ruskin’s Inaugural Class

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Gannon’s Gulf Coast Guide: GU Ruskin’s Inaugural Class

As a student at the Ruskin campus, I am often asked how it feels to be part of Gannon University’s inaugural class for the new campus and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy program. But I think it is time to highlight the professionals chosen to lead our class and create the framework for this program. This dynamic group has, and will continue to transform our view of occupational therapy through their different perspectives. So who makes up our GU Ruskin faculty?

GU Ruskin Faculty

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Kristin Valdes, Professor Christine Greseth, Dr. Dianna Lunsford

Our department chair Dr. John Connelly came back to Gannon after teaching in the OT department for two years at Towson University, and previously at GU for eight years. His areas of specialty within the field of OT include physical disabilities and business fundamentals. Within the first few weeks of the semester, we learned what an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan he is and his passion for doctoral education in occupational therapy.

As the vice-president, and soon-to-be president, of the American Society of Hand Therapists, Dr. Kristin Valdes is an immense asset to our program. In the past, she has taught at Drexel University and Rocky Mountain University and has her own clinic, Hand Works, located in Sarasota and Venice, FL.  Her areas of specialty include hand therapy and research, as demonstrated by her 35 publications. The enthusiasm Dr. Valdes has for research in the field of OT is contagious and we are thankful for her experience, as our goal as doctorate level students is to become published.

The passion and experiences of Dr. Dianna Lunsford are also greatly appreciated by our class. She has taught at Grand Valley State University and has her Master’s in education with a focus on adult and higher education. She is a well-rounded OT from her experiences in the field and is a great example of a life-long learner. Dr. Lunsford considers herself specialized in ergonomics, hand therapy, and physical disabilities. Her emphasis on cultural awareness and real life application has pushed myself and my cohort to open our eyes to the multiple facets that make up OT.

Professor Christine Greseth also previously taught at Towson University after graduating from their OT program. She has immense knowledge and experience in providing OT evaluations and assessments, developing individualized treatment plans, and documenting progress for psychiatric patients. Professor Greseth continues to practice in Venice, FL while teaching courses related to mental health and occupational therapy at GU.

Physical therapist Dr. Richard Johnson has been a vital piece of the faculty at the Ruskin campus, especially during our fall semester of neuroscience. He jumped right into the course, sharing his extensive knowledge and collection of first hand case studies. Dr. Connelly explained, “All of our faculty came from the world of treating patients, so we learned how important it is for physical and occupational therapy to work together. They complement each other.” As we evolve and gain a more comprehensive OT perspective, understanding the PT perspective is a key element of the teamwork we will be a part of in the future.

Each one of our professors have adjusted seamlessly into doctoral level teaching, which emphasizes an experiential learning component of each course, an additional 16-week specialty internship, and an expectation for publication of research with the overarching goal of meeting the standards set by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Dr. Lunsford highlighted that a few differences from typical undergraduate programs consist of adult learning theory elements and professional connections between the faculty and the students. From a student perspective, this aspect of our GU faculty has stood out. Dr. Lunsford moved her life and family to Florida to be a part of the program, leaving a one week gap between one job and the next. Similar to our class, she has experienced a change in culture, weather, and everyday life. Each professor has gone through a time of transition just as we have, and we are so thankful to have shared that experience with them.

Whitney Blankenship

Whitney Blankenship

-Whitney Blankenship
Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Student, GU Ruskin

Whitney is part of the inaugural class of Occupational Therapy Students at the GU Ruskin Campus, and author of the Gannon Gulf Coast Guide guest blog series.

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