Elyse Newland is one of the lucky 13 in the first graduating class in the occupational therapy doctoral program (OTD) at UTC. “I’ll be the first in my family to have a doctorate,” Newland says.
“We’re very proud of them for being risk takers and becoming leaders,” says Susan McDonald, program director. When UTC’s program launched in 2013, it was one of just eight OTD programs in the country. Today, UTC’s is one of only 16. McDonald says that only seven of those 16 are public universities. “So we feel like we’re a pretty good bargain.”
Art for All
Engineering and art don’t always come to mind when thinking about collaborations, but that’s what happened at UT Chattanooga for the benefit of disabled children and adults with art ambitions.
In the “Art for All” project, UTC engineering students designed devices to help people with disabilities create their own artwork. At the same time, art students helped the artists bring their ideas into the world.
“The art students and engineering students came together to brainstorm possible solutions,” says Cecelia Wigal, professor of mechanical engineering. “The art students also helped the engineering students understand the tools and materials artists use and what are the artistic results of using the tools or materials.”
Students also met with the artists “to more completely understand the problem,” Wigal says.
Some artists have physical and mental disabilities. Some use wheelchairs, and some have limited movement of their arms or head. 2017 was the first year that Wigal and her students worked on a project aimed specifically at creating visual art. In the future, Wigal says, she hopes to add projects in performing arts.
Students Build Ropes Course
Students at Gilbert Elementary School in LaFayette, Georgia—about 30 miles from Chattanooga—can have fun outside while building their problem-solving skills, thanks to a ropes course built by UTC students. They were led by Drew Bailey, UC Foundation assistant professor and coordinator for UTC’s Sport and Leisure Service Administration program.
Gilbert Elementary Principal Matt Harris says the ropes course is a hit with both students and teachers. “Kids have used it every day since it was built,” Harris says. “They love it, and the teachers love it because the kids get their energy out while also working on their problem-solving skills.”