Program Information

Why is SHU's Occupational Therapy Program Unique?
The Occupational Therapy Program at Sacred Heart University prepares future practitioners with the knowledge, skills, and values that enable them to practice and lead with professional excellence, commitment to education for life, and true humanity.  We are a learning community rooted in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, dedicated to giving personal attention to each student in order to nurture self-knowledge, facility to move among different cultures and spiritual practices with an open mind, and respect for the diversity of humankind.  We encourage students to think critically, analyze carefully, and articulate their beliefs and assumptions.  As occupational beings, we advocate involvement in occupations beyond academics to foster balance, health, and wellness among our students.  Through curricular and co-curricular activities, we stimulate innovation, creativity, and active engagement.  We strive to develop students with the desire to contribute to the common good as persons and as professionals, promoting a just society through practice, service, leadership, and the search for truth through scholarship.
With the growing need for occupational therapists nationwide and increasing public interest in the profession, our program has made the commitment to remain small and intimate. This allows our faculty and students to get to know each other well, and to support ongoing learning for members of our occupational therapy community. The faculty of Sacred Heart University’s Occupational Therapy Program believes that learning naturally emerges from interactions between students, faculty and clients. With this belief in mind, our program is structured to encourage and nurture these interactions.

The primary pedagogical method for our program is Problem Based Learning (PBL) where small groups of students and a faculty facilitator work through a case to foster clinical reasoning. Problem based learning provides educational content while simultaneously creating a forum for engaging in interactions and clinical decision-making typical of team-based health care. Group interactions also support the development of professional behaviors critical to practice.
Our department’s mission, vision, philosophy and curriculum design reflects the values of the University as a whole as well as the educational philosophy of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The acronym P.R.I.D.E., which has been adopted by our program, reveals our commitment to excellence in ourselves, our program, and our students. P.R.I.D.E. stands for principled, responsive, innovative, dynamic, and excellent.  For our program this means:


  • We expect and ensure ethical behavior.
  • We make decisions with integrity.
  • We are respectful of others.


  • We are caring, attentive, and present in interactions with others.
  • We value and engage in service to meet needs.
  • We identify learning needs and share our knowledge and expertise.


  • We promote creativity, originality, and innovation.
  • We use innovative strategies and new technologies to promote learning.


  • We are actively engaged in learning and teaching.
  • We accept and support change.
  • We take initiative.
  • We seek and consider diversity of opinion.
  • We gather and use feedback to promote positive growth and change in ourselves and others.


  • We excel in our areas of practice.
  • We seek to exceed standards of competence.
  • We engage in evidence based practice and life-long learning.
  • We support and encourage curiosity.
  • We are globally focused.
  • We are committed to our professional organizations.

Consistent with our vision of PRIDE, by graduation our students will:

  • Practice in a safe, legal, and ethical manner.
  • Rrespond to unmet needs in underserved communities through leadership, advocacy, or service.
  • Identify areas for creativity and innovation in practice and scholarship.
  • Demonstrate self-reflection.
  • Exhibit critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and competence in skills requisite for entry-level occupational therapy practice.
  • Engagein professional activities.
Our curriculum design is portrayed by the circular tree of life, with its roots consisting of the foundational knowledge students need to become exemplary practitioners; its trunk symbolizing the process that supports the knowledge scaffolding and critical thinking; and its top branches symbolizing the skills, abilities and professional behavior outcomes of the entry level practitioners graduating from our program. The tree’s branches circle back to its roots, demonstrating the continual process of learning and the integration of new information with the foundational roots as an occupational therapist grows throughout a lifetime of practice.
See what Dr. R. Kent Crookston, author of Working with Problem Faculty:  A 6-Step Guide for Department Chairs (2012), published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. says about the Program's Vision and Mission‌‎‌‎
Curriculum Objectives
Consistent with our vision of PRIDE, our graduates will:
  • Participate in promotion of the profession, professional service and professional activities at local, state or national levels to enhance their professional identity.
  • Practice in a safe and legal manner in all interactions and adopt professional behaviors rooted in ethical standards, core values & attitudes.
  • Respond to unmet occupational and educational needs in underserved communities through leadership, advocacy and service.
  • Identify strengths, passions and individual talents to direct career choices, life-long professional development and innovation in practice and scholarship.
  • Deepen the ability to self-reflect on ongoing daily experiences to drive their personal growth, professional development, practice and scholarship.
  • Exhibit critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills requisite for entry-level occupational therapy practice and ongoing continued competency.
Curriculum Design and Approach to Learning
The curriculum utilizes a Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach. PBL incorporates small group tutorials led by expert faculty members or clinical practitioners, designed to bridge course content with practice by having students actively engage in the clinical reasoning process through case studies.

Students solve clinical problems through self-directed and peer group study, evidence-based research and discussion in order to integrate a theoretical and foundational knowledge base into the application of occupational therapy assessment and intervention strategies and skills. ‌Students actively engage in and develop the clinical reasoning skills requisite to team collaboration, leadership and evidenced-based practice.

PBL provides students with the foundation for self directed, life long learning necessary for a practicing professional. The curriculum incorporates fieldwork and community-based practice opportunities where students actively use clinical reasoning in the design of assessment, intervention and follow up strategies based on evidence, leadership, supervision and management, research and entrepreneurship. Students are provided with a strong educational background to address the physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual needs of their clients in order to design occupation based interventions which enable clients to participate optimally in their own living environments of work, school, play, home, society and community.

Class Size and Structure

‌‌‎The maximum class size is 55. Faculty/student ratios are determined by teaching/learning strategies. Typical faculty/student ratios in laboratories are 15-18 to 1 with additional faculty during more intensive labs. PBL tutorials are in a small group format, typically with 6-8 students per facilitator. The faculty for this program is highly involved with the students and gets to know them well as individuals and future colleagues.