After volunteering with an occupational therapist in the Exceptional Family Members Services in Italy, Kirsta von Hellens was inspired to pursue a career in occupational therapy. She received her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Eastern Kentucky University in 2000 and worked as an OT for a school district in northern Kentucky after graduation. She then continued her education and earned a master’s degree of education in assistive technology from the University of Louisville. In 2008, she left Kentucky and began a career in the assistive technology field within a school district.
Kirsta eventually came back to EKU to earn her doctorate in occupational therapy. Despite working in the OT field for nearly 20 years, she wanted to learn more and improve the assistive technology program at her school.
She felt the best way to accomplish these goals and push herself professionally was to continue her education. EKU Online’s OTD program was the perfect solution. The asynchronous style of the program made it easier for her to earn her degree while still maintaining her full-time position. Additionally, the coursework was designed to build toward a final project, breaking larger assignments into smaller, manageable pieces. This structure allowed those students who knew what they wanted to do for their capstone project to tailor their learning toward that goal.
Although Kirsta had taken online classes for her master’s degree and was familiar with online learning, she was worried about being rusty since she had been out of school for more than a decade. At times, the classes were intense and challenging but the support of her professors and classmates helped her be successful in her studies. The overriding focus of all the instructors was to help every student grow both personally and professionally. The professors were always approachable and quick to respond to any question or need.
“The EKU Occupational Therapy faculty have been fabulous! They answered all my questions and have gone above and beyond to help me be successful not only in the program, but in getting published as well,” she said.
Kirsta also found true camaraderie with her fellow students forming what she knows will be lifelong friendships and connections. The students were there for one another both academically and socially. Even though she graduated in 2020, she’s still in contact with some of her classmates and the professors are still there to help any way they can.
“Although we are online, we are not alone! Not only do the instructors support us, but our classmates support one another which helps us to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. We’re then able to achieve things we may have never realized as a possibility,” she said.
Kirsta said that earning her OTD made a tremendous difference in how she approached her work and the questions she asked to keep growing in her OTD practice. She’s now better able to evaluate and improve the assistive learning program at her school, develop policy and procedures, and advocate for assistive technology. Her capstone project, “A Digital Walk Through Digital Talk,” was even published in the December2020 issue of Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits.
“My advice to anyone who has reached a point in their career where they want to know more and challenge themselves to ask better questions, evaluate with more rigor, and improve, but who may be nervous about going back to school or even taking classes online, the instructors at EKU are there to help. They want to see their students succeed and grow. They will work with you and your circumstances to facilitate your learning and growth. And the study skills will come back. “
Interested in a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy?
Earn your online bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university that has been an online education leader for more than 15 years. EKU offers one of the top post-professional doctor of occupational therapy programs in the nation. Our challenging doctorate degree options prepare practitioners to take on leadership roles and our flexible, online format provides students the ability to complete coursework and assignments according to their schedule.
Complete the form to learn more about how EKU Online’s OTD Program can help advance your career.