Founding Dean, Program Director Nicolaas van den Heever and MSOT faculty pose with West Coast University's first graduating MSOT class at the Center for Graduate Studies in Los Angeles, Aug. 13, 2015.
West Coast University's groundbreaking masters of science in occupational therapy cohort continued to blaze new trails Thursday evening when they became the first MSOT students to become MSOT graduates.
Friends and family of the cohort gathered at WCU's Center for Graduate Studies on Aug. 13, cheering as each former OT student — who began their academic journey together in September 2013 — had dark blue hoods trimmed with aqua draped around their shoulders.
“Today has just been a life-changing experience," WCU MSOT grad Christina Vargo-Sanchez said. "It’s been a crazy, long process and it’s kind of like my dream is coming true today. It’s an awesome feeling."
WCU OT Founding Dean, Program Director Nicolaas van den Heever poses with keynote speaker Dr. Mary Evert.
WCU Provost Jeb Egbert, Ed. D., presented Rachel Marks with the MSOT Award for Academic Performance during the evening's events. After the ceremony, Egbert said he hoped many of the graduates would attend the larger commencement event in May so they could celebrate their accomplishment again.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time, and to have the inaugural class come through — and come through with flying colors — it’s pretty awesome," Egbert said. "Of course, they’re trailblazers for us, so what happens from here helps to establish that reputation we look forward to earning."
WCU OT Founding Dean, Program Director Nicolaas van den Heever, OTD, BOT, OTR/L, and keynote speaker Dr. Mary Evert urged the group to pursue greatness in all their endeavors.
"Starting a new program was a risk for everybody, but the students stuck to it. They were adamant, they were passionate – which is probably the most important thing to be successful,” van den Heever said. “So today was really a testament to the work we’ve all put in – from our faculty to the these students who have put in hard work from Day One, including 960 hours of fieldwork.”
Joshela Clark, who had just returned from her three-month externship at HealthSouth Desert Canyon Rehabilitation Hospital in Las Vegas, won the Dean’s Award for Outstanding MSOT Student. She had been nominated by her cohort peers and said it was a “true honor” to be selected. Clark said she was looking forward to continue her work in acute rehab and was quick to praise her instructors.
“We had an amazing faculty, you couldn’t have asked for a better faculty to teach us everything that we needed to know. It was great,” Clark said. “We all had lots of one-on-one time with our professors. I highly recommend (the program).”
WCU's inaugural MSOT class are Stephen Bohn, Minji Cho Hyun, Amanda Clark, Joshela Clark, Shivoni Gerard, Beth Hobbs, Katrina Lambert, Shira Richards Levine, Rachel Marks, Jamie McGill, Melissa Pagayunan, Moriah Scannell, Tony Tran, Christina Vargo-Sanchez and Zaekeya Wilson.