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 SRU's therapeutic recreation program earns national recognition 



May 18, 2010
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SRU's therapeutic recreation program earns national recognition


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's therapeutic recreation program has been named one of the top 12 programs in the country for producing certified therapeutic recreation specialists by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, a credentialing organization for the profession.
            The rankings were based on the institution's success rate for producing graduates that pass the council's national certification exam, said Debbie Hutchins, SRU professor in the department of parks, recreation/environmental education. SRU students have demonstrated a pass rate of 88.2 percent, compared to the national average of 72.7 percent.
            "Over the past 10 years, Slippery Rock University therapeutic recreation students have consistently scored above the national average on the certification exam," Hutchins said. "This recognition finds SRU in the company of much larger universities such as the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, East Carolina University, Temple University and the University of New Hampshire."
           Therapeutic recreation, often referred to as "recreational therapy," is a specialized field that provides recreation services for people with disabilities. SRU graduates, working with children, adolescents and adults, help patients rehabilitate to improve function and provide services to reduce the effects of a disability. 

            "The program is fantastic because it shows the value of leisure," said Amanda Karl, a May graduate who obtained an internship in the acute psychiatric unit at Altoona Regional Health System. "We think of leisure as something that people do, but leisure dictates our personality and whether we're going to do things constructively or destructively."

            Karl leads leisure education and awareness programs so that patients can improve their lives upon release from the hospital. "SRU is a smaller school and we have easily some of the best professors in the field," Karl said. "The beauty of the program is that there are so many different fields and facilities that you can get into with this degree."
          SRU graduates are well prepared for employment, Hutchins said, because they have completed coursework that exceeds the national standards and participated in volunteer hours both inside and outside of the classroom. They have the opportunity to attend and present at local and national professional conferences and to participate in leadership and service projects that relate to their field of study.
         "Our graduates work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, residential programs, long-term care settings such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, recovery centers, jails and community-service centers," Hutchins said. "They are currently providing services in facilities such as Health South, LIFE Pittsburgh, UPMC Western Psychiatric Center, UPMC Northwest Behavioral Center, the Woodlands Foundation, Vintage Adult Day Services, Longwood at Oakmont, and Concordia Lutheran Services. Other graduates are employed in recreational therapy settings throughout the United States, including facilities in North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, New York, Virginia, Georgia, and Illinois."
        SRU therapeutic recreation graduate Patrick Monaghan directs operations and programs at The Woodlands Foundation in Wexford. The camp and retreat facility enriches the lives of 7,000 children and young adults through programs in aquatics, exercise and wellness.

            "I received a lot of good academic advice at Slippery Rock," Monaghan said. "You've got to start with the professors there. Dr. Hutchins was my main professor and mentor. She has quite a bit of experience and involvement in the field of therapeutic recreation. She supervised my internship and was invaluable. The curriculum was solid; it gave me a rounded experience in therapeutic recreation and other healthcare fields. I am sure that's why it's being recognized."

            SRU's program allows students to gain leadership experience through various student activities such as the Therapeutic Recreation Club. This student-centered organization sponsors an annual workshop for practitioners, conducts fundraisers and participates in numerous campus service projects such as the Cardboard Village, Relay for Life and Project Bundle-up, Hutchins said.  The club also contributes to the local Autism Society, the Healthsports program and other service projects in the community. 

           Last spring, the club offered an art exhibit featuring artists with disabilities sharing their perspective on disability through art, and a visit from Mark Wellman, a California adventure athlete. Wellman, who acquired a spinal cord injury in a climbing accident, spoke to several groups on campus about his perspective on life and achievements in the outdoors including several climbs of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

           SRU therapeutic recreation majors have the added advantage of selecting from a number of minors and support programs that boost their job marketability. "Students may choose to minor in adapted physical activity, psychology, gerontology, special education or criminology," Hutchins said. "Students can also specialize in aquatics, therapeutic riding or outdoor adventures."

            The therapeutic recreation program has received national recognition from the American Therapeutic Recreation Association for "Excellence in Education" twice, Hutchins said. "SRU's therapeutic recreation program is a great program for students who are interested in working with individuals with disabilities in a creative and unique way." 

             "It is the best field for me because you get to work with people with disabilities using recreation as purposeful play for intervention," said Chris Kite, a senior therapeutic recreation major from Pittsburgh. "I am pre-physical therapy, so the program is giving me good leadership skills, and the professors are just amazing."


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.



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