ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The initial master class of Maria College walked across the Sisters of Mercy Convent Chapel stage on Sunday. The 17 graduates represent Maria’s first Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) group.

Maria’s MSOT program readies students for the occupational therapy national certification test, which is headed by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. The college MSOT study started in the Fall of 2020, after three years of planning. In May of this year, it was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

“Maria’s MSOT program is a strategic expansion into a key healthcare field that builds on our already excellent reputation and strengths,” said Maria College MSOT Program Director Donald Kallembach. “We’re taking a unique approach that’s tailored to each student’s interests to offer them an opportunity, while also preparing them for the licensure exam.”

Occupational therapy has been the root of Maria College for decades, with the school educating hundreds of Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) over the last 40 years. With the addition of the master’s program, students with a bachelor’s degree can expand their skills in a hastily growing field.

“In occupational therapy, you can use forms of artistic expressions such as visual arts, music and dance in a clinical setting,” Donald Kallembach added. “Creative people make great occupational therapists because they bring passion to a clinical setting in a unique way.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in the next 10 years, there will be an estimated 17% increase in the occupational therapy business. These therapists work in hospitals, schools, skilled nursing and the community.

Maria’s MSOT is built to emphasize opportunity education and to benefit under-served populations with a priority on cultural awareness, wellness and integration. The program is 70 credits and students meet in person on the weekends six times throughout each semester. It is the only weekend-based program in the Capital Region.

Considered “non-traditional,” most of Maria’s students are going back to college for the second or third instance. The MSOT course offers state-of-the-art technology and facilities, small classes and a first-rate student support center, endowed with an in-house occupational therapist. 

Sunday’s commencement was the first for new president, Lynn Ortale, PhD, who began her Maria College career on July 1. Founded in 1958, Maria College is one of 17 colleges and universities in the United States sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.