Dr. Meghan Watry-Christian, Ph.D., OT/L, is Concordia University’s new program director for the master’s and doctorate occupational therapy programs. As program director, she is excited to lead a program where students may thrive and flourish. Watry-Christian is ready to bring our OT programs to the next level.
Tell us about your educational and career background.
I completed my undergraduate B.A. in psychology at Wisconsin Lutheran College, then my Master of Occupational Therapy from Concordia University WI– that’s right, I’m an alumnus! After completing my MOT, I worked full-time as a school-based occupational therapist in Glendale-River Hills School District. At the same time, I worked part-time at St. Luke’s Medical Center in acute care.
My professional background is mainly focused on pediatrics, however, I have worked in adult clinical care as well. In 2011, I started teaching as an adjunct instructor at CUW and then moved to a full-time instructor in 2013. In 2019, I completed my Ph.D. in Education, emphasizing Special Education.
What brought you back to CUW?
As an alumnus, I remember feeling like CUW was “home.” There are many special memories of my OT faculty and classmates. When I found out there was a full-time opening to teach, it felt like God was calling me to come back to CUW. I don’t think I would have left my clinical practice to teach anywhere else.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like working out and reading. Before I had my youngest daughter, I ran half-marathons and I’m slowly working my way back to getting into running. Crime mysteries are my favorite to read.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of seeing the successes of my students. I want to pour into them and give them the support and encouragement needed for them to build confidence and skills to reach their dreams.
In March 2022, I completed the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Academic Leadership Certificate. This was an amazing 6-month process of connecting with leaders in our profession while working toward developing our educational curriculums. It was a really great professional experience for my own development, but I’m most excited about the connections, knowledge, and skills I gained which will support my students in their accomplishments.
As the new OT program director, what are you most excited about?
We have a new entry-level OT Doctorate so I’m excited to see what our OTD graduates will do. Part of the OTD is a capstone experience/project, and many of our students choose to do their capstones in non-traditional settings. I’m excited to see our graduates be change-makers for the future of our profession.
Spend time thinking about your “why.” Why do you want to go to college? Why do you want to be an OT? Knowing your big picture motivation will help carry you through the challenges of graduate school. Becoming an Occupational Therapist isn’t easy, but it’s doable. And it is SO, SO worth it!Meghan Watry-Christian
What do you love about Concordia?
Teaching at Concordia allows me to be my whole self. I don’t have to leave my faith hidden away, and I love that! Getting to connect with students in really authentic ways as they develop into their professional selves is so fulfilling.
Our faculty and staff really care about students. I just did an orientation with my newest cohort of students and at lunch, one of the students said “At my undergrad school, I never ate lunch with my professors.”
Another student remarked “I really love the small cohort feel. It’s amazing that you already know my name and who I am.” Students are more than students to us, they are people and we’re genuinely excited to be a part of their professional journey.
What’s the most interesting part about OT?
Occupational therapy emerged in the mental health field that primarily worked with veterans coming back from WWI and struggling to re-integrate into society. While OT has adjusted to a more medical model, we are moving back to acknowledging our mental health roots. We are beginning to incorporate more mental health-based approaches in our repertoire of interventions.
Why should students join Concordia’s OT program?
I think there are so many reasons why Concordia University Wisconsin’s OT program is the place to be. Here are a few.
Students get a lot of hands-on experience in our program. In the first semester, students are observing OT treatment in our Interprofessional Community Clinic. Starting in semester two, students begin treating clients with their peer mentors and faculty supervisors each semester. This is built into the required coursework, so students get 3 full semesters of treating clients before they even get to fieldwork.
Having an individual mentor
Our program is built on a mentoring model. Every student is matched with a peer mentor and an OT faculty advisor when they start the program. Therefore they have support and encouragement every step of the way. This mentoring model, along with our university’s amazing Academic Resource Center and peer tutoring services, means students are set up for success from day one.
Integrating Christain values
Spirituality is a core component of what makes people human, according to the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework. This means that no matter what faith or belief system a student might come from, spirituality is a part of OT and the clients we work with. In CUW’s OT program, we intentionally integrate Christian faith into our courses and support students in considering how their faith can impact those they work with. This is an incredible opportunity for students to grow in a unique way, professionally and personally.