Jenna-Lynn Willer is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therpay Doctorate (OTD) program and will graduate in 2023! In her last year of the OTD program, Jenna-Lynn has had the opportunity to complete a Doctoral Capstone Experience with E3 Collective/Swim Empowered in Dubuque, Iowa.
I am completing my doctoral capstone through E3 Collective, with mentor, Mike Hagensick. E3 Collective is an organization that strives to equip, empower, and encourage learning and collaboration between professionals, parents, families, and community members. Through this organization and mentorship with Mike, I am creating my own inclusive learn-to-swim and water safety program, Swim Empowered, in the Dubuque community. My vision for Swim Empowered is to instill and empower parents and caregivers with the tools, techniques, and evidence-based education to promote water safety and learn to swim instruction for their children with and without disabilities. A typical week for me looks like teaching 8 aquatic classes to children and their caregivers, creating an evidence based and developmentally appropriate learn to swim curriculum, building educational handouts about water safety tips and "swim work" activities to complete at home to continue building swim skills outside of the pool, and collaborating with community members and professionals.
My favorite thing about my capstone project is the opportunity to create and build my own inclusive aquatic program in my hometown while providing my community with this much needed service. My doctoral capstone allowed me to start this passion project as an educational opportunity but now has turned into creating and operating my own community-based organization and business that I can continue into the future.
When I came on interview day, I immediately felt connected with all of the faculty and staff and loved their emphasis on the use of community engagement to practice and facilitate carryover of what we learn in the classroom. I have developed great connections with my professors and felt they truly cared about my education and growth in my journey to becoming an occupational therapist. Even during COVID, they did their best in providing us with opportunities to gain important clinical skills via community engagement with various partnerships like a private preschool, the Boys and Girls Club, Optimae, and more!
Drake places an emphasis on being a well-rounded student who possesses strong leadership, professional, and clinical skills. Through my time at Drake, I have been able to hold multiple leadership positions, become a co-founder of a new organization (Drake COTAD), present research at multiple national conferences across the United States, and gain important clinical experience through community partnerships. All of these experiences have positively influenced the student I am today and the occupational therapy professional I will become!
My career goals have stayed pretty consistent throughout my time in the Drake OTD program, but I am so thankful that Drake provided us with well-rounded experiences with various populations and settings across the lifespan. I have always been passionate about working with children and incorporating the use of aquatic therapy into my practice. I plan to be a school-based and early intervention OT after graduation while continuing to run Swim Empowered in my community to provide important water safety and youth learn-to-swim programming!
I think it is so important to take every learning opportunity you can! Occupational therapists are lifelong learners, and you need to be able to seek out learning and professional development in order to provide the best care for your patients. I also think it is important to build relationships with your professors. They have so many connections in the OT community and are filled with knowledge and experiences to share. I think it is important to be involved with student organizations on campus, attend national and state conferences, and seek out leadership opportunities. These give you so many great opportunities to collaborate with students, faculty, and other healthcare professionals. Do not forget to schedule time for yourself and create occupational balance! Your brain and body will thank you!
Return to the OTD Capstone Spotlight home page here.