The mission of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy program is to graduate entry level occupational therapist leaders who are committed to providing excellent occupation centered, client-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy. There are five curricular threads that flow from this mission.  These threads form the basis of the curriculum design: foundational science, research skills, professional identity/leadership, clinical skills,
and theory.

Foundational Science

Foundational science forms the basis of scientific reasoning.  Courses dealing with the structure and function of the human body and how it moves form the building blocks of understanding how occupational performance is affected by disease and developmental delays.  The rigorousness of these courses and the scientific reasoning used in them gives students a solid foundation to mindfully apply the occupational therapy process.  These foundational science courses occur in the first year of the curriculum, however students are asked to apply foundational science concepts in other coursework, including fieldwork, to explain the “science” behind treatment interventions, to justify evaluation and intervention choices, etc.   

Research Skills

Research skills are needed to approach everyday occupational therapy practice with scholarly rigor. Learning the skills and rigor of evidence-based practice (EBP) helps students develop professional reasoning (Coster, 2008).  An evidence-based practitioner has the tools to make ethical and effective evaluation and intervention choices.  The coursework in this thread includes content that helps student develop the skills needed to be an evidence-based occupational therapist.  It is important to note that EBP applications are woven into other courses, including fieldwork, to promote application of EBP concepts in different treatment contexts and with different populations.

Professional Identity/Leadership

Professional Identity/Leadership encompasses how students implement their skills and knowledge as a student and a therapist.  The coursework in this thread emphasizes collaborating in teams, assuming leadership roles, internalizing a strong professional identity, demonstrating ability to practice with minimal supervision, valuing life-long learning, and supporting/ promoting the profession of occupational therapy.  Therapeutic use of self, multicultural sensitivity and professional behaviors are strongly emphasized throughout the coursework and all fieldwork experiences.

Clinical Skills

Clinical skills include the knowledge and skills that occupational therapists use to make decisions at each step of the occupational therapy process. Courses in this tread include focus on occupational performance problems encountered by various populations in different practice settings (both current and emerging) as well as assessment and intervention options.


Theory provides guides for understanding practice situations, considering assessment and intervention options, selecting the intervention, timing and method of delivery (Coster, 2008).  Occupational therapy theories are covered in the clinical skills thread in context with populations and practice settings.  The coursework in the theory thread requires higher level thinking.