History of the Program

Learn about the history of the Therapeutic Recreation (TR) program of study at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L), one of the most comprehensive therapeutic recreation undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States.

Administrative History of the Therapeutic Recreation Program

  1972 The Therapeutic Recreation Program was initiated at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a proposal submitted to the university by Dr. William Otto, then Chair of the Department of Recreation and Parks at UW-L.
1973 Ms. Shirley Bushell was hired as the first Therapeutic Recreation instructor at UW-L.
1974 Therapeutic Recreation became the third concentration (Recreation Administration and Recreation Leadership being the other two) of the Recreation and Parks Major.
1988 The three concentrations of the Department of Recreation and Parks receive accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA) of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the American Association for Leisure and Recreation (AALR) for the first time.  UW-L was the first and is still the only Therapeutic Recreation Education program in the state of Wisconsin to receive this accreditation.
1989 The major in Therapeutic Recreation was approved by the University of Wisconsin System.
1991 The Department of Recreation and Parks changes the name to the Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation.
1992 The final UW-System five year lateral audit reaffirms Therapeutic Recreation as an ongoing major.
1993 The TR program is reaccredited for an additional five years by the Council on accreditation of NRPA and AALR.
1998 The TR program is reaccredited for an additional five years by the Council on accreditation of NRPA and AALR.
2003 The TR program is reaccredited for an additional five years by the Council on accreditation of NRPA and AALR.
2005 The TR program is moved to the College of Science and Allied Health.
2008 The TR program is reaccredited for an additional five years by the Council on accreditation of NRPA and AAPA&R.
2009 The Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation moves from Widdich Hall to the Health Science Center, home of the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium, 1300 Badger Street.

Faculty and Staff

Bushell Ms. Shirley Bushell-Gilson (1973-1976 at UW-L) was the first Therapeutic Recreation instructor hired by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  Ms. Bushell-Gilson received her Master's in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Illinois-Champaign before arriving in La Crosse.

Therapeutic Recreation faculty and staff who have followed the late Ms. Shirley Bushell-Gilson in teaching at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are listed below.  Current Therapeutic Recreation faculty and staff have their names linked to their email.

Therapeutic Recreation Faculty, Past and Present

  Patricia Ardovino, Ph.D., CTRS, CPRP
Anita Barta, Ph.D., CTRS (retired in 2000)
Marcia Carter, Ph.D., CTRS
Susanne Lesnik-Emas, Ph.D., CTRS
Mary Ellen Erlandson, M.S., CTRS
Thomas Gushiken, Ph.D., CTRS (retired in 2001)*
Jearold Holland, Ph.D.*
Mary Ann Keogh-Hoss, Ph.D., CTRS
Jeff Mc Intyre, M.S.
Stephen Lewis, Ph.D., CTRS
Dan Johnson, Ph.D., CTRS
Kathy Murphy, M.S., CTRS
Susan "Boon" Murray, Ed. D., CTRS*
Nancy Navar, Re.D., CTRS*
Roy Olsson, Ph.D., CTRS
Bridget Todd, M.S., CTRS
Robin Yaffe Tschumper, Ph.D., CTRS

Those marked with * served as Department Chair


Awards

Peg Connolly Student Scholarship: The purpose of this nation-wide competitive scholarship is to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of students each year by providing stipends to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association's (ATRA) annual conference.  The scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled in a Therapeutic Recreation program during the conference year.  Because of the increased competitiveness of this scholarship, students are eligible to receive this award only one time during their undergraduate or graduate pursuits.  This prestigious working scholarship includes tuition to the conference, housing accommodation and a stipend.

Peg Connolly Student Scholarship Recipients Include:
Ken Shimura (1992)
Suzie Ross (1993)
Chris Finn (1995)
Heidi Tanck (1998)
Janet Prvu (1998)
Mara Mueller (1999)
Emily Noga (2012)

WPRA Foundation, Inc. Student Grants and Conference Scholarship: This student grant provides an opportunity for students to attend continuing education programs by providing them with up to $500.  The Conference scholarship provides a complimentary three-day registration package for the Annual Conference and Trade Show; the recipient does not receive any money, but the conference fees are waived and the conference related meals are paid for.  To apply for this scholarship, the student must submit a copy of an official transcript documenting current enrollment in a park, recreation, natural resources, therapeutic recreation, or related curriculum, and must carry a minimum of 12 credits at the time of application.  The applicant must also have a GPA of 2.5 or better to be considered, and they must also submit a letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a park/recreation professional.

WPRA Foundation, Inc. Student Grants and Conference Scholarship Recipients Include:
2003 Conference Scholarship Recipients:

 Charlie Lenn

WPRA Edward J. Berry Student Endowment Fund: This scholarship helps to assist students with partial tuition scholarships.  Students must be a current member of the WPRA at the time of application, residents of Wisconsin, and currently be enrolled in a park, recreation, therapeutic recreation, leisure or related curriculum at the time of application with a minimum of 12 credits.  Special consideration may be given to students with disabilities enrolled in a leisure related curriculum.  When feasible, endowment funds will be provided annually to a male and a female student.  Students must provide a copy of their current transcript and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

WPRA Edward J. Berry Student Endowment Fund Recipients Include:
2002 Edward J. Berry Tuition Endowment Recipients:
Sara Berceau, Amber Otto, Heidi Tenpas and Tricia Tovar
2003 Edward J. Berry Tuition Endowment Recipients:
Nicole Harpt and Charlie Lenn

NRPA Fred Humphrey Legislative Intern Award: This international experience enhanced Katrina's confidence to speak alongside national organizations that focus on rights of people with disabilities, especially Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, one of the loudest voices concerning issues related to access to services.  She worked with other NTRS staff to monitor public policy and legislative efforts in the areas of health and human services, focusing on Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance reform, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and issues related to aging persons with disabilities.

NRPA Fred Humphrey Legislative Intern Award
2001 Fred Humphrey Legislative Intern Award Recipients

Katrina Johnson

Departmental and Program Awards and Recognition

  December
1991
The Therapeutic Recreation Program at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse entered an agreement with St. Francis Medical Center and Family and Children's Center in the construction of a new ropes and challenge course (MARSH QUEST) at the North Campus.  Mr. Dan Johnson, a therapeutic Recreation faculty member at that time, was instrumental in initiating and securing the funds to develop this program.
  March
1997
Project TRAIN (Therapeutic Recreation Access to the Internet web site, an innovative site that continues to receive excellent reviews in contributing and supporting curriculum development on a national and international level in Therapeutic Recreation was posted on the web.
  September
1997
The Leisure Lifestyle Center was completed after receiving a $258,000 grant from the federal government.  It is a model program for incorporating clinical experience into the Therapeutic Recreation curriculum while providing a valuable service to clients in the community.  It is also a community resource providing individualized leisure assessments and leisure guidance to various members of the community.
  April
1997
The Students Advocating Potential Ability (SAPA) Organization awarded the Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation the "Most Accessible Department Award" in appreciation for outstanding service to students with disabilities.
  November
1998
The UW-L Therapeutic Recreation Major was recognized by the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association (WPRA) at the annual conference awards banquet in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  The Honorary Fellowship Award stated:

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Therapeutic Recreation program has had a dramatic impact on the profession during the past twenty-five years. Major accomplishments have included: graduating 1,055 undergraduate and 40 graduate students in Therapeutic Recreation; internationally influencing Therapeutic Recreation by graduating master's level leaders who are working in Therapeutic Recreation in Canada, Germany and Japan; and along with the Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, recently received the Most Accessible Department award from the Student Advocating Potential Ability group.

Specific accomplishments this department/major has completed that has impacted on the leisure service arena include being the only NRPA/AALR accredited Therapeutic Recreation education program in the State of Wisconsin; faculty have been leaders in the field of Therapeutic Recreation and is considered one of the most diverse Therapeutic Recreation faculty in the United States; the department has provided CEU opportunities annually to professionals throughout the State of Wisconsin; administered the first National Institute on Entrepreneurship in Therapeutic Recreation conference; and has developed Project TRAIN (Therapeutic Recreation Access to the Internet) web site, an innovative web site that continues to receive excellent reviews in contributing and supporting curriculum development on a national and international level in Therapeutic Recreation.

Faculty have contributed to the profession on local, state, regional, national and international levels by serving on committees, holding offices, and presenting at conferences and workshops, and has made the UW-La Crosse Therapeutic Recreation program a nationally recognized leader in implementing creative educational opportunities and curriculum to students at the undergraduate and graduate level.
  May
1998
The First National Institute on Entrepreneurship in Therapeutic Recreation Conference was held on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus.
  October
2000
The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), at its annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, awarded the UW-L Therapeutic Recreation Program the "Excellence in Education Award" for distinguished contributions to the education of future Therapeutic Recreation professionals.  This was only the second time this prestigious award was presented to a university program.
  December
2000
E-TR/RT (Electronic Therapeutic Recreation/Recreation Therapy) was developed as a comprehensive directory of available Therapeutic Recreation web sites.
  2004 College of HPER becomes College of EESHR, as School of Education joins the three departments in the college of HPER
  2005 College of EESHR is eliminated and former departments in HPER move to new College of Science and Health. This is where the therapeutic recreation program is now located.
  2006 For 10 consecutive years, UWL therapeutic recreation majors pass the national certification exam with scores that exceed the regional and national averages.

Additional Information About the Therapeutic Recreation Program

  • From 1974 to 2006, over 1,300 students, undergraduate as well as graduate, have earned degrees in Therapeutic Recreation at UW-L.
  • For the past decade, the placement rate for graduates in Therapeutic Recreation has consistently been above 93%.
  • Faculty have contributed to the Therapeutic Recreation profession on local, state, regional, national, and international levels by serving on committees, holding offices, and presenting at conferences and workshops.
  • The department has provided speakers with national notoriety in Therapeutic Recreation on a regular basis for professionals and students throughout the region.