Arkansas Tech University is the first institution in the United States to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for an in-person rehabilitation science undergraduate degree program.
The certificate of accreditation for ATU’s Bachelor of Arts degree in rehabilitation science was issued on July 16, 2021.
The CAAHEP accreditation process included a review of the program’s curriculum and interviews with stakeholders, including students and advisory board members.
Dr. Erica L. Wondolowski, program director and associate professor of rehabilitation science at Arkansas Tech, noted that faculty, staff and administrations from across the university contributed to the accreditation process.
“I feel like we learned a lot about ourselves,” said Wondolowski, who has served on the ATU faculty since 2015. “The greatest benefit was the feedback from our advisory board and our students. Our advisory board is comprised of professionals in our service area who hire our students and take them on as interns and field placement students. They felt like our students are prepared for not only their careers but for graduate study as well. Students expressed concern about faculty well-being, wanting to make sure we are engaging in self-care, and they felt very grateful for the opportunities our program provides. It was affirming and energizing to hear the feedback.”
Wondolowski is beginning her first year as program director for the rehabilitation science program at ATU. She is following in the footsteps of the late Dr. Lyman Harris, who joined the Arkansas Tech faculty in 1974, founded the state’s first undergraduate rehabilitation science program and was program director at the time of his retirement in 2014; and Dr. Penny Willmering, who became an ATU faculty member in 1999 and retired as rehabilitation science program director in 2021.
According to the ATU Department of Behavioral Sciences website, the Arkansas Tech rehabilitation science program “is designed to prepare students for a variety of social service-based occupations through a foundation in client relations, industry-specific concerns and government agencies.”
Wondolowski is joined on the ATU rehabilitation science faculty by Dr. Robert Stevens, assistant professor of rehabilitation science; Dr. Xiaolei Tang, assistant professor of rehabilitation science; and Stacy McKisick, instructor and field work coordinator of rehabilitation science.
In spring 2021, rehabilitation science program graduate Dakota Mooney of Clinton was recognized as the Alfred J. Crabaugh Award winner as the most outstanding senior male student at Arkansas Tech.
“Accreditation is about defining the standard for an educational experience,” said Wondolowski. “There are tenants that are ensured to be conveyed to students throughout the program. By participating in accreditation, we establish those tenants and reinforce that our graduates have what it takes to be successful day one of their next journey, be that in a career or in graduate school. Accreditation is also a guarantee that faculty are quality and what we teach is evidence-based and backed.
“Lyman and Penny did so much to establish and grow the reputation of our rehabilitation science program,” continued Wondolowski. "It is our responsibility to keep that momentum going and to live up to the standard they established.”
Learn more about the ATU rehabilitation science program by visiting www.atu.edu/degrees/bachelors/rehabilitation-science.php.