With more than 17 years of experience as an occupational therapist and a passion to empower and create accessible environments and opportunities for people often marginalized by society, Laurie Stelter, OTR, MA, is pursuing her doctorate in OT from Texas Woman’s University with a 4.0 GPA, which she has maintained throughout her undergraduate and graduate school career. She plans to graduate in the fall of 2018. Stelter is receiving one of four prestigious scholarships given by Texas Woman’s University at the 15th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon, presented by Bank of Texas, Texas Woman’s University, and the Texas Woman’s University Foundation, March 8, at noon, at The Belo Mansion and Pavilion. Stelter’s scholarship is sponsored by Edgemere –Dallas/SQLC Charitable Foundation.
“My love of occupational therapy grew from personal experiences of various family members living with an intellectual disability, recovering from a mental illness, or recovering from traumatic physical injuries,” said Laurie Stelter. “I was impacted by the power of meaningful and purposeful occupation to influence recovery and quality of life for people.”
After receiving her bachelor’s in OT from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude, Stelter worked as an OT in a psychiatric prison in Lubbock from 1999-2003. From 2003-2005, she worked as a case manager in the Garza County Juvenile Detention Center, as well as at a skilled nursing facility and with a home health organization.
“Working as an OT in prisons with persons with severe and persistent mental illness as well as with adults with intellectual disabilities in both institutional and community settings fueled my interests in this area of practice.”
Stelter received her master’s in OT from Texas Woman’s University in 2004 and is currently a full-time assistant professor and the academic fieldwork coordinator for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
“I pursued service in mental health practice because I have such a passion for this population,” added Stelter. “I decided to pursue a PhD in OT in order to maximize my knowledge and skill in research and the scholarship of practice. I hope to influence students pursuing OT as a career and communicate the power of OT for impacting the lives of people.”
Her dissertation is on the impact of an occupation-based intervention for incarcerated women with intellectual disabilities. Upon completion of her PhD she would like to continue to impact the lives of students and clients through her work as a professor and an occupational therapist.
“I have developed an occupational therapy program for a women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas, that houses approximately 100 incarcerated women who have an intellectual or developmental disability,” added Stelter. “This program is a collaboration with TWU, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, UTMB, and the Radford & Patricia Crocker Foundation, who is funding the program. I am excited that the project is currently in the hiring and soon-to-be-implemented phase.”
In addition to pursuing her PhD, developing a program, and working full time, Stelter and her husband are raising two young daughters, ages 8 and 11. Raised on a farm in Anton, Texas, Stelter is the first in her family to graduate from college.
“My life outside of my career and academic pursuits is devoted to faith and family,” added Stelter. “They are the foundation that makes everything else work.”
Stelter praises TWU for consistently and impressively supporting her throughout the completion of her master’s degree and now as she pursues her PhD.
“I feel completely honored and blessed to receive this scholarship,” added Stelter. “It further strengthens the already positive relational and academic support I have experienced working with the incredible mentors and professors in the program. As an occupational therapist, I have always had a great admiration and respect for Virginia Chandler Dykes. It makes this honor all the more special to be associated with her name.”
In addition to Stelter, graduate students from the remaining three TWU colleges will also be honored at the luncheon as recipients of scholarship funds: Danielle “Kamica” King, College of Arts and Sciences; Julie Southward, College of Professional Education (COPE); and Katheryn Courville, College of Nursing, sponsored by Luther King Capital Management.
Stelter and her family reside in Lubbock.
TWU’s 15th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon, March 8 at the Belo Mansion and Pavilion, will honor Dr. Stephen Mansfield, president and CEO of Dallas-based Methodist Health System, as the 2017 recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award. Tickets are $175 for silver patron; $250 for gold patron. For more information, call 940-898-3872, visit www.twu.edu/vcd, or email TRupani@twu.edu.