OTD grad fulfills goal of becoming a professor

September 30, 2020

profile on Tracey Zeiner

When Tracey Zeiner, OTD ’17, OTR/L, graduated from Quinnipiac’s Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate program in 2017, her career shifted, and she became an assistant professor of occupational therapy.

Throughout her 25-year career, Zeiner worked with a variety of populations and felt fortunate that she could reinvent herself as an occupational therapist by working with pediatrics, geriatrics and home care clients.

This kept her fresh and always learning something new about her profession. When she became a fieldwork educator, she made a powerful connection to teaching students.

The fieldwork students taught Zeiner at the same time she taught them. Students introduced her to new terminology they brought with them from their program. This interaction gave her the energy and input she loved along with a natural sense of inquiry for research and leadership.

Her desire for teaching came to light and she entered Quinnipiac’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. Zeiner is currently an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

Zeiner has worked to advance the OT profession by advocating for and leading others at various levels.

To name a few of her remarkable accomplishments, Zeiner is the chair of the program evaluation committee, a student advisor, a member of the faculty development subcommittee, and she is on the faculty senate at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

In the community, Zeiner has given to others by her participation as the president of Diamond Dogs of Arkansas, a chapter of Canine Companions for Independence.

This organization “is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.”

She brings her advocacy of canine companions to the campus where Nibs, a Canine Companion Facility Dog, is a welcomed sight on campus.

Nibs provides comfort to students and helps future occupational therapists learn how to work with a therapy dog.

Nibs goes to work with Zeiner, attends classes and walks the campus where students make time to say hello to Nibs.

Zeiner says that Nibs is an important part of their community providing much needed stress relief to students, faculty and staff who, Zeiner points out, don’t always take the time they need to just relax. It is important to teach self-care and Nibs is the perfect companion to do so.

As Zeiner builds an OTD program at her college, which is slated to launch in 2022, Nibs is right by her side. You can hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about writing the curriculum and designing courses for the new OTD program at her college. Of course, she lights up at the mention of the important work that Nibs does.

Zeiner’s 25 years of experience and multiple degrees, including her most recent, Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate, are a testament to her unwavering dedication to her field, her students and her position as assistant professor of occupational therapy.

Q & A

How did the OTD program prepare you for your current position of developing an OTD program for your college?

One of my courses at QU required me to choose one of three tracks. I vacillated between the track on management and the track on academia, and I finally chose academia. This was my first experience with academia, which is a very different world from clinical practice.

Learning the techniques and tools to function effectively in this new world gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of teaching and to ultimately participate in developing a brand-new school of occupational therapy in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

How did your role as an online student at Quinnipiac serve as a role model for the students you teach?

I didn't just replace everything in my life with school. My husband and I have a boat and we like to go to the lake. Often, I'd study while he fished, or I would sit by the pool to work on a school project. I posted pictures of myself to show my students that I have created a balance that works for me.

Today’s graduate students are very intense and work under a high level of stress. You can't maintain that level of intensity or perfectionism and be healthy.

When did you know the time was right to go back to school?

I knew it was something I wanted to do, but I had a teenage son in high school. When he graduated from high school in 2014 and went off to college, I decided to start the program at Quinnipiac in January of 2015.

How was your online learning experience?

I was very nervous because I'm tech-challenged. I was nervous to do an online program, but at Quinnipiac, people were amazing and the support they provided was wonderful. I don't think I could have done it without that support.

How does your service dog, Nibs, help your students?

Nibs goes to work to enhance the student experience. Nibs gives unconditional support to frazzled students or just when they need a break. My students learn how to work with a service or therapy dog as part of their occupational therapy training so they can work with animals in a therapeutic setting after they graduate.

How did the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program help you achieve your goals?

In my second year of the OTD program, I was offered a full time job teaching as a clinical instructor at a university. Now, I am an assistant professor at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education. I am on a fantastic team developing an OTD program that launches in January 2022.

Quinnipiac’s School of Health Sciences is proud of Zeiner’s accomplishments and is excited to see her flourish in her role. If you are interested in learning more about the Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate, our OTD program page is a great place to begin.

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