Quinnipiac University

Professor brings lessons to life throughout the pandemic

October 18, 2021

Headshot Deanna Proulx-Sepelak

Deanna Proulx-Sepelak ’95, MS ‘05, clinical professor of occupational therapy, brought her lessons to life amid the pandemic and always made herself available to support students’ personal and academic needs.

For her efforts inside and outside the in-person and virtual classroom and dedication to her students, Proulx-Sepelak received the Center for Excellence in Teaching Award.

“She has spent countless extra hours both before remote learning and now during remote learning to make sure that she is available to all of her students and has made it known since day one that we are her upmost priority,” said Madeline Ruffinott ‘22. “She is everyone’s personal cheerleader and pushes for her students to succeed.”

Proulx-Sepelak earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in health administration — both from Quinnipiac.

“I truly believe in the Quinnipiac education and the doors that it has opened for me,” said Proulx-Sepelak. “I have been accused by non-Quinnipiac members of our faculty of being a ‘QU billboard,’ and I don’t take offense to that.”

Proulx-Sepelak said she decided to pursue occupational therapy and health administration because she wanted to be in an industry that allowed her to aid others in their paths to rehabilitation.

As a professor who teaches occupational therapy, anatomy and kinesiology, Proulx-Sepelak implements a teaching method that is focused on student development.

Proulx-Sepelak said she believes in teaching with visuals and actions instead of words. She wants to ensure her students have a fulfilled learning experience even during a pandemic, which is why she turned her home into a classroom.

“Of all the years I’ve been at Quinnipiac, COVID presented the biggest challenge yet,” Proulx-Sepelak said. “The second I was told we needed to go entirely online, I started stuffing my car with as many models as I possibly could, I even brought my skeleton model with me. It was wheeled out to my car in a wheelchair, placed in the front seat, buckled up and driven home. My dining room was turned into a classroom. My family knew what hours I had to teach and made sure to keep quiet during those hours.”

Continuing to keep an interactive class, even on a screen, was a priority for Proulx-Sepelak.  

“I gave myself enough space to be walking and trying to do all the movements that students needed to learn,” Proulx-Sepelak said. “I still made my students stand up just as I do in the classroom and feel those movements at home.”

Proulx-Sepelak's continuous advocating for students and their success during online learning has not gone unnoticed.

“Dee is such an incredible person, mentor and professor,” said Emily Brown, MOT’23. “She always goes above and beyond for her students and has played a huge role in making the switch to online learning incredibly easy for the OT department. It is a joy to be a part of her class and I never see her without a smile on her face. Her advocacy for our learning has and always will be her most important priority and for that and many other things, she is loved by all.”

Proulx-Sepelak will never forget being a student at Quinnipiac. Her professors have inspired her to put her all of her students first.

“That’s how I was taught,” Proulx-Sepelak said. “I was in awe of my professors and in awe of the excitement they instilled in me to learn and I knew back then that education would be a part of my future and educating future OTs would be a part of my future because I wanted to have that impact on someone else.”

The bar Proulx-Sepelak sets for her students is high. However, she ensures her students succeed and do well in their field. She believes students must put in the effort in order to benefit from the teacher and lessons.

“I will be fair, I will be honest, I will be transparent and we will all maintain academic integrity and we can do this together,” Proulx-Sepelak said.

Students are grateful for everything Proulx-Sepelak has done for them and how she has contributed to their success.

“She embodies what it means to be a wonderful professor and tremendous person,” Meghan Tipping, MOT ‘23 said. “She is willing to talk and help and explain more than only other professor. She not only knows your name, but will remember little details about you that you didn’t think anyone would. She has taught me not only about kinesiology and occupational therapy, but about being myself and being the best I can be. Dee truly cares about her students and it shows.”

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