Community Engagement, Independent Living and Participation SOPC

Remove barriers to support full and equitable participation in society

The Community Engagement, Independent Living and Societal Participation Scholarship of Practice Collaborative is focused on collaborating with individuals, groups, communities, organizations, and/or populations to support desired and meaningful occupational engagement, independent living, and community and social participation.

Using evidence-based strategies, our collaborative strives to remove barriers to support full and equitable participation in society. These strategies may include, but are not limited to, involvement in advocacy initiatives, instrument development and validation efforts, and a variety of intervention approaches such as self-management programming to support community living and participation, support during life transitions and strategizing environmental barriers to full societal participation.

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Joy Hammel

Strategizing equitable participation and social justice

Joy Hammel’s research focuses on four major areas: participatory action research with disability communities to identify key environmental barriers and supports to community living and societal participation; designing and testing innovative community living, participation and environmental programming; evaluating the impact of policy and systems changes on civil rights; and building community capacity and empowerment.

Learn more about Joy's scholarship

Elizabeth Peterson

Addressing falls and fear of falling

Elizabeth Peterson‘s research focuses on falls and fear of falling: epidemiology, measurement and interventions for community-dwelling older adults and people living with multiple sclerosis. Her research also examines fall prevention practices among health care providers, fall prevention behaviors among service recipients, and strategies to evaluate interprofessional education efforts.

Learn more about Elizabeth's scholarship

Kathy Preissner

Contributing to neurorehabilitation and fieldwork education

Kathy Preissner advances best practices for people with multiple sclerosis. She has developed and tested group-based interventions for fatigue and caregiving, creating resources to translate knowledge to practice. Her contributions to fieldwork education include a study to validate new items of the AOTA Fieldwork Performance Evaluation for occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant students.

Learn more about Kathy's scholarship

Ryan Thomure

Promoting occupational therapy’s role in mental health and supporting fieldwork education

Ryan Thomure focuses on the role of occupational therapy in community mental health settings. Specifically, he is interested in the role that occupational therapy can play in serving people affected by issues of homelessness and addiction as well as potential roles for occupational therapy in non-traditional settings such as social service agencies and federally qualified health centers. Ryan also has a strong interest in fieldwork education and the role that stress and anxiety can have on fieldwork performance.

Learn more about Ryan's scholarship

Toni Van Denend

Supporting self-management of falls and fatigue for people with multiple sclerosis

Toni Van Denend‘s research focuses on the self-management of falls and fatigue for people living with multiple sclerosis. She is also interested in process evaluation efforts related to complex interventions, considering the implementation, mechanisms of change and contextual factors that support intervention delivery.

Learn more about Toni's scholarship

Student members

Student members are central to the collaborative. They work with faculty to design and conduct innovative capstone projects that are responsive to the needs of community partners.

Class of 2025 studentsClass of 2026 students
Allison AntmanAbigail Ambler
Michele BurkholderMeghan Cabrera
Arielle BuslovichAngelina Castle
Hayley CohenNancy Cuellar-Sanchez
Alicia EthenKelly Dunphy
Deeva EvangelistaKaterina Garbis
Leah LasherIndre Mickevicius
Shemin LeeRachel Montoya
Kaitlyn MaasStephanie Orr
Amanda MontoneyAbigail Smith
Rachel PaulAileen Velasquez
Katelin Rogacki
Leah Thoma
Cassandra Pagliaruli

SOPC in action

Fourteen students in the inaugural E-OTD cohort and belonging to this SOPC have started designing their capstone projects.

Project topics range from developing innovative ways to optimize the quality of classroom and experiential educational experiences, to optimizing organizational resources and infrastructure for enacting things like home safety assessments, fatigue management, self-management, and accessible social information and technology.

These projects are being designed to be responsive to the needs of more than 7 clinic and community-based sites on campus or nearby. Jen Summers, our capstone coordinator, has created structures to organize how students engage faculty and peers within this SOPC to further shape project design.

This is just the first set of projects that are being pursued in this SOPC at UIC OT, a department steeped in the tradition of advancing a ‘scholarship of practice’ model. We trust that its members will continue to benefit from seeing how these capstone projects take shape in ways that positively advance OT practice related to community engagement, independent living and participation for individuals experiencing disability.

Stay tuned to learn how these projects take more final form this Fall.

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Mary Khetani headshot


Want to learn more about the Community Engagement, Independent Living & Participation SOPC? Curious how this collaborative fits in with your career and education goals?

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