Dr. Penny joined Alvernia in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, he was the Occupational Therapy Program Director during which time he led the transition from the BSOT to the combined BSHS and MSOT degree program and later the successful reaccreditation of the program with the American Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). After gaining his doctoral degree in Leadership and Innovation from Wilmington University, Dr. Penny once again took on the responsibilities of Occupational Therapy Program Director in the fall of 2010. Prior to joining Alvernia University, Dr. Penny was a faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Scranton, PA, where he served as the Acting Chair of the Occupational Therapy Department from 1998 to 1999.
Dr. Penny worked for fifteen years in a variety of psychiatric and behavioral health settings. In addition to clinical positions, he held the positions of Director of Occupational Therapy at Philadelphia State Hospital and Director of Therapeutic Activities at Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. He has provided consultation for occupational therapy services to hospitals and community agencies, and has been actively involved in the clinical education of students. Dr. Penny’s areas of clinical specialty include: the use of occupation to help people with severe and persistent mental illness, the use of group treatment modalities; the application of Allen’s Cognitive Disabilities Model, and Social Skill’s training in the treatment of mental illness. He has additional research interests in the area of attitudes towards people with mental illness, health care ethics, moral reasoning, and moral distress.
Dr. Penny is member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association. He has published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy in Health Care, Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, and OT Practice. He is a frequent presenter at regional and national conferences, and was chair of the Therapeutic Activities and Leisure Skills conference sponsored by the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University (1990-1996).
Dr. Penny teaches courses for the occupational therapy program in the areas of occupational therapy theory, understanding the impact of health conditions, the organization and management of occupational therapy services, occupational therapy services in behavioral health settings, data analysis, and research design and implementation. He has mentored numerous occupational therapy masters’ theses. Dr. Penny has also taught courses for the Honors Program that explored the role of media in the perpetuation of the stigma of mental illness.
His teaching philosophy is based on his belief in occupational therapy and in the holistic nature of human beings. In occupational therapy we believe that humans are active, intrinsically motivated beings, whose development is continuous throughout life. Participation in occupations (in this case college education) has a fundamental effect on growth and well-being. By valuing individuals (students) and engaging them in purposeful activities (professional education), the therapist (teacher) enables people (students) to make life affirming choices, achieve higher levels of functioning (acquire knowledge and skills), gain independence (a lifelong career), and improve the quality of life (contribute to the community).