MSOT student Joseph Burgess '22 has turned to social media to spread OT awareness

Burgess ’22 spreads OT awareness during April


Everyone in Alvernia’s community has felt the impact of COVID-19. With the shift to online classes, students faculty and staff are facing new norms.


Some of the organizations that have been impacted the most are Registered Student Organizations (RSO). Many had plans for the spring semester that had to be canceled. The task of keeping these organizations running seems daunting at best.


But Joseph Burgess, MSOT ’22 and president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) has risen to the challenge. April is Occupational Therapy Month, where professionals in the field are recognized for their hard work. Even though SOTA had to cancel planned on-campus events, Burgess has come up with alternative ways for SOTA members to celebrate their field of study.


Initially, the reality of remote learning while serving as an RSO president was daunting for Burgess.


“I am sure almost every person has felt this way at least once during quarantine, but for the first time during my presidency, I felt unmotivated,” said Burgess. “I was burnt out from my coursework, SOTA, and my job at the Millmont After School Program. I almost let my SOTA responsibilities slip away until a couple of days before OT Month started.”


But, with a little inspiration from his sister, who is an occupational therapist, Burgess was inspired to reimagine SOTA’s OT Month plans to fit the social situation.


Burgess created a list of activities that SOTA members can do to participate in OT Month that cover a wide range of topics. Organization members can write letters of advocacy for OT to Pennsylvania state representatives, share their fieldwork experiences and even participate in Alvernia OT bingo. Each activity is intended to connect the students to each other and their career path.


“My goal for SOTA is to create a community between the students,” said Burgess.


All OT Month activities are shared on SOTA’s Instagram page, where students can enjoy them, repost them and spread the word about OT.


Burgess’ passion for SOTA and his major is evident to all. He has organized multiple on-campus events, including Audible for Autism Halftime Show and a panel on LGBTQ issues in health care. His professors praise his hard work and dedication.


“Joey is a servant leader,” said Selena Ehlert, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and adviser to SOTA. “He is a self-initiator and strives to do well, not just for himself but also for the OT class and OT students. He is committed to building up the OT community at Alvernia.”


Despite the uncertainty of this semester, Burgess is hoping that his organization feels uplifted by what they have accomplished.


“By the end of the semester, I hope underclassmen are excited about starting fieldwork experiences after reading all the heartwarming stories and learning about the different practice settings,” he said. “I hope students are re-inspired about choosing to study occupational therapy.”


by Sidney Goodman ‘21