Assurance agreements guarantee WSSU students admission into competitive graduate programs

From Left: Dr. Michael McKenzie, Department of Exercise Science chair; Dr. Dorothy Bethea, Department of Occupational Therapy chair; Dr. Audrey Millar, Department of Physical Therapy chair; and Dr. Peggy Valentine, School of Health Sciences dean.

Students earning a bachelor’s degree from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) will have a leg up on their competition when they apply to the university’s highly competitive Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) or Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) programs.

A new “assurance agreement” – the first of its kind offered at a historically black university – guarantees admission into the university’s DPT program for WSSU exercise physiology students who maintain at least a 3.4 GPA and meet the other normal admissions requirements. The university’s DPT program typically receives 500 applications for 30 seats in the program, making the early assurance agreement a significant advantage for WSSU undergraduates.

“This is tremendous for our students,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Peggy Valentine. “Because of the rigor of the program and the number of applicants, many very deserving students do not gain admission. The early assurance program supports WSSU’s new strategic plan in promoting equity in graduate education and supports our commitment to increasing the number and diversity of health care professionals.”

A student meeting the prerequisite criteria would enter the DPT program with one semester remaining in their undergraduate program. The first semester in the DPT program would count toward both their bachelor’s degree and the DPT degree, saving the student one semester’s worth of time and tuition.

“We have had many exercise physiology students do very well in DPT programs across the state and the country,” said Mike McKenzie, chair of the Department of Exercise Science. “This program keeps our best students at WSSU and gives them the opportunity to get a head start on their graduate education.”

“Students will benefit from this opportunity to streamline their goal for graduate school and gain additional motivation to stay focused as they complete the undergraduate degree,” said Joanne Coco-Ripp, program coordinator for the therapeutic recreation program, who noted that similar to the DPT program, the MOT receives about 400 applications for 30 seats.

Added sophomore exercise physiology major Justin Fitts, “These programs put me ahead of the game. I won’t have to take a semester or year out of school like some students do just to get accepted into a program.”

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