Occupational Engagement in Northwest Indiana

Valparaiso Occupational Therapy’s mission and vision both emphasize the importance of being connected to the local community. Northwest Indiana (NWI) provides a numerous opportunities to students, related to both their education and their time outside of coursework. There are a variety of occupations, activities that people do everyday to give their life meaning, available to students and residents of the NWI region.

Indiana Dunes State and National Parks

Stretching 15 miles along Indiana’s coast, the Indiana Dunes National Park consists of 15,000 acres to explore, and is known for its plant and bird diversity. Over 2,000 acres, the Indiana Dunes State Park also lies along the Lake Michigan coastline, including sand dunes that tower 200 feet above Lake Michigan. Both the state and national park provide opportunities for occupations such as hiking, birdwatching, swimming, social participation, biking, informal education, and winter sports such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It is even possible to visit with farm animals at Chellberg Farm or turtles at the State Park Nature Center.

City of Valparaiso

Valparaiso, a town of over 25,000 people, is the home of Valparaiso University. Valparaiso offers the opportunity to engage in a variety of occupations throughout all seasons. Downtown Valparaiso is home to delicious restaurants, farmer’s market, and festivals throughout the year. Ice-skating in Central Park Plaza is a fun winter activity enjoyed by many. Valparaiso is well known for its Popcorn festival, held in September each year. Valparaiso also offers and impressive park and trail system, supporting occupational engagement in play, physical exercise, and social participation for all ages. Gabis Arboretum provides opportunity for hiking and other outdoor experiences. In the warmer months, the 49er Drive In is a great place for movie lovers and families.  

Valparaiso University

While it may seem obvious that Valparaiso University supports the occupation of education, the campus supports student, faculty, and community engagement in a variety of other occupations as well. Valpo sporting events are a great social participation activity for spectators, and attract students as well as community members. The Brauer Museum of Art, located on campus, is home to a nationally recognized collection of 19th, 20th, and 21st century American art, and provides opportunity for art appreciation and education. The beautiful Chapel of the Resurrection provides opportunities for engagement in the occupation of religious and spiritual expression. Lastly, Valpo’s 9-hole disc golf course supports leisure and physical exercise occupations.

Our Occupational Therapy students may have the opportunity to engage in these local occupations outside of class, but some these experiences will also be integrated to the OT curriculum, as students learn about the importance of occupation and how to analyze tasks during OT evaluation and intervention. As residents of NWI value many of the above occupations, these occupations could be included in OT intervention in local hospitals, schools and clinics. Valparaiso OT is proud to be a part of the NWI region and aspires to be a benefit to the community. To learn more about student life at Valpo, visit https://www.valpo.edu/life-at-valpo/.

Theresa Carlson Carroll, OTD, OTR/L