Occupational Therapy Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (Dr.OT)

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.


College of Health Care Sciences – Occupational Therapy Department

First Advisor

Wendy Stav

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


There is a paucity of occupational therapy literature related to the professional development process that occurs when students participate in immersive, international servant leadership experiences in developing countries. A scarcity of literature exists on how such culturally rich experiences can influence the development of the participating students’ dispositional critical thinking and cultural competency skill sets. This mixed methods study depicts how a 3-week servant leadership experience in Zambia, Africa, measured the acquisition of dispositional critical thinking and cultural competency skill sets in novice to experienced occupational therapy students. Moreover, this study infuses a constructivist grounded theory approach to uncover a holistic understanding of the professional development process that occurred for the participating students over a 3-week immersion experience in Zambia. This study highlights how a hands-on servant leadership experience in Zambia contributed to the acquisition of professional development and problem-solving skills and cultural responsiveness for students who were trained in westernized health care practices. The participants demonstrated statistically significant increases in their critical thinking skills with medium effect sizes in truth-seeking, inquisitiveness, analyticity, systematicity, confidence, and maturity of judgment. In addition, the participants demonstrated statistically significant increases in cultural competency skills with medium to very large effect sizes in cultural awareness, cultural knowledge, cultural skills, cultural encounters, and cultural desires. The qualitative strand of the study revealed the professional growth of the students during the experience through the themes that emerged: “resilient occupational therapy lens” and “empowered occupational therapy students.” Furthermore, this mixed methods study provides a Servant Leadership Professional Development Model to illustrate the transformational professional development process that students underwent that is supported by the mixed methods data findings.




Health and environmental sciences, Education, Critical thinking, Cultural competency, International fieldwork, Occupational therapy, Servant leadership

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