University OT Students to Support UNC’s Pine Brook Revitalization

Community-Based Learning collaborations with UNC will focus on Pine Brook neighborhood.
University OT Students to Support UNC’s Pine Brook Revitalization

On Saturday, Feb. 26 University of Scranton Occupational Therapy students are joining with staff from United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA (UNC) to conduct a block level assessment of the Pine Brook neighborhood. This block level assessment will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with University students and UNC staff going out in groups to gather data on the accessibility of the Pine Brook neighborhood to help identify the physical needs of the neighborhood, which will help inform UNCs Pine Brook neighborhood revitalization plan.  

For the accessibility survey, first-year Occupational Therapy (OT) students from Dr. Patricia A. Wisniewski Ed.D., OTRL’s OT121: Occupational Performance courses will be joined by third-year students from Dr. Deborah E. Budash Ph.D.’s OT 340, Promoting Health and Wellbeing courses that will serve as mentors and guides on this project. Through this assessment, University of Scranton OT students will have hands-on experience navigating the Pine Brook neighborhood and viewing the physical features of the neighborhood through an occupational therapy lens, which will allow students to in turn make recommendations on how the area can best meet the needs of all residents and visitors. Focus areas will include walkability, landscape, and accessibility for people of diverse abilities.  

"Working with future occupational therapists to conduct a street scaping survey is a great opportunity to get students to gain real-world perspectives in addition to their studies. Collecting and analyzing data is the foundation of creating community impact for positive change," said Holly Yorkonis, Pine Brook Elm Street Manager, UNC.  

This partnership is a part of The University of Scranton’s Community-Based Learning (CBL) initiative, which incorporates course content and student learning outcomes to help address community-defined needs. Formally organized in 2016, the Office of Community-Based Learning works to facilitate CBL partnerships across Scranton offering University students new ways to connect to the Scranton area and engage with course content while learning from community-partners and working with them to address the shared needs and challenges of our city.  

"This partnership will allow my first-year occupational therapy students the ability to apply knowledge and concepts learned in the classroom to address a societal need. In turn, the community will receive assessments results/suggestions through an occupational therapy perspective that supports occupational justice and anticipates the needs of all community residents," said Dr. Patricia A. Wisniewski Ed.D., OTRL. 

"The Pine Brrok community assessment is a unique opportunity for our occupational therapy students to explore their understanding of how environments and contexts impact how people live -- the things they do and how they do them.  I am grateful to UNC that we are able to help with this project," said Dr. Deborah E. Budash Ph.D. 

In addition to supporting UNC’s block level assessment, another Occupational Therapy CBL course, Dr. Chandra Ann Nealon’s OT 231 Neuroanatomy of Function course, is partnering with the Pine Brook Revitalization project at the first-ever Pine Brook Community Arts Festival. This event will take place on Saturday, Apr. 30 from 12 – 4 p.m. At this inaugural community event, sophomores from Dr. Nealon’s course will host sensory art activities for kids as a part of the festival’s many offerings, including additional interactive arts projects, food vendors, and more. 

"Being able to partner with UNC for their 1st ever community Arts Festival is an amazing opportunity for our sophomore OT students to utilize their studies of the neurological system and apply that knowledge to design and implement activities for the children and their families in the community.  We are hoping this is the beginning of an annual project between UNC, The University of Scranton OT department and the Pine Brook community members," said Dr. Chandra Ann Nealon.  

Community-based learning is an important way that University of Scranton students can forge strong relationships and collaborations within the community while enhancing their learning experiences through real-world applications of course content.  

“Seeing our students become involved in and learning from the greater Scranton community while also utilizing the skills and knowledge from their courses here at The University of Scranton truly shows the importance of community-based learning. Through these experiences, I hope that our students feel that they are a part of our Scranton community,” said Carolyn M. Bonacci, community and civic engagement coordinator at The University of Scranton.  

To learn more about UNC’s Pine Brook Revitalization Project and to get involved, please visit the Pine Brook Neighborhood Plan Facebook @pinebrookscranton.  

To learn more about The University of Scranton’s Office of Community-Based Learning, please visit or email  

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