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Rehabilitation and Health Leadership program reaches an important milestone

By Tim Rosillo (Research and Post Professional Programs Manager)  

The Doctor of Science in Rehabilitation and Health Leadership (RHL) program welcomed its third cohort to the program in May 2020. This marked an important milestone for the programs, as the RHL program now has students in each of the three years of the program. The three-year program, which is offered as a blended learning format, has twenty nine students enrolled that are in decision-making roles and health-related settings across the country.

For this year’s opening session the Program Staff had the challenge of replicating an on-site intensive session in an online format. The purpose of the initial on-site intensive is to orient students to the program, launch the core courses and most importantly give the new students an opportunity to meet peers, Academic Advisors and the Program Staff and Faculty. How could we continue to develop the cohort feel without everyone not physically being together?

Our work to cultivate a connections among the incoming students with each other and with the Program Staff began one month before the start of the program. Students were invited to attend training webinars, in which they were able to receive training in how to use onQ, learn about the program’s resource site, find out how the on-line intensive session would run, and most importantly begin to connect with one other. These sessions were also a great opportunity for the students to meet the program’s Graduate Assistant, Martina McAllister and myself as Program Manager.

We kicked off the on-line intensive with the Research and Post Professional Programs Associate Director, Dr. Kathleen Norman, welcoming and orienting the students to the program. The group were then joined by the students' Academic Advisors, who spent time getting to know one another and discussing the dissertation. For their dissertation research, the students involved in the RHL program identify a real-world problem in rehabilitation or health setting, and design, implement and evaluate a process, program or system to address this problem.

We were then joined by the second and third year cohorts for an online Social Mixer. I was in charge of ‘setting the scene’ by asking everyone to take a few moments to imagine that they were all together in the Coach House Pub at the Donald Gordon Conference Centre. With a few pictures, humour and a bit of imagination, everyone felt like they were teleported into the location that we had intended to be in.

Using Zoom breakout rooms, students were then placed in small groups to replicate the intimate conversations that would have happened if everyone had been together in person. Everyone was encouraged to move around the interactive groups in order to network with as many people as they could. The event was a huge success with many of the incoming students stating that the opportunity for interaction via the breakout rooms was a great idea and really did serve to establish connectedness between the students and faculty. Faculty member, Dr. Heidi Cramm, summed up the success of the event best when she commented ‘The fact that no one wants to sign off is a great sign!”.

The following day the incoming students were introduced to RHL 900 – Applying Theory to Enable Change and RHL 902 – Leadership Development Seminar, which are the two core courses the students are taking in summer term. During these sessions students were engaged in discussions and were able to further connect and learn from one another. Finally, that evening the incoming students had another opportunity to meet with the second and third year students to learn more about the RHL program from the perspective of current students.

While we all would have preferred to physically be together, and welcome the incoming RHL students to the program in person, we believe that the transition from an on-site intensive to an online opening session was a success. Incoming students stated that the experience made them feel comfortable communicating with the faculty and their peers virtually which they think will be invaluable as they progress through their RHL journey. 


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