If awards were handed out for "who traveled the farthest to receive their diploma," they would likely go to the three students from Nigeria traveling to receive a transitional-Doctor of Physical Therapy (t-DPT) degree at this year's spring commencement.
Kayode Alewi, Olabisi Oyarekua, and Nneamaka Abanum, all from Nigeria, will be in Flint to receive their degree at the May 5th commencement ceremony. Two other students who are part of the original class were unable to make the trip.
In fall 2011, the UM-Flint Physical Therapy Department, with the help of Information Technology Services and other departments, established the first online t-DPT degree program and the first DPT program in Nigeria. UM-Flint's involvement began when Nigerian Physical Therapy (PT) organizations wanted to upgrade their PT baccalaureate program to a 6-year DPT professional entry-level program.
"Our goal is to offer the DPT for several years; at that point, there should be enough qualified physiotherapists in Nigeria to take over the teaching," said Professor Lucinda (Cindy) Pfalzer, PT, Ph.D., FACSM, and FAPTA.
Some of the students live in remote regions, and simply finding internet access was a large struggle.
In addition to their family and friends, the graduating students will be traveling with a delegation from the Nigerian Physiotherapy Association (equivalent to the American Physical Therapy Association). Included are Association President Taiwo Oyewumi, Col. (Dr.) Paschal O. Mogbo (retired) of the Nigeria Physiotherapy Network, and Nigeria Physiotherapy Network Executive Director Dr. Emmanuel B. John.
The degrees will be presented at May 5th's afternoon commencement ceremony (3 p.m.) at the Perani Arena and Event Center.