Ph.D. Graduate: Brett Berg’s research interests led him to pursue his doctorate at CSU

Story by Emmy Steele

“I grew to love collaborating with researchers on their projects and I had a desire to do more research; however, I realized that I needed more education,” shared Brett Berg.

Now recently graduated with his Ph.D. degree in the Department of Occupational Therapy’s Occupation and Rehabilitation Science program, Berg shares his journey in returning to Colorado State University for his doctoral degree.

What were you doing prior to going back to school for your Ph.D. degree?

I grew up in Oregon but I have lived in many places, including Michigan, Connecticut, and France before landing in Colorado. I earned a French degree from the University of Oregon and my occupational therapy degree from CSU. While attending CSU, I became certified in the use of the Assessment of Motor and Process Skills which is considered to be a gold standard occupational therapy assessment. I chose to become AMPS certified while I was still a student to gain an edge when entering the occupational therapy job market and because of the significant student discount.

I started my occupational therapy career at a geriatric, medium security wing of a state mental health hospital in Pueblo. The lead occupational therapist and the psychiatrists were looking for an occupational therapist who was AMPS certified. This was a desired because they had learned that a client’s AMPS results were useful when determining how much assistance a client would need to live in the community.

Brett at a computer conducting researchWhen I started working in Pueblo at my first occupational therapy job, my wife also started her first job as a teacher in Fort Collins. We maintained two homes and put lots of miles on our cars for several months. Eventually, I cobbled together school-based occupational therapy jobs in Northern Colorado and started working for the Center for Innovative OT Solutions. CIOTS trains and certifies occupational therapists in the use of the AMPS and other occupational therapy assessments. To support my school-based occupational therapy practice, I became certified in the School Version of the AMPS and the Evaluation of Social Interaction.

While working for the Center for Innovative OT Solutions, I taught AMPS, School AMPS and ESI training and certification courses. I also conducted rater certification and research data analyses using Rasch analyses which are used to validate tests in occupational therapy, rehabilitation, education, and other disciplines. In addition, I was occasionally offered opportunities to collaborate with researchers who were using these Rasch analysis methods in their own studies.

Why did you decide to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Occupation and Rehabilitation Science?

Berg Berg with his advsier, Karen Atler, by his research poster at the AOTA conference
Brett Berg with his adviser, Karen Atler

Desiring to continue my interests in research, I decided to pursue further education. During my interviews with faculty while applying to graduate school, I looked for a good fit based on personality, research interests and long-term goals. I was excited to learn that Karen Atler had developed an occupational therapy assessment, the Daily Experiences of Pleasure, Productivity, and Restoration Profile. Atler and I decided that her research was a good match for my research interests and I returned to CSU for my Ph.D. degree.

What have been your most rewarding experiences and accomplishments as a Ph.D. student?

I have thoroughly enjoyed using Rasch measurement methods to further develop Atler’s assessment, the PPR Profile. In 2018, we published a new version of the assessment, the Occupational Experience Profile which we use to evaluate persons’ experiences associated with their daily activities, including an OEP online version.

Other rewarding experiences for me have been presenting at national and international conferences. However, completing my dissertation stands out as the greatest achievement of my doctoral work at CSU.

What have you enjoyed the most about CSU or Fort Collins?

Brett Berg with his wife, son and daughterNorthern Colorado is a perfect place to live, work, play and raise a family. My wife continues to teach and our two children are growing into wonderful people. This fall, our son starts his engineering program at CSU and our daughter starts middle school. We most enjoy the outdoor activities available here and in nearby locations.

In my free time I love to spend time with family and friends, run, ski, and attend the events that our children participate in including tennis, robotics, synchronized swimming, and concerts.

What are your plans with your Ph.D. degree?

I look forward to continuing my work for CIOTS, further developing CIOTS tools and collaborating with researchers in the United States and other countries.

The Department of Occupational Therapy is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.