VOTA is Virginia's leading organization for occupational therapy practitioners and students. VOTA is committed to advocating for and further developing the profession of occupational therapy in our state.

2022 VOTA Award Winners


Clair Martin- Virginia Commonwealth University

I chose occupational therapy because, growing up, I have seen and heard how effective and influential the therapeutic process has been for individuals. Most recently, I was on a hike in Asheville when I came across a woman on the trail. We began talking to each other and I mentioned that I was in graduate school for occupational therapy. She shared with me that her mother had a stroke, and for thirteen years, she saw an occupational therapist three times a week until she passed away. She expressed that her mother always looked forward to her occupational therapy visits because she was able to engage in meaningful activities, and without it, her health and well-being would rapidly decline. I believe that this summarizes the beauty of occupational therapy. In a field that is human-centered, strengths-based, and evidence-based, we interact with clients and help them utilize their strengths to achieve their goals through meaningful occupations. I am beyond thankful to be working on becoming a licensed and registered occupational therapist in the near future!


Sydney Biggs- Mary Baldwin University

I was first introduced to occupational therapy when an OTP helped build a lift for my uncle’s tractor that allowed him to participate in one of his favorite occupations, farming. During my time in OT school, I have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of compassionate, client-centered, and holistic care. Serving others in the community has always been a priority and I strive to continue serving others through empathy, creativity, and positivity. I am proud to consider myself a part of the occupational therapy profession and will continue to advance the field to provide the best quality care for my future clients!


Coley Carpenter- Shenandoah University

Occupational therapy was a career path that I kept returning to throughout my educational career. I loved that it was client-centered, focused on the whole person, and addressed what is most meaningful in their lives. Being in the OT program at Shenandoah University has opened my eyes to the multitude of options that the occupational therapy field has to offer, allowing myself and others, as the OT, to explore different passions. I love the overall values and morals that are the foundation of occupational therapy and think it is a unique place in healthcare where we can help tie everything together for our clients to make the biggest impact on their lives. I am excited to be a part of this field and can't wait to see and participate in the growth of occupational therapy.

Juliana Stazer- Tidewater Community College

Juliana Stazer (OTA Student Scholarship Award):  Juliana was inspired more and more as she researched what OT was and was even more driven to enter the field after seeing an OT working with her grandmother on tasks like shoe tying that made such a difference.  She is involved in her programs SOTA Club as their secretary, attending meetings and helping future students by volunteering at open houses. Juliana also volunteered additional hours at her last fieldwork site just to build an even better rapport with clients and make sure she was providing them with the best care.  She will be working at a pediatric outpatient clinic after graduation and pursuing continuing education on one of her main interests, sensory processing. 

Dr. Ellen Hudgins

Dr. Hudgins is the President and co-owner of  Progressive Therapy, an outpatient Orthopedic based clinic that provides Physical Therapy,  Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy which she founded in 1983.  She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University  (MCV) and then completed her post professional clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Rocky Mountain University of  Health Professions in 2014.  She served as Chairperson of the American  Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Administration and Practice Management Special Interest Section from 2013 - 2016. For three years, Dr. Hudgins shared her knowledge, skills, and  passion for leadership and skilled management with AOTA members and staff and transformed the ways in which AOTA provides leadership resources to its members. At the end of her term,  Dr. Hudgins collaborated with her peers to form the AOTA Community of Practice (CoP) on  Leadership that she continues to co-lead. Each month since 2016, Dr. Hudgins has led a group of  approximately 25 – 35 individuals on a leadership journey providing information, insight, and  mentorship for a diverse group of burgeoning leaders. Many of those that she has mentored  through the years have assumed leadership roles in volunteer organizations, roles as manager and  administrators, and practice advocates. Her reach and her impact on the profession is profound,  deep, and enduring. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for Rocky Mountain University of  Health Professions, teaching courses on leadership and serving as the elective track director in  the Administration and Practice Management track. There she guides post-professional  occupational therapy students in leadership theories, organizational development, and financial  management strategies.

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