UW-Madison OT Program - 2012 OT Matters - Alumni Profile - Professor Emerita Mary Schneider

OT student doing research with child


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2012 Faculty Spotlight: Mary Schneider

UW Occupational Therapy Leader retires, following distinguished career

Mary Schneider headshotDr. Mary Schneider’s contributions to the UW-Madison community are endless.  Her work and presence within the Occupational Therapy Program and School of Education, in particular, have been invaluable.

“Mary is an internationally recognized researcher and educator, but she has also has done so much for the UW through her advocacy of equity and diversity on campus,” Professor and Kinesiology Department Chair Dorothy Edwards said. 

Dr. Schneider graduated from the OT Program at UW-Madison in 1973, setting off an outstanding career.  Her work includes extensive clinical work with individuals suffering from ailments such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, alcohol and substance abuse, ADHD, autism, and sensory processing disorder (SPD).

In the immediate years following her graduation, Dr. Schneider dedicated herself to pediatrics and also trained with leaders in the OT field, particularly Dr. A. Jean Ayres.  Ayres’ followed the work of psychologist Harry Harlow and his research studying rhesus monkeys.

Her curiosity in working with primates burgeoned during her time with Ayres and led her to enroll in graduate school at the Harlow Primate Laboratory, also at UW-Madison.  She went on to receive a master’s degree in 1984 in Developmental Psychology (1984) and a Ph.D. in 1987 in the same area of study, focusing her attention on animal behavior.

Her work in occupational therapy didn’t end there.

“Under her leadership the Occupational Therapy Program at UW developed and launched the nationally ranked Masters in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) degree while also mentoring junior faculty and PhD students,” Edwards said.

Throughout her career, Dr. Schneider has received millions of dollars in grants to sponsor her unparalleled research.  Much of her most recent comprehensive research has been consigned to the analysis of fetal alcohol exposure in primates.  Just in 2012 alone, she received over $3.5 million from UW-Madison and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further this research.      

On top of the federal grants, the numerous awards and honors bestowed upon her are another mark of her exceptional contributions to the OT field and beyond.  Dr. Schneider was recognized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004 with a Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award, the highest School of Education honor.  In June 2010, she received the A. Jean Ayers award from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) for sustained commitment to occupational therapy.

And finally, in 2011 Dr. Schneider was nominated for the highest academic honor in the OT profession – the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).  Her nomination letter states:

“Dr. Schneider demonstrates a strong commitment to building the science that informs occupational therapy practice. She continues to tackle developmental questions that have tremendous societal significance.”

Although Schneider has now retired from her position within the Occupational Therapy Program, her unwavering curiosity and passion for research continue, as she can be found conducting studies in her lab at Waisman Center.

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