Edinboro professor lends expertise to develop India’s first graduate art therapy program
Edinboro faculty member Penelope Orr, Ph.D., clinical coordinator of Edinboro’s nationally acclaimed art therapy program, has received a Fulbright Award to launch the first corresponding graduate-level program in India.
Dr. Orr, who was instrumental in creating the Master of Arts in Counseling – Art Therapy program at Edinboro, earned the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship to establish the program at MIT Art, Design & Technology University (MIT-DTU) in Pune, Maharashtra.
“No graduate programs in art therapy currently exist in India, and it is often impossible for people in India to afford a U.S. or UK education,” said Orr, chairperson of the Counseling, School Psychology and Special Education Department at Edinboro. “I built the Edinboro program for the same reason; I saw that many persons wishing to learn about art therapy were not able to gain access to graduate programs due to life constraints, whether they had families, jobs or differing abilities that would not allow them to move for two years for graduate studies.”
A practicing art therapist and experienced art therapy educator, Dr. Orr was contacted by U.S.-based art therapists Sangeeta Prasad and Susan Anand to assist with program development. The trio has been working alongside art therapists and arts-based practitioners from the U.S. and India to develop the MIT-DTU curriculum since 2020.
Dr. Orr will visit India as a Fulbright Scholar during spring and summer 2023 to conduct faculty training workshops, present to students and help with the transition to a fully autonomous program.
“Cultivating an international dialogue in art therapy helps us to better serve our clients and expands access to the field of art therapy and mental health care,” said Orr, who received her first Fulbright Award in 2015 to teach classes and conduct research in London. “The opportunity to assist in the development of the first art therapy master’s degree in India is a final goal in this lifelong mission.”
The Fulbright is one of the most prestigious and selective scholarship programs operating worldwide.
Scholars are selected through a rigorous application and interview process and receive a maintenance allowance as well as an array of support, including visa processing, pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and opportunity to join alumni networks.
“Dr. Orr is a highly-respected, responsive and caring faculty member who has contributed greatly to the success of Edinboro University,” said Dr. Erinn Lake, dean of the School of Education, and executive director of the School of Graduate Studies. “She is truly a remarkable practitioner in this field. Edinboro students have benefited greatly from her expertise, and I have no doubt that MIT-DTU students will benefit as well.”
A graduate of Furman University in South Carolina with a degree in studio art, Dr. Orr earned a master’s degree in art therapy from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a focus on art education from Purdue University in Indiana. Most recently, Dr. Orr completed her second master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health. She is also a registered and board-certified art therapist.
Prior to joining Edinboro University in 2008, Dr. Orr taught at Florida State University. In addition to Edinboro’s graduate art therapy program, she designed and created the online master’s degree in art education with Dr. Jay Hanes, who recently retired from Edinboro’s Art Department. She also developed an art therapy open studio, which provides a creative mental health space open to all Edinboro students, faculty, staff, families and community members.
Dr. Orr’s research interests and publications explore digital media, film and online environments in art therapy and art therapy education with a focus on expanding access for clients and students who may have been marginalized due to disability, race or financial constraints. She has published two books, five chapters in books and 27 journal articles. Her latest book chapter – “Ethics in online education in art therapy” – dealt with her development of the Edinboro online art therapy program.
Throughout her Edinboro career, Dr. Orr has taught courses in art education, art therapy and counseling at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. She is currently working as a volunteer with Hagar International, for which she travels to Cambodia to work with children who have been rescued from human trafficking and to train Cambodian counselors to use trauma-informed art therapy.
Dr. Orr has also worked with The Red Pencil International, which brings the power of creative arts therapy to children and families who are facing overwhelming life circumstances around the world.
Edinboro’s graduate-level art therapy program integrates both counseling and visual arts practice while engaging creative power for clinical assessment and treatment. It was the first entirely online graduate art therapy program in the nation and the first to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
For more information, visit www.edinboro.edu/art-therapy.