Student Spotlight: Laura McCarty OTD/S '15

Laura McCarty, OTD/S '15, Knoxville, TN

What advantages does WUOT offer you that other programs don’t offer?
One thing that I’ve really come to appreciate about WUOT is that every OT student has the chance to do a research project. There are as many projects as there are personalities in the OT program: some of my classmates are working on the statistics/analysis side of things while others are developing programs for local outreach organizations. It makes the thought of doing research less intimidating, but it also gives each student a chance to help others through what they find in their projects.

Why did you choose WUOT?
I was trying to decide between the University of Pittsburgh and Washington University, and it ultimately came down to two things: I wanted to experience life in St. Louis, and when I visited Washington University, everyone was so kind and welcoming.

Why did you choose the degree program you did? (MSOT, OTD, etc)
Although I was initially not sure which degree I wanted, I was interested in program development and in the possibility of teaching future OT students as a professor. The OTD really prepares a person to do ‘out-of-the-box’ OT as well, and I’m excited about having the skill set to see a need in the community and design a program to answer that need.

What can you say about the quality of education you are receiving?
Along with the fact that we’re being taught by faculty who are all leaders in their respective fields, the most important component of the education we’re receiving is the ability to think and problem-solve like OTs. Rather than focusing on a ‘cafeteria tray’ of therapy skills that could potentially be out of date in a decade, we’re learning how to look at the world through the OT lens and approach problems with the mindset of client-centeredness. The beauty of the OT perspective is that it’s adaptable to any problem or challenge that comes our way.

What is the learning atmosphere like? (people, resources provided, attitudes of faculty and staff, approach to teaching, quality of mentorship relationships, etc.)
I’d say that WUOT is one of the most unconditionally encouraging environments that I’ve ever experienced. It’s a small enough program and the people here care about one another to the point where it feels like a family. To take a specific example, when I came to class last summer with a hurt ankle, one of my classmates and two of the OT faculty helped me patch it up. I always feel so supported here.

What do you like best about attending WUOT?
I appreciate how genuine the people are in this program. There are statistics about how great this program is and how many WUOT grads get hired in practice settings across the United States, but it’s really the people I’ve met since coming here that make me want to be a better person as well as a better therapist. That’s what I’m most grateful for: the OT skill set, but also the character formation and the emphasis on compassion.

As a group, how would you describe your classmates?
I would say that they are among the most encouraging, genuine, and caring people I know. They’re all very dedicated to serving others and being not only the best OTs, but the best people that they can be. It really has been such a privilege to go through this program with all of them.

What do you like best about your classmates?
While I’ve heard that other grad school programs can get competitive and be mostly a solitary endeavor, people here are so willing to help each other out. They’re appreciated for who they are, and we really support one another.

How would you describe the faculty?
The faculty are all leaders in their fields, but so many of them really care about the students and want to encourage their growth. They’re very respected within their areas of knowledge, but they’re also down-to-earth and approachable.

What do you like best about the faculty?
I appreciate how willing they are to help out any WUOT student, even if they haven’t met that student previously. In my experience, faculty members have really gone the extra mile to help me when I needed a hand.

What about the school do you most want prospective students to know?
I would say that at WUOT there is a sincere dedication to the students and their growth into great OTs. I have truly loved being a part of this community, and all of the support and encouragement that I have received here make me want to offer that same support and positivity back to the WUOT community.

What do you think of living in St. Louis?
I was initially intimidated by the thought of living in such a big city, but I’ve really come to love St. Louis and consider it another home. There’s just so much to see and do here (and many of the best events are also free!), but what I love most about being here is that even though it’s a big city, it still feels like a community in a way I’d normally expect from a much smaller city.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
That’s a great question but at the moment, I’d say working in pediatrics would be really rewarding. I worked at a summer camp for children with physical disabilities for four summers, and in a perfect world, I’d love to be a school OT and spend my summers working as an OT for the camp that I love.

Anything else you would like to add?
I would say that of the many blessings that WUOT has offered me, the greatest one would have to be traveling the grad school road with my classmates. It has been such a privilege spending this time with them, and I know they will be gifts to whatever community they find themselves in the future.

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