Kirby Jones ’21, Doctorate of Occupational Therapy
“UIndy taught me how important it is to apply my knowledge in ways that help others. My education can be a driving force for positive changes in the community.”
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to pursue a career in Indianapolis in pediatric occupational therapy through outpatient clinical and early intervention services. I am excited to work with families and children to promote function and participation in important occupations of play, school, and family life. Providing occupational therapy in a clinic and through early intervention will prepare me to help families with a wide variety of needs, strengthening my skills as a new grad. Long-term, I plan to return to my hometown of rural Vincennes and apply the skills and knowledge learned early in my career. I also plan to continue advocating for the role of occupational therapists for families in foster care, adoption, or community programs such as Safe Families for Children. I believe occupational therapy can help families that are struggling with behaviors, emotions, and development related to exposure to trauma and transition between caregivers. These families typically would not qualify for traditional OT services, but community-based OT services would be able to address the need and improve families’ quality of life, children’s participation in school, and reduce the impacts of trauma on their functioning. I am very excited to start my career and see where occupational therapy takes me!
How has your program prepared you for the next steps in your career?
UIndy is one of the first programs to offer a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. As a Doctorate student, I completed additional course work and experiential learning that challenged me to learn about various topics. Through this, I have become very passionate about exploring the potential benefit of occupational therapy community-based services for families in foster care. As I work towards this goal, my traditional work will have a greater purpose as I learn to work with families and children as an occupational therapist.
In undergrad, I was a part of the UIndy Cheerleading team all four years, a mentor for three years in College Mentors for Kids, and a Presidential Ambassador for three years. In grad school, I was a member of SOTA (Student Occupational Therapy Association) all three years and the President for one year. I have consistently volunteered in my community through the Joseph Maley Foundation and my church. Each experience helped connect me with other UIndy students, local community members, and learn to value experiences outside of the classroom. I plan to continue pursuing volunteer efforts as a new graduate through the Joseph Maley Foundation, Safe Families for Children, and my church.
I also interned at the Joseph Maley Foundation within their adaptive athletics program. I was fortunate enough to be offered employment following the internship, and I continued to learn valuable lessons from a well-respected non-profit organization. Through visionary leadership and community collaborations, the Joseph Maley Foundation provided valuable services and programming to families and children of all abilities across central Indiana. Through graduate school, I completed clinical experiences at Reid Health in Richmond, IN, Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, IN, Mercy Health in Oklahoma City, OK, Harvest Health and Rehab in Loogootee, IN, and Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis, IN. These clinic experiences varied in setting, population, and instructional approach. By having a variety of experiences I feel prepared as a new grad OT to provide quality service in many practice settings. I also gained valuable skills in interpersonal skills, communication, and adaptability – all of which are crucial soft skills for employment. My final experiential learning opportunity occurred at Safe Families for Children in Central Indiana. This organization helped formulate my passion for providing OT services to families in foster care. I also learned to articulate the value of OT to community volunteers, staff members, and families. Advocating for OT in this emerging practice area is something I plan to continue throughout the extent of my career and without the DCE, my passion may not have been actualized.
Who are your UIndy mentors?
My research advisor all three years was Dr. Rebecca Barton. Dr. Barton guided our research group through a rigorous qualitative research process, an experience unique to UIndy’s OTD program. Dr. Barton always embodied the passion behind student mentorship and support. Her love for the profession and teaching the next cohort of therapists made her an incredible source of support throughout graduate school. My faculty advisor throughout my Doctoral Capstone Experience (DCE) was Dr. Taylor McGann. Dr. McGann provided essential feedback throughout my DCE to improve the quality and effectiveness of my program design. Dr. McGann also supported my efforts with pursuing jobs through letters of recommendation, interview pointers, and guidance on how to identify a healthy workplace environment.
What’s your favorite thing about UIndy?
The sense of community that extends beyond graduation. All of the connections with peers, professors, and other staff are truly relational and not transactional – I know I can reach out at any point for support or to celebrate an accomplishment. UIndy has been my home away from home for 7 years and I wouldn’t change a thing. I have loved my experience at UIndy and am so excited to support future Hounds as they pursue their degrees and dreams.
What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?
Stay organized with classes and schoolwork so you can be successful academically AND enjoy all the fun of college.