Outstanding OT grad plans to work with children with disabilities

Emily Clemons

Fall 2017 outstanding occupational therapy grad Emily Clemons worked as a paraprofessional in schools for a few years, primarily with students diagnosed with autism, while she figured out her grad school path. Clemons, who is from Sacramento, California, earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of California, Davis.

‘Hooked’ on CSU

“I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist after realizing that it would allow me to work with the whole person, including physical, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects,” she said. “OT will allow me to work with people and their environments during interventions to help them recover and live their most fulfilling lives.”

CSU’s OT program rose to the top when she was considering a list of OT programs and thought about which states she would like to move to for school. She was attracted to Colorado’s mountains. “Then I googled Fort Collins and read reviews about CSU’s OT program and I was hooked,” she said.

Clemons became involved in several organizations and activities while she was a student. As part of a graduate assistantship, she worked at CSU’s Assistive Technology Resource Center throughout her program. She started as a TA and presented assistive technology curriculum to other OT students. She then had the opportunity to work with students with disabilities at CSU to provide assistive technology interventions and training on campus.

Journey to Japan

Emily Clemons hiking Mt. Fuji
Emily Clemons on a soggy climb of Mt. Fuji.

Her work with ATRC led to her involvement in the exchange program CSU OT has with their sister OT school in Yamagata, Japan. Clemons, along with ATRC Director Marla Roll and four other OT students, traveled to Yamagata Prefectural University of Health Sciences. They presented about assistive technology and learned about occupational therapy practice in Japan.

“It was an incredible trip I will never forget,” said Clemons. Her trip included an overnight, last-minute, rainy climb of Mount Fuji, which is over 12,000 feet. When the YPUHS students visited CSU the following spring, Clemons was involved with planning their trip here.

Honing her leadership skills, Clemons also got involved with student and professional groups at CSU. She was president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, a member of the honor society Pi Theta Epsilon, and a student representative on the board of the Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado.

High marks for faculty

Clemons gives the CSU OT faculty high marks. “The OT faculty and staff were particularly skilled at supporting their students and creating a sense of community within the program,” she said. “This was helpful because many of us were transitioning away from the familiarity of our jobs and our home support systems to start graduate school. They found a great balance between challenging us and acknowledging us as people. They shared their passion for occupational therapy, which kept us motivated even when things got challenging.”

Clemons says she will miss the camaraderie and the “we’re all in this together” mentality of being a student in the OT program. “We cheered each other up during a tough paper and celebrated together after passing a lab practical. The individuals whom I met in this program really inspired me and are among the most amazing people I know. I’ll miss everyone but I’m so excited to hear about the great things everyone does after school.”

After graduation, Clemons plans to work in a pediatric setting, either outpatient or school-based. “I’m particularly interested in incorporating assistive technology into my practice and facilitating successful transitions out of high school and into careers or postsecondary education for students with disabilities,” she said.

Nearly perfect GPA

On a personal level, she celebrated graduation with a trip to meet the actors on the TV show “Supernatural,” which she says she watched to procrastinate throughout grad school. Although, she could not have procrastinated too much since she earned a nearly perfect 3.98 GPA. Her hobbies include hiking, guitar, crafting, and playing with her pet rats.

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.