Ph.D. Graduate: Through her educational experiences Tara Klinedinst affirms her love of occupational therapy

As a recent Ph.D. graduate, Tara Klinedinst shares how her research experience as an undergraduate student encouraged her to pursue graduate degrees in the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Portrait of Tara KlinedinstI grew up in Oklahoma. I attended Oklahoma State University for four semesters where I had a (probably) record breaking number of different majors, ranging from hotel and restaurant administration to leisure studies. When I moved to Fort Collins, I took a break from my education because I clearly did not know what I wanted to study. Through working with adults with developmental disabilities, I learned of occupational therapy. As soon as I learned more about it, I was hooked.

Although I loved my job as group home manager, I wanted to take on new opportunities where I could continue to work one-on-one with people. In pursuit of these potential opportunities, I enrolled at a community college to complete prerequisites for occupational therapy school and earn new grades for some of my previous academic mishaps. After graduating from this community college I enrolled at Colorado State University, first earning a Bachelor of Science in psychology, then a Master of Science in occupational therapy and now a Doctorate of Philosophy in occupation and rehabilitation science. I am a triple alumna of CSU. GO RAMS!

Why did you choose to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Occupation and Rehabilitation Science? 

Following an undergraduate experience as a research assistant, I knew I eventually wanted to get a Ph.D. I thought I would work for a few years, start a family and then come back once they entered school. However, during our program development class, Matt Malcolm my thesis advisor, and I got very interested in the possibilities for occupational therapy in primary care. During a discussion one day, we talked about the possibility of me pursuing a Ph.D. in this topic to help get a research program off the ground. I applied for the program and found out I was accepted to start in the fall. So, after finishing my master’s degree in occupational therapy, I had one weekend off before beginning the Ph.D. program.

What have been your most rewarding experiences?

My most rewarding experience was during my second year as a Ph.D. student when I gave birth to my daughter, Charlie Catherine. Being a mother while in a rigorous academic program is not without challenges, but I learned to use my time more wisely, advocate for myself and seek help when I needed it.

Another experience that has been rewarding as well as reaffirming has been my work as an occupational therapist. Practicing as an occupational therapist has affirmed my love of occupational therapy and has also shown me that I am on the right path to become a researcher. As evidence-based practice is a foundation of our field, my passion lies within generating and translating that evidence for occupational therapists to use in everyday practice.

What have you enjoyed the most about Fort Collins? 

Fort Collins has been my home for 17 years and the things I love about this town are countless. The growth and change that has taken place here over the last several years brings mixed feelings, but the natural beauty and kindness of the people are the same.

What are your plans with your Ph.D. degree? 

Tara Klinedinst with family at graduationAfter graduation in August, my family left our beloved Fort Collins and headed east to Pennsylvania. Now pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship, I am working with Juleen Rodakowski at the University of Pittsburgh on her home-based strategy training program for adults with mild cognitive impairment. This program will help individuals with dementia age-in-place with increased safety and independence. I am excited for this opportunity and to be a part of such an incredible team at a prestigious occupational therapy program.

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