Mary Schaefer

Mary Schaefer

Occupational Therapist, Folsom Cordova Unified School District
West Sacramento, CA
Health Sciences, Psychology, 2014, Occupational Therapy, 2016

"Continue to seek opportunities by taking on a leadership role, joining a new organization, volunteering on or off campus, or spending time with students who may have different backgrounds or ideas. The world is yours and the Yote family is behind you!"

Q&A with Mary:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

In 2014, I earned my Bachelor of Science in health sciences and psychology from USD. I completed the Master of Science in occupational therapy program at USD in December 2016. I currently work as a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) for Folsom Cordova Unified School District, located in a suburb of Sacramento, California. I provide therapy to children of all ages and abilities and support access to curriculum through direct, collaborative and consultative services. I primarily focus on fine motor and visual perceptual skills, sensory processing and attention skills and independent living skills as indicated by each child’s need. My career as an OT is very rewarding; my students impact and challenge me daily.

As I grow in my career, I know that USD instilled a drive for lifelong learning, which I pursue through various continuing education opportunities related to occupational therapy. I'm currently exploring expanding my education in the areas of sensory processing, visual motor integration, motor planning and OT education.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

The University of South Dakota provided me with a lot of hands-on learning during my time in the School of Health Sciences and the health sciences program. Through the structured program design of the HSC major, I learned a lot about critical thinking, problem solving, communication, cultural competence and working with a multidisciplinary team, all of which I implement into my career as an occupational therapist. Undergraduate classes as well as the OT program at USD challenged me not only academically, but also encouraged self-evaluation and reflection in order to identify areas of strength and weakness. The USD Occupational Therapy Department allowed me to choose a Level II Fieldwork placement in Sacramento, which led to employment with a pediatric non-public agency and now my position as a pediatric OT with a public school district. I am grateful to USD for facilitating positive experiences and opportunities for growth throughout my journey as a student and now an alumnus.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

My greatest achievement has been stepping out of my comfort zone and moving across the country. Growing up in small town South Dakota and living in Vermillion while attending USD for six years, I had always experienced an immediate sense of community and welcoming. Challenging myself to move to California has been an amazing transition for me, both professionally and personally. I'm proud to say that USD provided me with the tools needed to grow in a new, unfamiliar environment. From developing clinical reasoning and professional skills to communication and teamwork challenges throughout my coursework at USD, I underestimated how prepared I would be to be immersed in a new culture and environment. I continue to be guided by the values that I was surrounded with at USD and am grateful for the foundational skills acquired in this community.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

I was involved in several organizations that were instrumental in my campus and community experience during my time at USD. Joining USD's Greek Life as a member of Alpha Phi, I held several leadership positions including vice president of recruitment and manager of new member orientation. These positions afforded me a platform to collaborate with students on a national level. I was also on the executive board for USD SERVE as the co-chair for Adopt-A-Grandparent. I participated in the Health Sciences and Pre-Occupational Therapy clubs, a work study program through the Sanford School of Medicine and served as a health sciences tutor.

I also enjoyed participating in service learning through USD. During my undergraduate education, I went on a 10-day exchange to Germany that allowed me to examine the differences with U.S. healthcare systems. In graduate school, I was able to join a multidisciplinary healthcare team on a service trip to Guatemala providing wheelchairs for residents of a small community.

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