Honors Alumni Spotlight: Emily Burkert on Starting GCU’s Occupational Therapy Club

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Honors student Emily Burkert studied biology with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy with minors in communications and psychology during her time at GCU. The December graduate recently shared her experience with getting our occupational therapy (OT) club started.

Why did you decide to start the OT club?

I started the OT club because there was not much guidance on how to pursue a career in occupational therapy at GCU. There was no “pre-OT” and none of the teachers were previously occupational therapists or knew much about OT. Those of us that wanted to be occupational therapists were always grouped in with the PT majors. I thought OT deserved something separate because it is different than PT. I am very passionate about the career and wanted to advocate for it. Since I had to figure everything out myself, I wanted to help other students navigate their path at GCU with the goal of preparing a competitive application for grad school with less stress and more guidance, while creating a community of like-minded students working towards the same goal. Together, I wanted us to be able to help serve the community at the same time.

As the founder and former president, what was the process to get the club at GCU?

The process to get the club at GCU was a lot of work. I had to get signatures to start the club, find a professor to be the club advisor, find a team of officers to lead the club with me, create a constitution, apply to start a club through ASGCU and present to them why this club should exist.

What does the club do?

The club helps people navigate their time at GCU to create the most competitive application for grad school in pursuit of becoming an occupational therapist. We answer questions and have meetings on all of the aspects of applying to grad school: what classes to take, what extracurricular and volunteer activities to be a part of, etc.

We also provide basic information about the broad career of occupational therapy because many people, even those who want to pursue this, don’t know how much you can actually do in this career. We provide connections for shadowing and volunteer opportunities in addition to volunteering together. The club has OTs come in and talk and holds clinics for skillsets geared towards the career. I also wanted this to be a club that is an opportunity to build community with like-minded people that you could lean on. Therefore, we have team building events and fun activities to release stress from school.

Who can join the club?

Anyone can join the club. We have the most to offer for those who want to be occupational therapists, but we love to have members that want to learn more about OT and be a part of our community.

Why is it important that this club exists at GCU?

The number of those studying to be occupational therapists is increasing. This club helps those people reach their goals and in return help the community. It also creates more awareness of the career and how important it is. It betters the academic experience at GCU for those studying occupational therapy.

What is your dream job?

My dream job… that is a hard one. I love everything in occupational therapy and over my life want to have a part in many settings such as neonatal, military/veterans, neuro and working with special needs children. But right now I would say my dream and end goal is to open up my own practice for special needs children combined with a swim school for them and a ministry for missions to help special needs children.

What else have you been involved in at GCU? What are your biggest accomplishments from college?

I was involved with many other things at GCU. I was very involved in local outreach. I was a part of the homeless ministry and the changing lives center. I was also a member of the Havocs, Best Buddies and intramural teams. I participated in an ongoing research project in my junior and senior year and gave presentations on the project as well as created posters and abstracts for it. I was in the Honors College, a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and on the President’s list every semester at GCU. My freshman year presentation for the Honors symposium was nominated for an award, and I graduated summa cum laude as well.

I think overall my biggest accomplishment was staying well rounded through getting good grades, volunteering, working, starting a club, maintaining a social life and getting into occupational therapy school, all while dealing with a lot of loss throughout my years in college.

What are your summer/post-grad plans?

After graduating, I am working and planning a wedding. Then I will be starting my doctoral program in August at NAU Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

You’re engaged! What’s the story?

Yes, I am! We met freshman year of high school and have been dating ever since–seven years! We will be getting married March 23, 2019. I like to control things, so he tried to propose in a way I would least expect. He succeeded. I thought he would propose just the two of us, but he proposed on New Year’s Eve in front of hundreds of people at the Walt and Mickey statue at Disneyland. I was taking pictures with one of my friends and her mom went up to the photographer that was taking pictures of the people in line and told her I was about to get engaged. The photographer came over and started taking pictures as Davie walked up, my friend walked away and he proposed. Everyone around applauded! I was so shocked I forgot to say yes–I just took the ring. I joked with him afterward that he forgot his speech, but I actually just didn’t hear him. You could say I was surprised!

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.