While most University of Findlay students and 2021 UF graduates might be relishing in a summer that is likely just beginning for them, what Caila Case ’21 has called a “short, sweet summer” has already come to its end, at least in the way of an academics-free life. Case, who identifies as non-binary and prefers to use they/them/their pronouns, just walked out under the Griffith Memorial Arch in May with their Bachelor of Science in Psychology, thus ending their undergraduate career at UF. They will need to walk under it again in roughly three years, as Case has now begun their new endeavor as a graduate student in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program at UF. Thanks to that UF undergraduate experience, they said, they are well-prepared to handle these next few years with grit and grace.
“My education in psychology and intercultural studies [in which Case minored] has shown me valuable techniques in critical thinking, communication, and positive interactions with others,” Case said. “My strong skillset and expanding knowledge of the field is what has solidified my career choice of Occupational Therapy and what has best prepared me for furthering my education in the OT grad program.”
Case, a graduate of Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Ohio, has spent their “short, sweet summer,” they explained, working at Walmart in Findlay, hoping to boost their finances a bit before starting their OT graduate studies. When not at work, they mostly found themselves with their girlfriend Isabella Liedhegner, a student in the Animal Science Program at UF, and their dog and cats. It was a quick reprieve in between the bookends of their college education, an education that began at UF some years ago upon the advice of someone who was already familiar with the University – Norwalk High School assistant girls basketball coach Jennifer (Oakley) Swartz ’01 M ’03, a former Oiler and once-captain of the UF women’s basketball team. “Coach mentioned to me numerous times about her alma mater and how much the University shaped her into the person she is today,” Case said. “I wanted to be someone like her [in that] I, too, wanted to create a meaningful life and productive career that would help me and my family.”
Though they trusted Swartz’s opinion as a UF alumna completely, they couldn’t decide on the opinions of others alone; so when it was time to visit colleges, Case visited the UF campus for a firsthand peek. “The first step I took onto campus was the moment I fell in love with the atmosphere,” they confessed. “Throughout my first visit, I was able to feel the connection between students and their peers and was able to get firsthand knowledge on the relationships these students were able to make with their professors. I knew as soon as I saw UF it was going to become my new home.”
That student-professor relationship turned out to be particularly impactful for them, Case said, as they experienced personally the opportunity to lean on faculty around them for direction and decisions. That was specifically the example set by associate professor of psychology, Andrea Mata, Ph.D. who was, in addition to Case’s professor, their advisor throughout their four years. Mata made it clear that “if we ever needed anything, we could go to her for guidance,” Case said.
Aside from the people, Case continued, the wealth of opportunities UF offered to students was one of the things that became so helpful for them. One in particular, was especially eye-opening. They were able to intern with Mercy Children’s Hospital Pediatric Therapy Hippotherapy Program at Timberwolff Stables in Whitehouse, Ohio, an organization that encourages physical, occupational, or speech therapy treatment strategy utilizing the movement of a horse. It was an opportunity which gave Case “an excellent and unique opportunity to work alongside an occupational therapist while expanding [their] knowledge on treating pediatric patients,” they said. “I was unaware of the impact it would have on my passion for assisting individuals and my drive to become an occupational therapist. Because of this internship opportunity networked through the University of Findlay, I was able to conclude what my future career choice was.”
Case began their work toward their future career choice just this week, officially starting graduate classes at UF on their way to bigger and better things. It’s not a coincidence that Case stuck around UF to continue their education even further, as the drive that they have to be successful has, in part, been nurtured by the University and all that it offers. “Personal experiences [at UF] have allowed me to achieve a greater understanding of individuals,” they explained. “Because I attended the University of Findlay for undergrad and am continuing my education in a grad program at UF, I have been able to shape myself into becoming someone with a meaningful life and productive career and will finally be the first in my family with the title of Doctor before their name.”