Samantha (Carlson) Peoples ’18

Major: Neuroscience

Profession: Occupational Therapist

Hometown: Seattle

What are you doing now?

I am working as an occupational therapist at a nonprofit outpatient pediatric clinic in Portland, Oregon. As an occupational therapist, I support and assist people with disabilities in performing their daily activities and promote independence through use of meaningful activities. In pediatrics, this means I support kids (birth to age 21) with disabilities with self-care skills, play, fine and gross motor skills, social-emotional skills and more. Daily, this may vary from helping a toddler with a genetic condition reach developmental milestones to supporting an autistic teenager in managing friendships and life transitions.

How did you get there?

While I was at Pomona, I was a neuroscience major with a minor in psychology. While exploring different options for healthcare careers, I fell in love with OT. After graduating from Pomona, I completed my MSOT (master of science in occupational therapy) at Washington University in St. Louis. While I was at WashU, I worked for a nonprofit that served individuals with disabilities, and through this, I was able to expand my understanding of the importance of advocacy and the intersectionality of identities within the disability community. I completed my clinical rotations in the greater Seattle area, working primarily with kids with disabilities in a variety of settings. After completing my rotations, I passed my board exam and relocated to Portland with my husband to begin working. I’ve now been practicing as an occupational therapist for about a year and a half.

How did Pomona prepare you?

My experience as a student-athlete at Pomona prepared me in a large way for my future in graduate school. Because of my experience juggling school and softball at Pomona, I was able to juggle school and a part-time job in graduate school that gave me more experience and insight into the job I do now. In addition, the intensity and rigor of classes at Pomona made my transition to graduate education much smoother!

Pomona provided me with mentors that supported my passions. I worked with Professor Lauren Rudolph and Professor Nicole Weekes in the neuroscience department in creating a thesis that suited my love for neuroscience and my passion for working with kids with disabilities. I was able to complete a project-based thesis teaching in special education that only furthered my interest in the field.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m not quite sure! I’d like to be more established as a therapist, having an additional five years under my belt. As I continue to gain experience in practice, I also hope to continue my education through targeted coursework and classes that will help me better support the kids and families that I work with. I’ve always had a passion for pediatrics, but whether I move to school-based or hospital-based or stay in a clinic, I cannot say for sure. For now, I am happy with where I am, and I am continuing to learn every day from my mentors and from the kids.

Any advice for current or prospective students?

If you are struggling with something, you probably aren’t the only one struggling with it. Talk with your professors; don’t be afraid to ask for help—this is what they are there for (I say this with a great amount of hypocrisy, as I did not take advantage of how invested Pomona professors were until I worked up the courage to seek them out in my second year and beyond). Remember to take breaks, give yourself grace and try to get some sleep.