A senior capstone project that provides a glimpse into the lives of five professionals within the fields of Health and Human Performance.
When presented with the task to complete an applied project as part of my senior seminar class, I was overwhelmed by the breadth and freedom it could entail. What I did not realize however, was the potential impact that that freedom would have on my future education. Once a medical biology major on a Pre-Physician Assistant track to an Exercise & Sport Physiology Major with an rocky plan post undergrad, to finally an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus in Applied Exercise & Health Studies, my interests have been in constant turmoil and revision.
Has this project cemented a plan come May, then? Well, no. But, because of this project that I was granted the freedom to fashion, I have uncovered entirely new fields of interest and taken yet another step in narrowing down the direction of study I wish to further discover. I’ve come to appreciate the power of holistic care and wish to further seek out professions that treat the body, not symptoms. How did I come to this? My discovery lies in the lives of these five.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
You could argue that this endeavor solely benefitted me and my educational experience, or you could think for a minute and digest all the ways this project has in fact, impacted the future of education. Besides this project and write-up serving as a testament to the accomplishments of each individual I had the pleasure of spending a day with, (essentially a way to brag about how incredible and inspiring they are), it more importantly serves as an avenue for students, bridging them from their studies to the real world after graduation with the hope of finding some clarity along the way. How does anyone really know what they want to pursue in life if they’ve never experienced and seen first hand what a day in their believed “dream job” is like?
Prior to being an aspiring Occupational Therapist, my sister worked for an independent school children ages 5-14, that takes an alternative approach to education. Catering to all learning styles, their pedagogical approach is geared toward project-based learning where students take the driver’s seat. Termed “Journeys of Discovery,” this approach similarly reflects the opportunity I was granted by conducting this project. It is self-designed and supports my educational discovery every step of the way. Education is evolving and I believe that approaches such as “Journeys of Discovery” and real life experience such as job shadowing, apprenticeships, etc. are the key to maximizing our education. In practicing authentic learning, our scope of knowledge has the potential to grow exponentially and instead of entering the real world with an insecure idea or plan, we are at the very least granted the confidence to be creative in our continued search. My journey throughout this project changed the way I view education and it is my hope that it will help facilitate a movement towards the integration of experience-based learning in education and future curriculums.
Challenges: The first challenge of this project began with the search for potential professionals to shadow. Who should I shadow? What professions am I most interested in learning more about? Will they be able to accommodate me? These were all questions that had me preoccupied for quite some time. Overall however, the biggest challenge was time management. As a full-time student and commuter, the task of balancing my studies, work, and not only choosing which individuals to shadow, but allotting out an entire day to observe them took careful planning and execution. No longer was I committed to work and school, but to these five individuals that so graciously offered their time to host me.
Strengths: The strengths to this project stemmed from communication. I am one who would much rather talk face to face with someone, but this project had me communicating in a number of other ways. Of course on the day I shadowed each individual we engaged in face to face conversations, but the process up until that point required many emails and phone calls (two forms of communication I try to avoid). I surprised myself however, and was successful in scheduling meetings, rescheduling them at times, all while being conscientious of my pre-existing commitments to class and work schedule.
Outcomes/Improvements: My initial intention for this project was to shadow 10 professionals in their field. At the time, 10 sounded attainable, but the more I booked shadow days I found that my schedule was overflowing and if I wanted to report back a strong amalgamation of my day with each individual, I would need to narrow down that number. I finalized the project with five and am grateful for doing so because it allowed for more time showcasing these professionals and the work they do. In terms of improvement, I think that instead of transcribing some of their interview questions, I could have showcased their insight through video recordings, which would have provided a better sense of connection to the individual compared to a professional head shot.
The biggest lesson I learned throughout the process of this project is the importance of early action and follow-up. I spent a great deal of time researching professions and individuals in those fields instead of being proactive and reaching out to them right away to land a meeting. I think I could have been more productive by contacting each professional early on, even if we scheduled weeks down the road, rather than trying to contact someone each week and waiting for a reply. Additionally, after meeting with an individual I would have started their write-up soon after, instead of waiting until all my visits had been conducted. This would have facilitated the process more effectively as each visit would have been fresh in my mind and I wouldn’t have been worried by a build up of work at the end of the semester.