A Day in the Life: ’12 OT Graduate Molly Barrett Advises Current Students on Choosing a Major

As important as preparation and research are when preparing for finals or working on a class project, research is just as or even more important when choosing a program of study.

2010 Exercise and Sport Science and 2012 graduate of the Occupational Therapy (OT) program Molly Barrett stresses this advice for current St. Kate’s students.

“If you’re unsure about your major, make sure you reach out to different departments,” Molly says. “Talk to students and professors in that department, and see if it’s something you’re really interested in. Make sure you do the background checks. For example, how long are you going to be in school? Will you have to go to grad school after your bachelor’s? You have to think about these things.”

Educational and Sports Background

A North Dakota native, Molly Barrett wanted to come to St. Kate’s to experience the “big city” after living in a small farm town all her life. After going to junior college for her Associate’s degree and playing women’s basketball there, she got in touch with one of St. Kate’s coaches.

“Basketball is kind of what brought me, ultimately, to St. Kate’s,” Molly admits.

She played the sport for three years at St. Kate’s while she was working towards her Bachelor’s in Exercise and Sport Science (EXSS). Molly immediately went from graduation into the OT graduate program and became the assistant basketball coach during her second year in grad school. Unfortunately, she had to give up coaching because of her fieldwork in her academic program, but Molly’s experience as an athlete and coach shaped much of her educational and career experience.

Picking a Program of Study

Coming to St. Kate’s, Molly had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She knew she loved sports and longed to be a coach one day, a fact which she held on to as she navigated college and her career decisions.

She mentions that her love of basketball encouraged her to major in EXSS, and she did a short stint as a certified personal trainer but quickly realized that she didn’t want to do that forever. She wanted something more structured for a career.

“I like [the idea of ] going to work knowing what I have to do because I have a set agenda,” Molly states.

Because of this, she explored other options for her future. In high school, she had the opportunity to shadow an occupational therapist, an experience which she very much enjoyed. Molly ended up applying for the St. Kate’s OT graduate program and got in. By the spring of 2012, Molly Barrett graduated with her third degree, a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.

St. Kate’s Memories

Molly shares a few of her favorite St. Kate’s memories, all of which revolve around sports and teammates. As a former athlete, this is a part of her life that she held close to her heart.

She reflects on her experience with St. Kate’s intramural sports: “We tried lacrosse for a year, so that was fun. We had one game against Hamline– it was a unique experience because none of us had ever played lacrosse before, but it was fun.”

As an involved student-athlete, Molly did not have time to do much else, save for her job as a lifeguard at the Butler Center. The rest of her memories involved her time either coaching or playing for the women’s basketball team.

“My senior year, we went pretty far in the playoffs, and that was probably the highlight,” she says.

Career Trajectory

As mentioned earlier, Molly didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted to pursue as a career for the longest time. For some time in high school and early college, she mentioned herself wanting to be a coach.

“That’s what I dreamed of doing, but I wasn’t entirely committed to it… that’s why I went the OT route. I just knew I wanted to work with kids, and within the field of occupational therapy, you can do a lot of different things,” she says.

During her clinical fieldwork in the graduate program, Molly gained experience working with mental health and pediatric patients. She enjoyed both of those experiences and decided that she would like to work with either children or mental health patients.

First Occupational Therapy Position

Immediately out of school, like many other fresh college graduates, Molly looked for any job in the field of OT. She got a job at a long-term nursing facility, which was far from what she longed to do with her degree, but it was a job.

“I was really lucky that I only had to be there for five months before I found the job that I had set out to find at Abbott Northwestern,” Molly mentions.

Abbott Northwestern and Courage Kenny Kids

At Abbott, Molly worked in the child and adolescent psych unit for five years, and at the four-and-a-half-year mark, she took another job through Allina at Courage Kenny Kids pediatric clinic. 

She spent half of her time working with the pediatric clinic and continued doing half her time at Abbott in the mental health unit. “So really like, this time was the best of both worlds because I was working with children and mental health patients.”

However, it was just really challenging doing two separate jobs at the same time. So, a few months after starting at the pediatric clinic, they offered her a full-time position, and she ended up leaving Abbott.

“And I loved that job,” Molly remembers. “I loved working with those kids. Working with kids is kind of my jam.”

Last year, she was given the opportunity to work as an occupational therapist with the St. Paul school district, where she currently works.

A Day in the Life

Here’s what Molly’s typical day looks like in the age of social distancing:

She gets out of bed, makes herself breakfast, and checks her emails during that time. After all her emails are checked and replied to, she transitions to her work for the day, full of meetings and time in-between for preparation.

Throughout the day, Molly creates online therapy activities for the kids. She responds to her patients’ progress on these activities and meets with many of the kids over video meetings at certain times in the day as well.

“The Google Meets are the best part of my day because I get to actually see the kids,” she says. However, these meetings are hardly ever consistent anymore because everything these days is so unpredictable. “If I can get my kids on a video meeting, it’s a successful day.”

Molly mentions that her day is full of meetings and prep work, but she still enjoys it. “It’s not too interesting, but it’s life. It’s real right now,” she reflects.

Advice for Katies

Molly offers her best advice for current St. Kate’s students:

  • “Plan ahead! I don’t regret getting my degrees, obviously, but I regret not doing my homework on them. I encourage you to sit in for a class or explore different routes if you’re unsure. I did a brief stint in Communications because I was thinking maybe I wanted to be a Sports Information Director. I quickly found out that that’s not the route for me, but I’m very happy I did it because it gave me clarity.”
  • “[In regards to TRW and GSJ]: At the time, I didn’t think the class was worth it. My advice is, try not to get into that attitude. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but now that I’ve graduated, those two classes were instrumental in shaping how I look at the world. They taught me that you have to be a critical thinker and examine everything. You can’t just take things for face-value and you have to explore different options. My advice is, try to take in everything you can with those classes. They really can shape you for the better.”
By Mandy Hay
Mandy Hay Career Assistant Mandy Hay