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Marissa’s Journey: Uniting Occupational Therapy and Social Impact

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Marissa smiles directly at the camera wearing a black t-shirt

Meet Marissa, a current Master of Occupational Therapy student at Curtin University, who brings a unique perspective and rich life experience to her academic journey. Marissa started her journey at Curtin two decades ago with a Bachelor of Science (Medical Science), Marissa ventured into a different career before she realised her pull to Occupational Therapy could no longer be ignored and ventured back to Curtin University.

Despite not initially meeting the Master of Occupational Therapy’s course requirements, Marissa’s extensive work experience, commitment, and personal connection through her daughter’s occupational therapy sessions played a crucial role in securing her spot in the program. Her pathway into the program is a testament to her resilience and commitment to work in alignment with what felt true.

Marissa’s return to academic life after a hiatus provided her with a striking perspective on the evolution of educational resources. Recalling her undergraduate years in Medical Science, she notes the drastic shift from a time when online resources were limited, and traditional teaching methods dominated the landscape. The current accessibility of information, online support, and technological advancements have significantly enhanced her learning experience.

Another motivation to return to study stems from Marissa’s involvement in the ADHD community. Recognising occupational therapy as a field that aligns with her strengths, she sought a profession that offered variety in her daily routine. Marissa’s change to occupational therapy was further solidified when hearing that occupational therapy is frequently endorsed as a rewarding career choice for individuals with ADHD.

One of the highlights of Marissa’s academic journey is the intergenerational service-learning fieldwork. Engaging with an 84-year-old volunteer facing mobility challenges, she spearheaded a toothbrushing intervention. Witnessing the positive impact on the volunteer’s well-being, coupled with the fulfilment of knowing the intervention could have long-term health benefits, solidified Marissa’s passion for occupational therapy.

Beyond academic pursuits, Marissa actively engages with the Curtin community as a student partner in the Social Impact Hub. Her role involves providing feedback during the hub’s design phase, offering a unique perspective as a mature-age student, caregiver, and individual with neurodiversity. The Social Impact Hub aims to address social inequities and environmental challenges by fostering collaboration, discussion, and resource accessibility for both students and the broader community.

“The Social Impact Hub is about students at Curtin and the general community coming together to discuss areas of social inequity and environmental challenges.”

Marissa’s involvement in the Social Impact Hub was serendipitous, initiated by an email from the program coordinator, Paulene. As a student partner, she contributes to shaping the hub’s framework, ensuring it caters to the diverse needs of the student body. Her motivation to participate in this initiative stems from a desire to give back to the community and promote inclusive practices.

The personal significance of social impact is profound for Marissa, considering her perspective as an individual with ADHD. She emphasises the importance of raising awareness about differences and promoting supportive environments through social change. The Social Impact Hub, in her view, plays a pivotal role in shifting societal cultures and mindsets.

“As someone with ADHD, I think it’s important that people are aware of differences and what that means for people. Things like the Social Impact Hub are really important in just shifting cultures and mindsets of society in general.”

For other students looking to engage with the Social Impact Hub, Marissa highlights its dual existence as both a virtual and physical space. Whether on campus or studying online, students can participate through micro-volunteering roles, access resources, and collaborate on initiatives aimed at fostering positive social change.

As Marissa continues her academic journey at Curtin, her aspirations post-graduation revolve around working with children, particularly those who are neurodiverse or facing various challenges. Her commitment to a strengths-based approach and passion for making a positive impact on young lives aligns with her overarching goal of contributing to a more inclusive and supportive society.

In reflecting on her experience at Curtin, Marissa underscores the sense of community, leadership skills, and social interaction abilities that students can gain through involvement in the Social Impact Hub. The skills acquired, she believes, extend beyond university life, influencing future careers and contributing to long-term positive changes in societal perspectives. As Marissa navigates the intersection of academia, occupational therapy, and social impact, her journey serves as an inspiring narrative of resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to making a difference.

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