Otterbein Graduate School Provides Platform for Career Change

Posted Apr 20, 2021

Sarah Hunter was using her undergraduate degree in zoology to study bats and echolocation for the Ohio Department of Wildlife. However, it was a smaller part of her job that she became the most excited about. 

Bat Survey
Sarah Hunter MAT’23, holds a bat during her research work.

“I loved talking with to kids about what I was doing and showing them the bats up close. I didn’t get to do that often, which led me to decide I should follow that excitement to new career,” she said. 

The first step toward that new career was earning a master’s degree.  

Hunter took the recommendation of several of her friends who taught in the Dublin (OH) City School District. Many were alumni of Otterbein and encouraged her to apply to Otterbein’s Graduate School.  

Hunter is now on track to graduate in 2023 with a Master of Arts in Teaching, licensed in Middle Childhood Education.  

She was immediately impressed with how quickly she could “jump right in” to classroom experiences even in a pandemic. 

“I’m tutoring kids remotely right now. It’s so great to actively apply what we’re learning in class to help them with their schoolwork,” she said. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of jobs a person will have in a lifetime is 12, with workers spending five years or less at the same employer. Numbers like these, and Hunter’s story, indicate the importance of graduate school being a gateway to new opportunities. The Graduate School at Otterbein University provides those possibilities and ways to redirect their trajectory towards a new career. 

“We understand the unique circumstances of working adults, who may also have families, and try to make earning your degree as convenient as possible,” said Barbara Schaffner, associate provost of graduate studies. “We want to provide graduate students with the fundamental knowledge necessary for success in their chosen careers in the most efficient and best way possible.” 

Salamander Program
Sarah Hunter MAT’23 teaches kids about her bat research, an activity that led her to Otterbein.

Hunter says she’s more motivated than she’s ever been to finish her degree, and Otterbein has made it possible for her to finish and get into the education field sooner. 

“Typically, at the time I work with students, many will share that they are looking for a change,” said Jarrod Harchalk, senior assistant director of graduate admission. “Once enrolled, we begin to navigate options. Peers and Otterbein faculty are extremely helpful by sharing their networks.” 

Holly Williams MSAH’20 found herself at a crossroads with her career. She felt her motivation and advancement had plateaued. 

“I had been a physical therapy assistant (PTA) for 16 years. Being a PTA is a tough job, both mentally and physically, helping in-home patients with recovering and having to help move them around. I was ready to find where I could be for another 16 years,” said Williams. 

She started to investigate graduate programs and found Otterbein’s Master of Science in Allied Health (MSAH) program. She noticed MSAH offered a year-long practicum internship as part of the coursework. In her previous education experience, a college internship immediately would lead to a job after graduation. 

“With my change in career path, I wanted to get out there and meet people, build connections before entering the workforce. Whereas other institutions wait to connect you with potential employers after you graduate, Otterbein gave me the opportunity to get my foot in the door before I even left campus,” Williams said. 

It was an introduction from Health and Sport Sciences Senior Instructor Paul Longenecker that led to Williams finding her next chapter after graduating in 2020. 

“I met with the president of homecare at OhioHealth. I began my practicum with them and near the end of my time they requested my resume, promising to reach out if any openings became available. They called me a month later with an offer,” she said. 

Now the manager of operation for orthotics and prosthetics, Williams has refocused her career, leading her to where she wants to be. 

“At Otterbein, they discover what will make you happy and how they can move you forward to be successful,” she said.