OT student persists to graduation with support of department community

Diana Purtz
Diana Purtz

Through the caring and understanding of her professors and supervisors, Diana Purtz has overcome many challenges to earn her master’s in occupational therapy.

CSU OT program top choice

Purtz grew up in Ohio, but has lived in southwest Colorado for the last seven years. With the cost, location, #6 national ranking, and the high pass rate for the national certification exam, the Colorado State University OT program was her top choice.

“My boyfriend and I both knew that if I got into CSU, I wouldn’t need to think about it, I’d be going there,” Purtz said.

Overcoming challenges

The road to graduation has not always been easy for Purtz. “I have had to navigate the tricky road of being a support system through my family’s challenging times of illness and loss while also balancing my own health and academic needs,” she said.  “I have learned a lot about self-advocacy and have developed strong communication skills to keep myself healthy and on target through these challenging times.”

Diana Purtz Mountain BikingBecause of her family’s needs, she has had to miss important weeks of school throughout the OT program. By working with my professors and through the assistance of classmates taking notes and keeping her updated, she has been able to stay on track to graduate.

“If you are willing to be open and honest and work hard, people will support you and provide you with the resources you need to be successful,” she said. “Having worked with a diverse mix of students on campus, I know that it can be intimidating to talk with professors or supervisors. It is often difficult to ask for help as it puts you in a position of vulnerability.”

Purtz continued, “It is crucial to remember that it also gives you strength, builds resiliency, and creates a vital support system. If you are confident and clear in what you need, faculty, staff, and students will be right there with you. I have been positively overwhelmed with the wonderful support of my program. I have worked like crazy to be successful, but I could not have done it without the caring and understanding attitudes of my CSU-OT community.”

Active outside of the classroom

Purtz has been active both inside and outside the classroom at CSU. She has been a member of the OT student organizations SOTA and Pi Theta Epsilon. She has also worked for a number of programs on campus. She supported student athletes in building better study habits and time management skills through the Learning Assistance Program. She also mentored students with disabilities transitioning to collegiate life through Opportunities for Post-Secondary Success in OT’s Center for Community Partnerships.

“I think this is such an important program, as it supports students in the many components of college – social, academic, financial, and independent living. There are a lot of factors that help college students be successful. OPS recognizes this and supports students where they need the most help so that they can do well in their classes and build healthy life skills,” she said.

This year, she received a graduate assistantship and the opportunity to work with Linda McDowell in the Department of Occupational Therapy office. She communicates with prospective students and assists them with the OT application process. She also writes website stories and manages the department Facebook page. “It’s a really fun job and Linda is amazing to work with!” said Purtz.

Diana Purtz Mountain BikingFuture plans

After graduation, Purtz will be taking a much-needed vacation with her boyfriend, Brett. They will be going on a 400-mile bikepacking trip – backpacking but on bike so you carry everything you need on two wheels, she explains. They will be heading to Oregon to celebrate the end of school on rural trails with mountain vistas.

After that, Purtz will be finishing her final fieldwork requirement at the Mayo Clinic in the acute care setting. Afterwards, she plans to move back to Durango, Colorado, and study for the NBCOT exam. After getting her OT license, she plans to work for San Juan Hand Therapy, which is where she completed her first level II fieldwork. “I am excited to work in such a specialized area of OT and bring the skills and theories I have learned at CSU to integrate with the amazing knowledge and experiences of the Certified Hand Therapists at San Juan Hands,” she said.

Whatever the future brings, it will likely involve the great outdoors and travel for Purtz. “If I am not studying, I can most likely be found outside. I love to mountain bike, trail run, hike, climb, ski, paddle, and just embrace the wonderful world of nature,” she said. “I also love to travel and have been to 48 states – only missing Hawaii and Alaska – and 11 countries. Before OT school, I traveled to Peru and spent time volunteering on an organic coffee farm in the Sacred Valley. It was one of the best experiences of my life!”

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.