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AMP program benefits students and mentors alike

Damaris Garcia ’16 (right) is an AMP student assistant in Professor Susan Bosher’s English class.
Damaris Garcia ’16 (right) is an AMP student assistant in Professor Susan Bosher’s English class.
Photos by Michelle Mullowney ’17

Over the past year Nancy Mack ’15, MAOT’16 has combed through 2,200 scientific articles about the relationship between occupational therapy and workplace stress.

“This is a global epidemic,” said Mack, a dual degree student in psychology and occupational science/Pre-OT. “In identifying the problem, what we know is that stress leads to sickness, absence, dysfunction in many areas of our lives. The stress level is too high.”

It’s thanks to the support of St. Kate’s Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP) that Mack is able to pursue her research project. AMP provides paid scholarly opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty or staff on specific research or program development projects. The program offers students a variety of opportunities, ranging anywhere from being a teaching assistant to collaborating with faculty in technical field-related studies.

In her ongoing research project, Mack has been working with Professor Jyothi Gupta, from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, to address the effectiveness of occupational therapy in treating workplace stress. The two are conducting a systematic review of pertinent literature and the possible future role of occupational therapy in this area.

“Usually when industrial organizational psychologists are working with employees, they’re looking at them through that lens of workplace performance,” said Mack. “In occupational therapy, we’re looking at the whole person. I think it’s very important for the field to understand that there is a hole in the United States, and it would be a great opportunity for occupational therapists to work in that field.”

The project involved extensive assessment of disciplinary literature — the staggering figure of 2,200 articles that Mack and Gupta collected was eventually narrowed to 19. Though the duo’s task of critical review is currently still in progress, they plan to write a manuscript and seek publication.

Critical classroom support

Another substantial need fulfilled by AMP is the supply of teaching assistants. Damaris Garcia ’16 is an English major with a double minor in Psychology and Teaching English as a Second Language. She works as a teaching assistant in Professor Susan Bosher's English class. Along with facilitating class discussion, a significant portion of Garcia’s work with the students consists of giving feedback on their papers.

The two knew each other already, Garcia having been a student in two of Bosher’s classes previously.

“Going from there, and actually being someone she could collaborate with, was kind of weird, but now I feel comfortable enough to joke around with her and call her Susan,” Garcia says. “She can be a friend.”

“It’s like I create a colleague every time I have a T.A,” says Bosher, who enjoys collaborating, especially with students. “Students will tell Damaris things, or she’ll hear things that I won’t hear. I think that I can be much more responsive to the needs of the students when Damaris is serving as, in a sense, the eyes and ears.”

“I never really imagined how much instructors have on their plate, and this is just a fraction of that,” adds Garcia. She appreciates the helpful combination of hands-on learning along with the professor’s guidance and feedback. “That’s really great — you don’t get that anywhere else!”

Garcia has always considered teaching English as a foreign language, but finds herself drawn to psychology as well. As a fluent Spanish and English speaker, she’s attracted to the study of language acquisition and development. “I’m not 100% sure yet, but I think definitely I want to do something with language.”

Vanessa SalinasAlthough Garcia’s interests are language-oriented, AMP projects frequently offer opportunities for bilingual students of all disciplines to flex their linguistic muscles. For example, Vanessa Salinas ’17 is a junior majoring in biology who is fluent in both English and Spanish, and finds herself using her Spanish in her job through AMP.

She is in her second year at St. Mary’s Health Clinic, a primary preventative care center that focuses on providing healthcare to those who may not be able to afford it on their own. Salinas works in the central office in the Carondelet Center, adjacent to the St. Paul campus, helping with eligibility intakes, screening potential patients for their income and their current medical status.

Patient interaction is hugely rewarding to Salinas. “Even though I don’t interact with the patients physically, I still get to talk to them on the phone,” she says. “I hear the joy. You can tell the person is relieved that there’s a place they can go and get the healthcare they need.”

Through translating for Spanish-speaking clients who don’t speak English, Salinas has also picked up Spanish medical terminology, a valuable skill in light of her plans to attend medical school. Through AMP, she hopes to continue working with St. Mary’s in the coming semesters, but off-campus at the clinic site so that she can interact with the physicians, which is more closely tied to her goal of becoming either a general physician or general surgeon.

Be it in the medical field or the humanities, AMP provides students with another venue to explore their post-graduation ambitions and develop prospects.

“I receive a lot of feedback about how applicable the work that students are doing is to their majors or future careers,” says Maggie Singerhouse ’17, the student-AMP coordinator. “Essentially, I like to think of AMP as a mutualistic relationship where both the student and the mentor can benefit from the meaningful work they are doing.”

Application details

The Fall 2016 application deadline for AMP is April 19. Both the student and staff or faculty mentor must submit a collaborative application by the deadline. Tip: Successful applications tend to take time to develop, so begin well in advance. Students of all degree levels are encouraged to apply.

Jan. 25, 2016 by Michelle Mullowney ’17

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Leadership, Liberal Arts, Students