Current PhD Graduate Student Bios

Below are the current PhD graduate students in the Occupational Science Division.

Mary Dean

Mary Dean is continuing in her studies as a doctoral candidate. She has a BA in psychology from the University of South Florida, and an MS in occupational therapy from UNC-CH. Most of her career has been in pediatrics, with work sites including inpatient psychiatry, a school system, a camp for physically impaired children, and early intervention settings. She continues to work with pediatric clients on a part-time basis. Mary's research interests are in the occupations of young children, particularly related to early school learning, the development of responsibility, and creativity.

Ashley Freuler

Ashley Freuler is a doctoral candidate in the Division of Occupational Science, studying under an interdisciplinary Autism Leadership Training Grant. She received a B.S. in Sociology from the University of Georgia, and an M.S. in Counseling from Mercer University. Ashley has worked with children and families in both public school and inpatient hospital settings as a mental health counselor and early intervention coordinator, and served as a graduate teaching assistant at Kansas State University while completing graduate coursework in Early Childhood Special Education. Ashley works under the direction of Dr. Grace Baranek as a research assistant for the Sensory Experiences Project. Her research interests include resilience and family routines in military families who are raising a child with Autism.

Emily Furgang

Emily Furgang is a fifth year doctoral student in the Division of Occupational Science and a Teaching Assistant for OCCT 890, Master's Research Seminar. Emily received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan and an M.O.T. in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Mexico. She previously worked as an occupational therapist at a trauma hospital in Denver, Colorado. Emily is currently studying the occupational experiences of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in postsecondary education for her dissertation research.

Kendra Heatwole Shank is in her final year of doctoral work in the Division of Occupational Science.  She completed a B.S. in nursing from Eastern Mennonite University, and then pursued a master's degree in occupational therapy at UNC-CH.  Her professional experiences in the medical field sparked questions about participation and wellness in older age, and Kendra specialized in gerontology earning a Certificate in Aging. Her dissertation, titled ‘Livable Communities for Older Adults: Person-Place Relationship and Process’, is based in Durham, NC and takes a critical look at where and how the basic occupations of older adults occur, and how those activities are negotiated over time.  She is using a multi-method approach, incorporating GPS mapping of participants’ routes with interviews and observations.  Kendra is a Fellow of the Royster Society at UNC-CH, which fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, dialog, and academic excellence.

Heather Fritz

Heather Fritz is an Occupational Therapist who received her B.S. in Spanish from The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  She received an M.S. in Occupational Therapy from Winston Salem State University. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Heather practiced as an Occupational Therapist at UNC healthcare working with physically and neurologically impaired adults. Heather is now in her fourth year of the PhD program in the division of Occupational Science and is a National Institute of Nursing Research Predoctoral Fellow. Her research interests include occupational science theory, the use of occupation in preventing and managing chronic illness, vulnerable populations, and health behavior theory.  Heather’s current research looks at how individuals with type II diabetes integrate diabetes self-management activities into daily life.

Heather Fritz

Mackenzi PergolottiMackenzi Pergolotti is an occupational therapist with a BS/MS degree from Russell Sage College and the Sage Graduate School in Troy, NY. Prior to coming to UNC, Mackenzi was the Assistant Chief of Occupational Therapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York. Mackenzi is now in her fourth year of doctoral work in the division of Occupational Science and in the second year of her Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research NRSA predoctoral fellowship. For Mackenzi's dissertation research, she is studying older adults with cancer, their participation in activities and their utilization of occupational therapy services.

 

Sumita Rege

Sumita Rege is a doctoral candidate in the Division of Occupational Science.  She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Occupational Therapy from Mumbai University and was practicing as an Occupational therapist at AIIPMR, a premier institute for physical medicine and rehabilitation at Mumbai, India.  Her clinical experience includes working with physically and neurologically impaired adults and developmentally delayed children.  She currently works as a Teaching Assistant in the division. Sumita’s research interests include studying virtual occupations and developing understandings of internet-based occupations through an Occupational Science perspective.

 

Anne V. Kirby is an occupational therapist with a BS/MS degree from the University of New Hampshire. Prior to entering the    doctoral program, she worked as an OT in early intervention, school, and acute care settings in Washington, DC. Her research interests are focused on occupational engagement of children with autism and other special needs, as well as on bridging research and practice. She is currently acting as the advisor for the Student Occupational Therapy Association at UNC-CH.

Caroline Harkins McCarty is a second year doctoral student in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where she received a BA in Literature and Creative Writing. She then worked for the Autism Society of North Carolina, and became interested in both occupational therapy and Autism research. Caroline moved to Chapel Hill with her husband, Josh, a fellow student (in the Department of City and Regional Planning) and completed her MSOT at UNC in 2011. Her research interests are Autism, adoption and foster care, and occupations related to ecological sustainability. A recipient of the Translational Research Training Grant, Caroline works under the direction of Dr. Brian  Boyd on the Advancing Social-Communication and Play (ASAP) project.


Valerie FoxValerie Fox is in her second year of doctoral work in the Division of Occupational Science. She received a B.S. in Zoology from North Carolina State University. She then pursued a master's degree in Occupational Science from UNC Chapel Hill. During that time, she focused on mental health and gerontology, completing the Certificate in Aging and participating in the Hubbard program. After graduation, Valerie was accepted into the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Fellowship at the Durham VA, focusing on recovery-based mental health services for Veterans. She continues to work at the Durham VA, in both acute care and a transitional care home health grant program. Her research interests include community participation for individuals with mental health issues and the role of occupational therapy in mental health services, specifically supporting occupational engagement.


Wendy Healy is an Occupational Therapist who received her MOT from Nova Southeastern University and a Graduate Certificate in Low Vision from University of Alabama at Birmingham. Wendy has done clinical work in a variety of settings, specializing in adults with brain injury and adults with visual impairments. Most recently, Wendy served as the program coordinator and faculty member for an OTA program. Wendy's research interests include occupations of adults and community-based practice.

 

 


Adrienne Miao is a second year doctoral student in the Division of Occupational Science. She received a BA in English from Haverford College, and became interested in occupational therapy while working as an AmeriCorps member with the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah.  She completed her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy at UNC in 2011. A recipient of the Translational Research Training Grant, Adrienne works under the direction of Dr. Ruth Humphry and Lauren Holahan to support the implementation of evidence based occupational therapy practice in North Carolina schools. Her research interests include family occupations, the social participation of children with disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders.