Current PhD Graduate Student Bios

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

Valerie Fox

Valerie Fox is in her fourth 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.

Anne V. Kirby is in her final year of doctoral studies in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and plans to graduate in May of 2015. Prior to entering the program, Anne received BS and MS degrees from the University of New Hampshire and practiced as an occupational therapist in Washington, DC. Her dissertation work involves an in-depth exploration of factors that influence the occupational participation of adults with autism spectrum disorder. Anne uses multiple methods in her research to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities of occupational participation.

Emily Furgang

Caroline Harkins McCarty graduated with a PhD student in Occupational Science in 2017, and she is now a postdoctoral fellow for Dr. Brian Boyd through 2018. She is a full time occupational therapist with the Durham Public Schools. 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 include autism spectrum disorders, foster and adoptive families, and occupational therapy practice in the schools.

Adrienne Miao is a fourth 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 M.S. in Occupational Therapy at UNC-CH in 2011, and developed a taste for research through participation in an Autism Training Grant.  Her current research interests include family occupations, the social experience of disability, multi-perspective research, naturalistic and participatory methods, knowledge translation, and interdisciplinary collaboration.  A recipient of the Translational Research Training Grant, Adrienne works under the direction of Dr. Ruth Humphry.

Heather Fritz

Khalilah Robinson Johnson is a third year doctoral student and Teaching Fellow in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) Fellow with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities.  She received a dual BS/MS degree in occupational therapy from The Women’s College of Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia.  Prior to entering the doctoral program, Khalilah practiced as an occupational therapist in early intervention, acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, and home health.  Her dissertation research focuses on the institutionalization of adults with intellectual disability and the sociopolitical structures which organize how they choose and participate in daily life activities and their transition from institutions to local communities.  Khalilah is a native of Monroe, Georgia.

Heather Fritz

Mackenzi Pergolotti

Ashley Mason, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with a BS/MS from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY.  Prior to coming to UNC, she was the Coordinator of Occupational Therapy at The Children's Institute in Wexford, Pennsylvania and has just under 8 years of clinical experience within various adult and pediatric settings in the Greater Pittsburgh Area.  Ashley is in her second year of doctoral work in the Division of Occupational Science.  Her current research interests include occupations of families with children with and without disabilities.



Abbie CarrolAbigail Michelle Carroll is continuing her studies as a doctoral candidate in the Division of Occupational Science, studying under an Interdisciplinary Autism Leadership Training Grant. She received two undergraduate B.A. degrees at UNC-CH. in Physical Education Exercise Sport Science and Psychology as well as her MS in Occupational Therapy at UNC-CH.  Abigail has experience working with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families across the lifespan in a variety of settings including, but not limited to: outpatient developmental testing in hospitals, the public school system, outpatient pediatric clinics, children’s and adult group homes, research, in-home therapy, day programs, vocational programs, and inpatient rehabilitation hospital settings. Abigail is interested in bridging the gaps between research and practice to help provide a continuum of care and support for individuals with autism and their families that fosters shared responsibility, engagement, and quality of life across the life span. Her current research interests focus on family intervention design for infants and toddlers, and adolescents approaching the transition to adulthood. 

Adam DePrimo is a first year doctoral student in the Division of Occupational Science.  He received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg and is now a registered occupational therapist after completing his M.S. in OT from UNC, Chapel Hill. Adam is interested in the life-transitions that occur for adolescents and young adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities who are graduating high school and moving on to vocational, higher education, and independent living opportunities. He is also interested in understanding how occupations are individually constructed and socially informed through application of action theories.  Adam is a native of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ryan Lavalley

Ryan Lavalley, MOT, OTR/L is a doctoral student of Occupational Science. He graduated from Xavier University with a Masters of Occupational Therapy and a concentration in peace studies, after which he held an adjunct faculty position at Xavier teaching occupational justice and service learning projects. Through his experiences of a semester abroad in Nicaragua and visiting the people living on the streets of Cincinnati throughout his college career, he found his research interests in community development, justice, and social progress through collective and cross-cultural occupations. As a consultant for the Orange County Department on Aging, he hopes to study collective occupations and community engagement of older latino immigrants.