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Second-year Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy student Daniel Cowan’s combined passions for farming and working with people led him to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

Daniel Cowan
Daniel Cowan

Cowan owns and operates Red Tail Grains in Orange County, North Carolina.

“I’ve always been drawn to physical work,” Cowan said. “I find it very fulfilling on the farm.”

Cowan said he found being part of a larger institutional system fulfilling, but he was also drawn to working intentionally with people.

“Every OT, every practicing OT that I ever met, loved their job and was always really happy with it,” Cowan said. “That was a good sign to me.”

Cowan explained he began to learn more about the field of occupational therapy and the division’s holistic approach to health care.

“As humans, we’re not just bodies; we’re not just minds, but we have this complex interaction that’s happening in our minds, in our psychology.”

During the program, Cowan had the opportunity to travel internationally. During fall 2019, he traveled to Malawi as part of clinical fieldwork. The three-month trip challenged him to reflect on his way of thinking, which Cowan described as based in Western culture.

“While I could have said that before I went, I now feel that in a more visceral way,” Cowan said.

He also said the trip opened his eyes to more aspects of health care, including mental health and medical systems both in the United States and abroad.

Cowan said the master’s degree program has given him skills in critical thinking and the language he needed to take his future work as an occupational therapist into a variety of realms.

“Simply by having the degree, I now have the opportunity to explore so many different populations, and different fields and institutions,” Cowan said. “I was just really taken by the philosophy of this program.”

Nancy Bagatell, PhD, FAOTA, is the division director. The master’s program is ranked #9 in the country according to U.S. News & World Report. The division is housed in the Department of Allied Health Sciences.