University Park, IL,
16:56 PM

A Grateful Graduate's Road to Success

Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to help you discover the right path for your journey. For Othman O’Malley, a 2017 GSU Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate, that transformative moment happened in South Korea.

O’Malley was teaching English after receiving his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “I was a political science major dead set on going to law school, but being in Korea changed all of that,” O’Malley said. “Teaching kids between the ages of six and 15, who didn’t speak any English, forced me to come up with creative ways to not only engage them in the learning, but to also make it fun.”

“That was a real challenge for me,” O’Malley continued. “But it also made me realize that what I really wanted was to work directly with people, to help them, and educate them in a way that could actually improve their lives long-term.” On his travels, O’Malley met several people who were preparing to enter the occupational and physical therapy fields. Through speaking with them, he discovered that physical therapy was a great fit for his personality and professional aspirations. “I started researching physical therapy and loved how hands on it is,” O’Malley said. “You interact with people every day. Your goal, oftentimes, is to restore not only patients’ health, but also their spirit, and to really educate them so they can maintain that health and spirit after their time with you. I love that it merges teaching with health.”

Once O’Malley was back in the U.S., he began exploring doctoral programs for physical therapy and quickly decided on Governors State University.

“After looking into several options, it became clear pretty fast that GSU was the right choice for me,” said O’Malley. “I could easily commute and afford it financially, but beyond all that I was attracted to the smaller class sizes and the clear dedication of all the faculty I met with.” The small class sizes – with an average of 30 students per cohort – are unique to GSU and tend to help students like O’Malley build a support system and create professional relationships that often last long after graduation.

Rebecca Wojcik, PT, EdD, GCS, department chair for Physical Therapy and O’Malley’s professor and academic advisor said small cohorts distinguish the program. “It helps the students develop close working relationships with each other and the faculty in the program, which fosters engagement in the curriculum and in the profession as a whole.”

Today, O’Malley is an outpatient physical therapist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel crest.

He credits GSU’s solid broad range of classes and experienced professors with helping him succeed. “The clinical experiences the program arranged covered the breadth of the profession and I felt confident going into the clinic,” he said. “The skills I gained and the connections I made through the GSU DPT program will stay with me for a lifetime.”