When the oldest of Shelly King’s six children began heading off to college, King decided to join them – circling
back to the career plans she envisioned while studying exercise science at the Arnold School in early 2000s. King had spent more than a decade homeschooling
her children, and now it was her turn to pursue her educational ambitions by returning
to her alma mater to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
“If my presence in the program helps any of my peers or my children, I hope it is
to give them the awareness and confidence to remember that they can reinvent themselves
later in life if they ever want to try something new,” she says.
With her family firmly settled in the Columbia area, King was grateful to have a top-notch
program right in her backyard. The youngest of her children were only three and five
when King returned to school to tackle prerequisites, so her busy life required balance.
She credits the support of her family and the program for making it possible.
“I could never have returned and made it this far in a very rigorous program without
the support and encouragement of the most wonderful husband in the world, and my younger
ones get excited about helping me learn to juggle for a motor-learning week assignment
or playing ‘patient’ for me,” King says. “The faculty see the ‘whole student’ and
are wonderful about being flexible with family and childcare situations. Not only
are they able to pass on their clinical experiences and knowledge, but they are also
just truly good human beings that want the best for all their students.”
During her program, King has gained clinical experience in acute care at a local hospital
and orthopedics at a private clinic. She enjoys supporting oncology and geriatric
populations and is interested in working in a home health setting after graduating
in the fall of 2024.
King says that the DPT program does a great job listening to students’ interests and
placing them in clinical rotations that match those interests and strengths. She also
appreciates the intentionality they put into providing first-year students with both
faculty and second-year student mentors.
“Dr. Alicia Flach gets all her mentees together to talk about classes, life in general, and to be a
resource and soft place for students to land,” King says. “In addition to Dr. Flach,
Dr. Shana Harrington has frequently checked in with me and how I’m doing while wearing my many ‘hats,’
Dr. Matthew Geary is not only my research mentor, but he has also gone the extra mile to help ensure
I was able to find the best clinical rotations for my interests and family life, and
Dr. Amanda Ward has also taken time on multiple occasions to lend an ear and be a support to me.”
Walking across campus, King looks for other non-traditional students and loves seeing
others in their 40s and beyond who have returned to school to pursue their dreams.
Individuals who, like her, may find that they connect with their classmates because
they are in the same age group as their older children or who are constantly recalibrating
their day to ensure that the needs of both school and family are met.
“The childhood my husband and I were able to give my older three kids is completely
different than the childhood we have been able to give my younger three, and they
don’t really remember a time when mom was not in grad school,” King says. “But their
involvement and support has made them a part of the journey, and I realize that maybe
it’s not a lesser childhood, just a very different one. The King cheering section
will be overwhelmingly proud and elated when I walk the stage, because it’s the end
of an unforgettable era and a win for the entire team.”