Purdue University North Central Alumna Diane Rich Faces Big Decision

Diane Rich1She is planning to continue her studies in graduate school to pursue her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She applied to four schools in different parts of the country and has been accepted by all four. Today she in the enviable position of having to choose between attending Emory University in Atlanta, IUPUI, the University of Indianapolis and Washington University in St. Louis.

All are top schools. The Washington University in St. Louis Doctorate of Physical Therapy program is ranked third in the country by US News and World Report, Emory is ranked seventh, IUPUI and University of Indianapolis are ranked 44th. All receive hundreds of applicants for just a few dozen open seats. She will carefully weigh her options.

“Graduate schools emphasize different values and aspects of the profession, so there’s more to consider than just the cost or national ranking,” she explained. “When I make my decision, I’ll give all these things serious consideration.”

Rich, a LaPorte native, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, with minors in psychology and ecology.

“The Liberal Studies track gave me flexibility with selecting coursework,” she said. She mixed a broad range of interests, which ultimately gave her a well-round background that the Doctorate of Physical Therapy programs seek in students.

Her desire to pursue a career in physical therapy was sparked when she was a patient herself and she realized the importance of having a “really good therapist.”

Plus, as a third-degree black belt and martial arts instructor, she includes information on wellness and fitness in her self-defense classes.

“Finding out how to motivate people to better themselves and enjoy the process has been a passion of mine. It made physical therapy a great fit for me,” she said.

Rich earned her degree in 2013 and continues to be a fixture on campus. “Depending on the semester, I was a chemistry lab instructor, teaching assistant, lab technician assistant, a tutor and I did biology research,” she recalled. “These phenomenal experiences reinforced what I learned. My lab coat and goggles were certainly put to good use.”

She admits she enjoys the rewards of working with students, “One of my favorite things to do is give students who hate or fear a subject a new perspective. In part, this is because of how my first PNC tutor – Kyle Gospodarek, an Indiana University medical student – helped me. It blew my mind how my opinion of a subject could do a 180 degree turn. I love seeing of my students go through similar transformations. I think we have a tendency to forget new information we fear or dislike – and simply changing that mindset can improve our retention rates significantly.”

Rich made time to enjoy herself out of the classroom too. She plays in a band with other members of the PNC Physics Department and had been involved in Physics Club, American Sign Language Club, the Ranting Llamas Improv Club, Dean’s Leadership Group, Chancellor’s Leadership and theater.

One of her favorite memories can when a stranger came up to her after an improv show. “He said I made him laugh so hard he was crying. I was ecstatic,” she admits, smiling at the memory. “It’s intensely rewarding to brighten people’s day by making them laugh. It was therapeutic for me as well!”

Rich admits that when she enrolled at PNC, she was “Afraid I wouldn’t do well. I was scared of public speaking, scared of math and science and had no idea what I wanted to study. There were moments when I wondered what I’d signed myself up for. I pulled all-nighters to stay afloat. I napped in my car in the parking lot. I was tutored several hours a week. Overcoming lapses in self-confidence were probably my scariest obstacles. Without self-confidence, the drive to succeed can fade away.

“At the end of my journey, I found myself speaking in front of thousands of people at graduation and graduate school bound.

“College is a place to test your limits, try new things and grow beyond what you thought possible. It’s in your control and no one else’s. Get to know your professors, be engaged, try to find something you enjoy about every class. Life is short. Time is precious - seize every opportunity.”

She thanked PNC staff members for their help: “Betsy Papka, lab technician, for the training and good times; Beth Rudnick and Craig Moore, academic advisors, for believing in me; Kelli Dellumo, lab technician, for her support and kindness; Linda Neulieb, secretary, for her sunny disposition and letting me into the piano room; campus police for all of our silly banter; the cafeteria staff for being so nice; and Willy of Physical Plant for his awesome sense of humor.”