Meet Doctoral Candidate Grace Donovan '16

Sep 1, 2017

by Salma Nawlo
Assistant Director of Communications

Recent graduate Grace Donovan ‘16 has always wanted to dedicate her life to helping people. Starting as a nursing major, and cycling through biology and pre-med before landing on exercise science, she has found her place as a doctoral student studying physical therapy. But before Grace was a doctoral candidate, she was an FSC student with a penchant for community service and involvement on campus, and she is now using those passions in the perfect field for her.

You’re from Boise, Idaho. Why did you choose to move across the country to attend FSC?

I was blessed to receive the prestigious McClurg Scholarship after I was recruited by Coach Kara Reber to play lacrosse at Florida Southern. Those two components, academic and athletic, are most definitely the reasons that I attended FSC. If it wasn’t for the McClurgs and their generosity, I would not have been fortunate enough to attend FSC – and if it wasn’t for Coach Reber, I never would have heard of it! I feel so grateful for the well-rounded experience I was able to have and owe it all to the McClurgs and Coach.

I am honored to represent Florida Southern, and so thankful for all the opportunities available to me. I will never forget the day that my admissions counselor called and told me I was awarded the McClurg Scholarship, meaning I could attend Florida Southern, play lacrosse, and go to my dream school. I am so proud to be a Moc, and always look forward to my trips back to visit. It feels just like old times.

You were a star student-athlete. Did that weigh in to your career path? How did you choose your major?

I am very passionate about helping others discover the potential within their bodies to heal, advance, and overcome difficulties that may arise throughout the lifespan. As a student-athlete, activity and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are aspects of life on which I place extreme value. I also understand the amount of frustration and hardship that may arise as a result of injury or illness within the body. It is my hope that as a Physical Therapist I will help others meet their goals in returning to a healthy, pain-free life!

There are a select few scholar-athletes – how did you manage your day?

I live by Ben Franklin’s words; “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Mornings are my favorite and most productive time, so waking up early for lacrosse weights and conditioning set the pace for the rest of my day. I would usually try to get some studying or homework done in the morning, accompanied by coffee and breakfast. After class, it was practice, then more food (constantly eating), and looking over schoolwork. I liked to flip through my notes a few times a day rather than sitting down and studying in huge blocks. I found that paying attention in class is the real key to not having to spend an exorbitant amount of time outside of class to learn the material. That really helped me manage my time and still learn the material.

Donovan with Dr. Anne Kerr.

It sounds like exercise science is the right field for you. What was your experience with the program like?

I came to the exercise science major as a junior, fresh from a summer full of uncertainty regarding what I wanted to do. Freshman year I was a nursing major, sophomore year I was Bio/Pre-Med, and still by junior year I had a head full of indecision surrounding my future. When I emailed Dr. Terrell about admission to the major, she met with me and allowed me in, even though I was pretty late to the program.

Once I began my classes, I knew immediately this was the field in which I wanted to be. The curriculum, mental stimulation, and various projects all culminated into a major in which I was able to learn in class, but also to learn on my own. I would find myself biking home from lacrosse practice thinking about EPOC - exercise post oxygen consumption - glycolysis, and how many grams I needed to consume of carbohydrates when I got home. I was hooked.

Which professors at FSC did you have the best experience with?

It is impossible to narrow it down. I would say Dr. Terrell (she rocks, seriously), Dr. Lynch (brilliant man who somehow always has time for you), Dr. Bradshaw (she’s not teaching there anymore, very sad), and last but not least, Dr. Smith (uproariously hilarious and I learned a great deal).

I definitely have spent the most time with Dr. Terrell, and owe so much to her. She pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, even after I left FSC! She and I recently collaborated on a manuscript that I did as my senior paper, and I was just informed that it is to be published in the next edition of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal! I’m so excited, and I could not have done it without Dr. Terrell’s expertise, support, and guidance.

Did you do any research in your field?

I did research my sophomore year in my Histology class with Dr. Bradshaw on the effects of Atrazine (an herbicide) on Caveolin-1 (a protein). As I said above, my paper to be published on Stress Urinary Incontinence and Yoga as a Modality to Improve Quality of Life in Pre- Menopausal Women is certainly something that I am very excited about! I presented both of these research opportunities at Fiat Lux.

What extracurriculars were you involved in?

I participated in basketball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, tennis, and ping pong intramurals. Although I couldn’t be present at all of the events due to lacrosse, I was able to win the title of Women’s Ping Pong Champion my senior year! I love me some ping pong.

I was president of the FSC Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), served on the executive board as the national representative for the Sunshine State Conference (SSC), was the vice president of Phi Epsilon Kappa (Exercise Science Honors Society), taught yoga at the Wellness Center, was a member of the FSC Astronomy Club, played violin for the FSC Catholic Student Organization, and also worked for the Athletics filming basketball games and being a game helper at various sporting events.

What’s something surprising about you?

I plan to summit all the highpoints of the 50 states; so far I have Mt. Hood in Oregon, Mt. Elbert in Colorado, and Mt. Borah in Idaho. On to many more mountains, figuratively and literally!

Talk to us about life after FSC. Where did you go and what did you up until now?

I was hired at Black Diamond Physical Therapy in Portland, OR, to be the Clinic Administrator and PT Aide after graduation. It was one of the places where I interned prior to graduating, and I learned so much there! I also continued serving on the NCAA National SAAC and coached a girls’ lacrosse team while in Portland.

Donovan in the Swiss Alps on the Junior Journey trip.

How do you believe FSC contributed to your success?

FSC contributed to my success in so many ways. It was a school far away from my home state of Idaho, but also a place where I felt at home. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to play lacrosse as part of the 2016 National Champion team (GO MOCS!), represent the Sunshine State Conference and FSC on the National Student Athlete Advisory Committee, experience Switzerland and backpack for two weeks in the Swiss Alps for my junior journey, gain my CSCS certification, gain a well-rounded perspective on life, and find my passion for health and fitness.

My younger brother, Peter, was awarded the Hollingsworth Scholarship and joined me at FSC my junior year. It was amazing having him there with me, and I am constantly amazed and grateful at the scholarship opportunities available. I am extremely proud to represent Florida Southern in all I do moving forward, since I was given so much during my time as a Moc.

Talk to us about being chosen as a 2017 NCAA post-graduate scholarship winner. How did that come about and in as much detail as you can, tell us about the HMP program.

I feel extremely honored to be chosen as an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient. I first heard of it while I was serving on National SAAC, and, after taking my gap year to work in the physical therapy field and gain more experience, I applied. Applications go through your conference and a regional committee, then those that are chosen move on to the national committee. I am so fortunate for all the NCAA has done for me, and overjoyed to receive this prestigious scholarship to continue my education!

The HMP program at FSC really kick started my interest in the field of health and fitness. Having faculty that is dedicated to excellence and fostering an environment of curiosity and self-growth is truly an incredible thing. I am fortunate enough to have had great professors who inspired and believed in me. I am proud to represent such wonderful professors and such a fantastic school/program!

You’ve recently learned that you’ll have some of your scholarly work from your time at FSC published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal. Can you elaborate on your research experience? What was it like and how did you get there?

I am thrilled about the opportunity to have my work as a feature article in ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal! I became interested in researching the pelvic floor in my senior research class, and after writing and submitting my final paper, Dr. Terrell asked me to present at Fiat Lux and consider submitting it to a journal for publication. I was honored that she thought it was journal caliber, so after graduation, Dr. Terrell and I worked on my manuscript remotely.

Donovan playing on the FSC lacrosse team.

It was a long time coming since I was working full time, training for a marathon, and coaching a girls lacrosse team in Portland, and Dr. Terrell was teaching, doing her own research, and being the amazingly busy/hardworking person she is, but we finally finished it in early spring. After submission, I was asked to do a couple revisions and re-submit. About two days after re-submission I learned that my article was accepted. I immediately called Dr. Terrell and shared the good news!

 I’m so glad she encouraged me to take my paper to the next step, and grateful for all the time and work she put into it. She has a great amount of experience and knowledge and it would not have been possible without her help. Now with a published paper under my belt, I understand the amount of work it takes and I’m ready for the challenges of PT school!

We heard also that you have been accepted to a PT Doctoral program at Eastern Washington State! WOW! We are so proud of you! What inspired this career path? That is some goal.

I have been accepted to the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at Eastern Washington University, and am so thrilled! I have always had an interest for helping people recover in non-invasive ways, and coupled with my passion for exercise and fitness, it was a perfect career choice. After working in several different PT settings, I realize even more how excited I am to embark on this journey.

What have you learned in the field that a classroom can’t show you?

I learned a lot about the psychological side of physical therapy. There are many factors which may influence someone’s perceived pain or desire to get better, and that is something very valuable that I learned while working in the field. I also learned a great deal about the business side of physical therapy as I ran the front desk at a private PT clinic, something of great value that will serve me well in the future if I decide to open my own practice.

What advice would you give current students or young alumni who want to go in the same field?

I would tell younger students to have a hunger for knowledge, and to not give up if they don’t get accepted to a graduate program right away. Denial and rejection is just a place to learn and get even more experience, and it is very important to keep that in mind. PT school is tough to get into, and if you have tenacity and determination that will set you apart from the rest. There is always room for improvement, so look for your weaknesses!