Laura Hampton NanceLike many students, Laura Hampton Nance packed up her life and moved to Birmingham to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). However, unlike most students, the 20-something age kids Nance said goodbye to were not her classmates - they were her children, a 22-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son.

Nance originally earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics and spent the past 17 years as a banker in Chattanooga, Tenn. She held a secure position as a portfolio manager at First Tennessee Bank when she decided to give it all up and become an occupational therapist (OT). It is a career move that is reflective of Nance’s personal objectives.

“I love the idea of working with people to help them find ways to overcome the obstacles in their life in order to participate in occupations they find meaningful and fulfilling,” said Nance, an incoming second year student in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) Program.

She was accepted to all four MSOT programs she applied. But Nance chose the UAB Department of Occupational Therapy because of UAB’s reputation in the field of health and medicine. She recently completed her first year and is on track to graduate in December 2014. Looking back at year one, she has no regrets and no doubt she made the right choice.

“The UAB faculty places a strong emphasis on team based learning which is not only fun and effective, but it also helps students of different ages and backgrounds to bond and to employ a cooperative approach to education,” said Nance, a native of Carrollton, Georgia. “Plus, team based learning prepares us with the skills required to be effective participants in collaborative and interdisciplinary health care teams to best serve complex health care issues in our future professional work settings.”

Nance hasn’t decided what she will do when she graduates. She is excited that there are so many opportunities to work with different populations in a wide variety of settings available to OT graduates. She believes her field work in the second year will narrow her options and guide her toward the best fit for her.

And even though her classmates are closer in age to her own children, Nance says this is the perfect timing for her. She says her life experience has allowed her a greater appreciation for the opportunity to be a full-time graduate student. An opportunity she is taking full advantage of.

“It felt more than a little risky to leave behind my stable career, but I am proud of myself for stepping out to follow the new direction that I have chosen for my life,” said Nance. “Every day I savor the experience so if you ever see me riding my bike to class in the morning I will more than likely have a peaceful smile on my face.”

*Editor’s Note: Nance was a member of the OT 673 class which participated in a “$5, 5-minute Challenge” and she was one of the student’s highlighted in the story.