Alum Grace Ong ('17) Begins Master's in Occupational Therapy at Washington University

Grace Ong, a Concordia Hanoi alum and the beneficiary of our inaugural Senior Scholar Award in 2017, is working on her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy (OT) at prestigious Washington University in St. Louis, which is rated one of the top OT programs in the United States.The Bolt spoke with her about her goals and how her Concordia education is helping her get there.

Why did you choose Occupational Therapy as a Master’s?

An occupational therapy entry-level degree is a Master’s, which means I need to get a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) in order to practice in the United States. I chose the Masters over Ph.D. because I am interested in practicing, not so much teaching.

Why did you select Washington University in St. Louis (WashU)?

I’ve always dreamed of going there ever since my dad did his Master’s in Social Work there from 2008 to 2010. I knew how good of a school it was, I was familiar with the St. Louis area and had friends there, and I was aware that WashU's occupational therapy (OT) program was ranked number one in the US. Getting to attend the best OT school in America as well as being at my dad’s alma mater is a dream come true!

How do you feel your Concordia education prepared you for this next step in your academic career?

I think one large factor was Concordia’s emphasis on cultivating strong leaders and team players. Through my participation in Concordia’s leadership summit, varsity sports teams, and National Honors Society (to name a few), I built strong leadership and teamwork skills that I have carried into my college years. Something that OT schools like to see is how you devote your time outside of the classroom. My leadership and teamwork skills have allowed me to become a worship leader, a dance choreographer, and a peer tutor at my undergraduate college. These roles have granted me a unique experience and perspective that is desirable in the OT profession. 

Another way Concordia prepared me is simply by encouraging effort and hard work. A Concordia education is not easy in the sense that teachers ensure students are receiving the right amount of challenge. At the same time, Concordia teachers want to see students succeed. Therefore, it has always been the value of working hard and diligently to achieve goals that have been instilled in me during my time at Concordia.

What do you intend to do once you've received your degree?

For the short term, I hope to do OPT (optional practical training) which allows me to stay in the United States for a couple more years to gain some experience in the field. Occupational therapy began in the US and I want to gain as much expertise and experience under my belt before I set off. After completing OPT, my dream is to someday help expand the field of OT into Vietnam and provide OT services based on the needs of the Vietnamese people. OT can provide services in various settings including schools, clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals, and it can bring aid to areas of mental health, physical health, and social health. I’m still not quite sure where my focus is in terms of what population or setting I want to work in, but I do know that I want to end up back in Vietnam someday.


*The Senior Scholar Award is an award that replaces the traditional Valedictorian Award. It recognizes academic excellence and the student’s contributions to Concordia. It is given each year to the graduating senior with one of the highest grade point averages for four years of high school, has demonstrated evidence of having taken a rigorous course load, has made a significant contribution to the school, and is recognized as being a student of high moral and ethical character. This award represents the highest honor that Concordia bestows upon one of its students and is announced during the Commencement Ceremony.

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