On May 14, UW–Madison will celebrate its Spring 2022 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Tessa Cockerill, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation psychology.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison?
I am originally from Lakeville, Minnesota. I chose UW–Madison because of the uniquely beautiful campus, passionate students and alumni, and exceptional sports and academic programs. I was intrigued by the rehabilitation psychology major, and excited by the opportunities provided by such a unique major.
What is your major, and how did you choose it?
I majored in rehabilitation psychology with a Promoting Activity for Diverse Abilities certificate. This major is actually a large reason I decided to come to UW–Madison, as I knew this was the perfect major to prepare me for a future in occupational therapy.
I chose my certificate later on in my collegiate career, after falling in love with the Adapted Fitness program. I have since discovered a desire to work in adapted sports in conjunction with occupational therapy, and this certificate provided foundational knowledge to support this passion.
What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
As a freshman I took a risk and attended an informational session for the rowing team with a friend from my dorm. I went along to be a good friend, but ended up falling in love with the sport of rowing. I never imagined I would be a D1 athlete, especially in a sport I had never tried before. But during my four years here at Madison, the sport has become a passion and my team has become family. Rowing is such an integral part of my identity and life here at Madison, and has opened the doors to so many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. My experiences on the team have helped me develop advocacy and leadership skills, taught me resilience and perseverance, and given me lifelong best friends.
"Come to college with an open mind. The greatest and most influential experiences I have had came from unexpected opportunities. I found my love for rowing, my passion for adapted fitness, and some of my best friends through activities that I never intended to join, or didn’t know existed prior to college."
What class or professor had the greatest impact on you, and why?
During my first semester, I took RPSE 300 as a prerequisite for the rehabilitation psychology major. In order to fulfill a service learning requirement for the course, I volunteered in Adapted Fitness with Tim Gattenby. I instantly fell in love with adapted sports, and discovered a passion for disability advocacy and adapted fitness.
I continued to participate in Adapted Fitness for many semesters following this course, giving me the opportunity to learn from different clients while being mentored by Tim. I intend to continue to work in adapted sports as part of my occupational therapy doctorate, and that is largely due to this course and Tim’s mentorship.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
I would advise everyone to come to college with an open mind. The greatest and most influential experiences I have had came from unexpected opportunities. I found my love for rowing, my passion for adapted fitness, and some of my best friends through activities that I never intended to join, or didn’t know existed prior to college. Take risks with an open mind, because you never know what could come of it!
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
I will be attending Tufts University starting in June to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy.
What are your favorite “hidden gems” on campus or in Madison?
I have two favorite hidden gems, because I can’t just pick one! As a coffee addict, I love studying and meeting up with friends at Indie Coffee on Regent Street.
My second favorite study spot, especially in the warmer months, is the patio on the third floor of the Education Building. Most people don’t know about this spot, and I found it accidentally my freshman year. It has the best view of the lake!