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Regis College: From Circus to Classroom

Regis College OT Program: Reaching New Heights

Suzanne Rappaport was on a Club Med vacation with a few friends in 2002 when she tried the flying trapeze for the first time. And she liked it—a lot. “I liked it so much that I decided to leave my corporate job in New York City to pursue the flying trapeze,” says Rappaport, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Regis. She left her gig at Fortune magazine in the art and photo imaging department and was hired at Club Med. During training she learned how to safely facilitate flying trapeze lessons for guests of the resort. And although she didn’t realize it at the time, the discipline of teaching would become her forte.

Building Strength

In 2004 Rappaport met two former Cirque du Soleil performers, twin sisters who had opened the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont.

“They had a philosophy of ‘teach to the heart,’ which I valued so much that I moved there to learn from them,” she says.

From there, her trajectory into the field of occupational therapy happened naturally. When she was teaching recreational classes for adults, after-school programs, and home-school programs, she was approached to teach a weekly circus lesson at the Austine School for the Deaf. It wasn’t long before Rappaport started to see a common thread.

“The students were all getting stronger physically and emotionally and there was something magical about having an identity of a circus person, even if it was just for the length of the class,” she recalls.

Occupational therapy was “a natural fit” so she pursued a master’s degree then a doctorate in the discipline. In 2012, she launched therapeutic groups that used circus arts as a healing tool for adult cancer survivors and researched health professionals’ perceptions of this intervention. She ultimately landed at Regis, where she teaches occupational therapy courses in pediatrics, leadership, community practice, assistive technologies, and clinical reasoning.

Some of her most memorable career highlights are founded in the goals of occupational therapy and teaching: to help people fully engage in their lives.

“Since I was an entertainer, I am good at reading the crowd (or the class) and I know when their energy wanes,” Rappaport says. “I try to be energetic and engaging when lecturing so I can instill a sense of purpose, leadership, and advocacy in the classroom and beyond.”

Learn more about Regis' OT master's program: regiscollege.edu/OT