When Western Kentucky University graduates walk the line to receive their degrees this weekend, 30 of them will be the first graduates of the university's doctor of physical therapy program.
Emily Hubbuch, a graduating student from Nashville, feels ready for what's next.
"We had all sorts of people come in just to make sure we are very well-rounded and prepared for our lives," she told the Daily News.
Program graduates will be honored Friday during a hooding ceremony that afternoon and during the graduate student commencement that evening. Of the graduating class, 24 are from Kentucky.
Program Director Harvey Wallmann said the program is five years in the making and officially kicked off in 2013 after supporters created a curriculum and went about approving it. It currently has 90 students.
The program was one reason Wallmann decided to come to WKU in 2011, he said.
"To me, there was an outcry from the community that we want this program here," he said, adding supporters and the community have been a big help.
Now all that work is finally paying off with the graduation of the first class. Wallmann described it as a great feeling.
"You’re creating something," he said. "You’re kind of molding and fashioning minds to a profession that’s really needed.”
Wallmann thinks the graduates can make a difference and said the demand for physical therapists is expected to rise.
"A lot of them already have jobs," he said.
Hubbuch has a job lined up in Johnson City, Tenn. Her classmate, Katie DiTommaso, of Fort Wright, will work in Kingfisher, Okla.
Hubbuch said every clinician in every location she's done rotations have noticed her skills.
"They’ve all been very impressed with our program," she said.
That result, she said, comes from the commitment of faculty and staff in the program. It's what attracted her to the program in the first place.
"For our class it wasn’t the flashy building and all the equipment we had," Hubbuch said in a university news release. "We were really sold by the professors and faculty that they were there and committed to us for us to succeed. It wasn’t about all the stuff and the lights. It was really who’s going to provide the best education for us and that’s why I chose WKU."
Those graduating include: Whitney Ryan Allen of Elizabethtown; Alexis Elizabeth Anderson of Lancaster; Allison Elizabeth Pare Baston of Tompkinsville; Devin D. Bell of Columbia; Rett Coode of Maryville, Tenn.; David Dahl of Bowling Green; Katie M. DiTommaso of Fort Wright; April D. Ford of Bowling Green; D. Brianne Fortney of Beechmont; Megan Nicole Fuller of Bowling Green; Dominique K. Goutsis of Vancouver, British Columbia; Lorelei B. Gunn of Brentwood, Tenn.; Timothy L. Hall of Nebo; James B. Harlan of Henderson; Jacob M. Hicks of Owensboro; Emily K. Hubbuch of Nashville; Tom W. Jones of Bowling Green; Cristina J. Macke of North Las Vegas; Kelli Wray McKinney of Lebanon Junction; Lauren Caudill McReynolds of Brownsville; Terrell J. Muse of Somerset; Melissa Reece of Freeburg, Ill.; Shannon Marie Sims of Bowling Green; Laura Smith of Bowling Green; Wesley A. Smith of Leitchfield; Patrick Clay Stalcup of Burkesville; Kirsti E. Vittitow of Boston; Kimberley Wilson of Summersville; Emily Rigney Wright of Danville; and William Jason Wright of Bowling Green.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @aaron_muddbgdn or visit bgdailynews.com.