Alumni Kinesiology

Making the switch from engineering to kinesiology

Commencement 2023 spotlight

Riley, a kinesiology student who wants to become a physical therapist, stands in front of a black door.

By Hanna Knowles

Riley Acott started as an engineering student, but after a few months of classes and some reflection, he decide to make the switch to Oregon State’s kinesiology – pre-therapy and allied health degree. He’s never looked back.  

Riley is graduating this June with a 4.0 GPA, an accomplishment earned while working around 20 hours per week throughout his college career, volunteering and picking up rock climbing.  

What inspired you to study kinesiology? 

I came to OSU interested in engineering — I like math, science and problem-solving, and frankly, I didn’t know what other opportunities were out there.  

After a 7-week trial run of studying engineering, I was convinced by my sister and myself that my interest in fitness and the human body was worth committing to. I switched to CPHHS and almost immediately knew it was the right decision.  

After a few terms, I decided that becoming a physical therapist was the path for me because it combines my curiosity about physical fitness and human anatomy with my mechanical and engineering mindset. 

What are you most proud of from your time in the CPHHS?  

I’m most proud of volunteering with the Adaptive Exercise Clinic and IMPACT and being able to help those with disabilities on their path toward physical freedom. 

The Adaptive Exercise Clinic is for adults with disabilities and I usually work with the same participant who has Multiple Sclerosis.

I’m responsible for taking her through a unique exercise routine each session, including showing her how to perform the exercises, continuously giving advice and encouragement, and modifying the exercises as necessary to match her ability. 

Last term I took IMPACT for credit, and this term I am doing it as a volunteer. IMPACT is every Friday and I work one-on-one with a K-12 student who has developmental disabilities.

We do various physical activities while socializing among a group of other IMPACT participants and volunteers. We play in the gym and the pool. I’m responsible for encouraging my buddy to try new things while being physically active and working fairly with others around him. 

What are the most memorable lessons you’ve learned as a kinesiology student?  

It’s really important to have a balance between work and free time. Try to have at least one day each week when you don’t do any schoolwork. Use that day to relax and try something new.  

Riley, a kinesiology student who wants to become a physical therapist, running on an antigravity treadmil.
Riley running on an antigravity treadmill at a physical therapy clinic.

Do not be afraid to reach out. There are so many faculty at OSU that want to build a relationship with you and want to help you, whether it’s for a specific class or your time at college in general. They are a wonderful resource that you are encouraged to learn from. Ask what you can do to be successful and how you can get involved!  

Also, if you’re paying to go to class, go to class. 

I’ve also learned a lot from observing in several physical therapy clinics – both for credit and on my own.  

During winter break, I observed at Providence Hospital in Hood River and got to see inpatient and outpatient patients — I know, redundant — as well as a handful of orthopedic surgeries which was super cool! 

What will you miss the most about the CPHHS, OSU or Corvallis?  

I will miss all of the incredible facilities that are available to us as students. There are an unbelievable number of things you can do around campus!  

I will definitely miss the convenience of being able to walk or bike practically everywhere that I need to go.  

Most of all I will miss my classmates and friends, my professors and my advisor.  

I will not miss running up the LINC staircase due to being late to class. 

Were you involved in any research projects?  

Soon I will be assisting with research in the Human Performance Lab for clinical assistant professor Jay Penry and his grad student Kelly Whitney-Babcock. I’m going to help with conducting VO2 max tests and I’m looking forward to it! 

What’s next on your journey to become a physical therapist?  

I’ll be staying with my parents for a year—thanks Mom and Dad—while I apply to physical therapy schools and gain experience working as a physical therapy aide.  

After that, I plan to go to graduate school to become a physical therapist 

How will you improve the health of your community?  

Physical therapists are fortunate enough to work with patients for more time than many other health care professionals. This means we have an opportunity as therapists to connect with our patients and encourage all sorts of growth.  

PTs are incredible because we empower others and teach them how to heal themselves. That is what I will do as a physical therapist. 

What does health and well-being mean to you?  

Well-being is being mindful and health is being proactive. 

Riley, a kinesiology student who wants to become a physical therapist, rock climbing.

Do you recommend a specific club? Which one and why?  

If you’re looking for an activity that pushes you physically and mentally and is accessible to all levels of skill and fitness, the OSU Indoor Rock Climbing Club is a good bet. 

I’ve been in the club for about two years and I’ve only missed two or three practices — it’s super fun! We also compete with other schools in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. 

Do you have any advice for incoming students? 

College is an opportunity to start your day by learning incredible things from knowledgeable people and end your day by hanging out and trying new activities with friends. Put yourself out there!  

Ask your professors plenty of questions, visit the Craft Center, join a club or two, take non-credit PAC classes, learn a new skill, cook something yummy and healthy, meet new people, talk to strangers in the elevator and watch out for that LINC staircase. 

Anything else you’d like to add?  

A few years of college go by quickly. Make the most of it. You got this!