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Alumni Gives Back to Current Boise State Students

Photo of Taylor Willis in graduation cap

Taylor Willis is an excellent example of the empathy and community involvement that this world so desperately needs now. From wanting to prepare the future generation of medical heroes for inevitable challenges, to her passion for bringing daily joy to our geriatric population, she is a truly inspiring individual with a promising future ahead of her.

Willis graduated from Boise State in May 2018. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences Studies General Health Emphasis and a minor in Psychology. While attending Boise State, she was a John William Jackson Fund Jim Plumtree Pre-Occupational Therapy scholar. In April 2021 she will complete her Doctor of Occupational Therapy through the University of Mary in North Dakota. To give back to the current students in the pathways she established her capstone project at Boise State, titled Occupational Performance. This project consists of workshops discussing hurdles that pre-health students must overcome, as well as how to cope with them.

As she created her Capstone Project, she took several elements into consideration: “as students are transitioning from being a student to being a medical professional, it is always a mental health challenge.”

She was once part of the pre-health professions pathways student population and knows the struggles that come along with being involved in the pre-health pathways. As COVID-19 made an entrance into the world and university life, mental health struggles such as burnout became more prevalent. She created her workshops to teach students self-awareness. This allowed students to identify their stress triggers, cope, and overcome their struggles. Each workshop also consists of an activity, such as progressive muscle relaxation, that students can participate in and reflect on.

Why Occupational Therapy?

Taylor Willis works with occupational therapy patient on writing exercises.
Taylor Willis working with occupational therapy patient

Occupational therapy is defined as therapy or help to enable or encourage participation in daily activities despite limitation in physical or mental functioning . Daily activities include self-care skills, education, work or social interactions. Willis developed her interest in occupational therapy because of the strong impact it has on those who are challenged by daily activities. “The amazing thing about occupational therapy is that it focuses on independence,” said Willis. “People who have just had a joint replacement, or have a mental illness still have the right to participate in everyday life.”

Occupational therapy is especially important now for treating individuals with long term COVID-19 side effects. Determining the amount of activity an individual can partake in with depleted oxygen levels is one of the many current challenges of occupational therapists.

Jim Plumtree Scholarship Program

Jim Plumtree was a close friend of the board members of the John William Jackson Fund. The scholarship was established in 2014, in Plumtree’s memory, and since then nine students have been given 10 awards. The John William Jackson Foundation funds several scholarships by collecting and recycling scrap metal from large construction sites.. Willis was awarded the Jim Plumtree Scholarship for Pre-Occupational Therapy students. This financial help gave Willis the opportunity to cut her work hours and use her extra time to participate in occupational therapy activities and on the job experiences. This allowed her to become more acquainted with this occupation and decide for sure that this was her future.

E-mail program:

Students can also participate in the workshops through email. Students can sign up for the workshops through emailing Willis at or message the Instagram page @occupational_skillsworkshop.

After she graduates from University of Mary, Willis plans to move back to the Treasure Valley and work as an acute care occupational therapist for geriatric populations.

By: Hannah McNamee