Sarah Pullano’s time at Goucher has been influenced in important ways by both serendipity and by the very deliberate cultivation of contacts she has made.
It was a chance encounter early her sophomore year that has come to shape how Pullano now spends the majority of her time outside the classroom. On a sunny day, she and a friend went to kick a ball around on one of Goucher’s sports practice fields, which was next to the field that the women’s soccer team uses for practice. The team was down a few players, so Pullano was asked to fill in. The practice wound up becoming an impromptu tryout for the team.
Pullano made a solid showing on the field — she has been playing soccer since she was five — and afterward, Head Coach Tati Korba asked her to consider joining the team. Pullano accepted the offer then next day and has been playing ever since. She is now even one of the team’s captains.
Playing soccer at Goucher has been a big commitment for Pullano, but it has also helped form her social circle, and the routine provided by playing for the team has proven to be very beneficial for her. In fact, Pullano says that the hardest time of the semester for her are the two weeks that the team has off from the season. During the four extra hours she has each day during this down time, she feels a little lost and finds herself uncharacteristically procrastinating.
“[Playing soccer] helps put me into a better schedule in terms of schoolwork and balancing that with soccer. It’s classes and then practice or training and having to do homework at the end of the day,” she says. “Subconsciously it does make me work harder. We are seen by the [athletic] department as representatives for them, for our teams, for our families, for our friends.”
Playing for the team also helped Pullano position herself for a rewarding internship experience in physical therapy, the career field she eventually hopes to enter.
As a student athlete, Pullano has gotten to know Goucher’s athletic director, Geoff Miller. Miller put Pullano in touch with a doctor in the sports medicine department at Union Memorial Hospital, who, in turn, referred her to a physical therapist in the department. She maintained these contacts and eventually turned them into a for-credit internship experience this past winter.
While interning in Union Memorial’s sports medicine department, Pullano interacted with patients, familiarized herself with the terminology used in the field, and really got a sense of the broad range of tasks and responsibilities that are part of a physical therapist’s duties.
She continues to stay in touch with her mentors at Union Memorial and hopes she may be able to intern with them again. The hospital is the official medical team of the Baltimore Ravens, so Pullano is working with her contacts in the hopes that she can get more physical therapy experience while working at an NFL training camp during the summer.
“The one thing I’ve learned is that a lot of things are through connections,” she says. “It’s all about being proactive and putting yourself out there and making your resources useful to yourself.”
Pullano is also preparing for becoming a physical therapist by following the same basic academic track as a pre-med student. She has made her studies in biology and chemistry her priority, though she says “I don’t get along as well with chemistry as I do with bio.”
She says she is constantly impressed by the relationships she has been able to build with her professors, even those from outside her areas of academic concentration. She was really impressed by a math professor who volunteered to help her at 6 a.m. because that was the only time that she had available due to her coursework and soccer schedule. She had this professor a year ago and still keeps in touch with him.
“[Goucher is] a school that is filled with faculty members in every department who are more than willing to help you in every way possible,” she says. “They give you their home phone numbers, come in outside of office hours, and will read things you send them at home.”
Even though Goucher does not offer a major specifically in physical therapy, Pullano feels as if she is being ably prepared for her future career. “At Goucher, you can do anything, go anywhere. If you want to do something, it’s probably within reach,” she says.