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Daly puts grad degree to use daily


Mary Ann Daly uses the graduate education she received at UNF every day in her role as the manager of rehabilitation psychology in the Department of Behavioral Medicine at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital and Centers.


Daly graduated in 2008 with a master’s in health administration. She chose UNF because, as a Jacksonville native, she wanted a local, traditional face-to-face small classroom environment in which to study. Already established in a professional clinical career of providing psychotherapy services to patients and their family members at Brooks Rehabilitation, she knew her degree would be an asset if she wanted to move into management. “UNF’s rigorous academic curriculum provided me with a solid foundation of information about health-care administration,” Daly said. “Attending UNF allowed me to work full time and to attend classes in the evenings.”


Daly is truly a lifelong learner. She earned her first graduate degree, a master’s in social work from Florida State University, which allowed her to become a licensed independent clinical practitioner. Her graduate degree from UNF allowed her to move to management. “I am blessed to be able to combine both graduate experiences into a successful career,” she said. “My graduate degree from FSU provided me with clinical skills to help others. My graduate degree from UNF provided me with management skills needed on a broader level to help lead the Rehabilitation Psychology team; thereby serving more people for their rehabilitation needs.”


Daly said many of the most endearing lessons she learned went well beyond reading textbooks, learning theories, writing research papers and getting correct answers on exams. “I learned the value of meeting new people and developing relationships with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “Working on team projects enhanced the lesson of conflict resolution as we each strived to understand our differences and to effectively negotiate compromises on assignments. Lessons in teamwork included knowing when and how to use skills of collaboration and leadership while staying focus on the mission of the academic assignment.”


Several professors played significant roles in Daly’s education. Dr. Steve Paulson, a professor in the Coggin College of Business, was her instructor for Organizational Management. “I loved his real-world stories, his passion for students and his extensive handwritten notes on papers submitted. I knew he read every word I wrote. That was evidence to me of his attention to details. It was his commitment to me that inspired my desire to learn beyond what he taught in the classroom.”


Dr. Mai Zhao, a professor in the Brooks College of Health, taught the first Quantitative Analysis course for M.H.A. students and required the use of an unfamiliar software program. “I was a rookie with various electronic spreadsheets,” Daly remembered. “I quickly realized generational differences when I saw my peers’ fingers flying on the keyboard as they completed assignments. I remember struggling to simultaneously master complex formulas electronically. Needless to say, it was a challenge for me. Dr. Zhao taught me patience, perseverance and commitment. She volunteered her time to work with me; she verbalized her faith and her confidence in my ability to master the course materials during my times of doubt. That was impressive. I knew she cared. I worked hard to show her what I learned. She respected me and I respected her and I passed the course.”

Among the highlights Daly recounts are her participation in health-care study-abroad experiences in France, England and China; co-authoring two articles published in peer-referenced journals; her election by her peers twice to the position of president of Upsilon Phi Delta, a national academic honor society for students in health-care administration; and the cumulative experience of listening, discussing, debating, researching and studying health-care issues with her peers. “Studying under caring and informative faculty who demanded the best only served to enrich and to challenge my abilities,” she said. “The friendships, the laughter, the stressful moments, the handling of mishaps and the ability to maintain a disciplined lifestyle in order to share the joy of success were fun rides. I have a greater appreciation of diverse cultures and generational differences. My former classmates have successful careers and many of us continue to stay in touch with one another. Those are priceless experiences.”

A focus of Daly’s career has been helping others overcome chronic pain. “I had years of experience with acute pain and helping patients as they recovered from extensive and painful burn injuries,” she said. “There was an opportunity to learn about chronic pain and to become involved with the Brooks Pain Rehabilitation program. I jumped at the opportunity and learned everything I could about the psychological aspects of chronic pain and I had a great mentor. At this time, I do not actively work on the pain team at Brooks due to numerous clinical and management responsibilities.”


In addition to her time-consuming professional responsibilities, Daly still makes time for her alma mater. “I enjoy giving back to UNF,” Daly said. “I serve on the UNF Alumni Association Board of Directors and as an adjunct instructor in the Brooks College of Health, Department of Public Health, where I teach the course U.S. Health Care Systems to undergraduate students. I hope that all UNF alumni understand there are multiple opportunities to continue to be a part of UNF — attend alumni leisure and educational activities, give of their time or make financial contributions. Stay in touch electronically by joining LinkedIn. Join the UNF Alumni Group as well as the MHA Alumni group online. It is not important how you stay involved with UNF, it is just important that you do.”