Alumni Showcase: Miranda Little ('08)
Dr. Miranda (Heyer-Stroh) Little, ’08, graduated from Morningside with a degree in Biology and Counseling Psychology along with a Dance Minor. After graduating, Little went on to receive an entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctorate from Creighton University and now works there as a Clinical Instructor in the Occupational Therapy Department, where she teaches courses in orthopedics and is a faculty mentor for the Creative Occupations student organization.
“Some of my favorite memories are traveling to Daytona Beach for dance competitions, Branson to cheer at Men’s Basketball Nationals, and my Desert Ecology May Term trip where we traveled through National Parks in the desert Southwest and my second May Term trip to New York City to see the sights and seven Broadway shows,” Little said.
As she pursued her undergraduate degree, Little knew she wanted to be in a profession that could be an agent for changing others’ lives. Occupational therapy was the perfect way to do this.
“Occupational therapy is a wonderful combination of art and science, creativity and protocols, psychosocial and medical. When interviewing for graduate schools, Creighton stood out as my top choice because of the prestige of the program both academically and as an experience,” Little said.
When she arrived on Creighton’s campus, she felt like she was home. As a student, she then found success and she attributes this to her undergraduate experiences.
“I feel like I was so successful at Creighton due to the great preparation I received at Morningside,” Little said.
The values and education Creighton offered, aligned with ones similar to Morningside, continue to be a motivator in Little’s career and is something that attracted her to becoming a faculty member for the school.
“I loved being in OT practice and helping patients every day but eventually felt like I needed to do more. Teaching future OT practitioners to be the best therapists they can be is a way for me to impact more lives than I ever would have as a therapist myself,” Little said.
As a first year faculty, Little received the honor of participating in the Kingfisher Research and Scholarship Fellowship, where faculty and students from across Creighton University workshop on different topics with the same focus. The focus this year was The Politics of Health and Health Care: Seeking a More Just Future.
“Our topic was selected as we are focusing on support for young mothers with infants in the NICU and how policy and health care could better meet their needs,” Little said. “It has been an amazing experience. To receive this fellowship at the end of my first year as a faculty was an incredible honor and I am very grateful for the mentorship and support of my research partner, Dr. Molly McCarthy, PhD, MPH, for suggesting we apply.”
Prior to her being hired as a Creighton faculty, Little worked as an OT at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, NE. One area she worked in was the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“Premature babies were some of my favorite patients because you can make such a huge impact on their entire life from the very beginning. Plus, babies are adorable. And I loved working with the parents to make them feel empowered to take care of their baby themselves, despite all the challenges they might be facing,” Little said.
Little is a mother to three and understands the challenging and stressful transition to motherhood, especially when a NICU stay is required. Within each field she’s found herself in, where she can find ways to relate to her patients and students, Little has had to find a balance between her work and home life.
“My kids usually remind me about what is most important in life when I’m getting bogged down by my to do list,” Little said. “But in all seriousness, I have a lot of help. My husband and I are a team. He’s a great dad and super supportive of my career goals just as I’m supportive of his.”
Little’s husband was also a Morningside baseball player who graduated in ‘08 and was an assistant coach.
For those looking to start a family, Little encourages them to embrace the chaos and cherish the baby moments.
“I am incredibly proud of my career and every role in my life, but none so much as being a mother. I strongly feel that Easton, Aiden, and Raleigh are my greatest accomplishment and the most important job I will ever have is to raise them to be good people who are true to themselves. If I could relive any time in my life, it would be when my kids were babies,” Little said.
Anyone going into OT, Little says to learn as much as you can and spend as much time as you can with people who have different abilities than you.
“Shadow all different types of settings. I thought I’d only work in pediatrics and ending up in a hospital,” Little said.
Little’s advice for Morningside students is to enjoy the time they have at Morningside and don’t be afraid to take advantage of any opportunity given.
“Seek out experiences and people that challenge you. Take the opportunity to get to know who your professors are as people. And while you’re at it, I encourage self-reflection into who you really are and who you want to be,” Little said. “College is a great time to reinvent yourself. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do or know it all, you’re still learning.”