Marco Coelho is an Occupational Therapy alumnus from the Brenau University Norcross campus.

A Man’s Work

Marco Coelho made a good first impression on the profession when he spearheaded organization of a student occupational therapy association. Now, with his diploma in hand, he is off to make his mark on the world.

Occupational therapy from some has long been regarded as profession for women, a stereotype re-enforced to some degree because of Brenau’s ground-breaking dual degree undergraduate/graduate program in the Women’s College. Marco Coelho, however, never saw it that way. In May he became only the fifth male to graduate from Brenau’s newest graduate-level OT program at the North Atlanta/Norcross campus, and just before commencement, he was already bursting with joy.

“Well,” he explains, “I just love it at Brenau. With my Brenau degree, I know that I will be able to get a great job and have a wonderful career. That’s the most important thing.”

Even before he completed final work on his degree, Coehlo started preparing for his professional certification examination and stared sending out resumes. He says he would like to work in a rehabilitation hospital setting.

According to professors, Coehlo set a bar for student engagement in the Brenau OT graduate program. Last year the Georgia Occupational Therapy Association gave him its Outstanding Student Award for his spearheading a newly formed Norcross chapter of the Brenau Occupational Therapy Student Association and for his work in mentoring other students in the area of community-based mental health. Coelho’s nomination read: “Marco demonstrates the utmost level of professionalism, thirst for knowledge, and the ability to work effectively in teams.”

Coehlo, 39, is a California native with a 1997 undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and kinesiology from California State University in Sacramento. He is married and has a son.  He worked previous in marketing for online sports and fitness training company and a specialty sports apparel firm before a three-year stint as communications coordinator for the Society of International Business Fellows/Global Network Foundation.

My wife’s name is Elizabeth Coelho.  Our 4-year-old son’s name is Nazrah.

While attending OT school, I worked as a communications manager for a non-profit organization called the International Society of Business Fellows, a networking organization for successful entrepreneurs and professionals with major international business holdings.  Before attending Brenau, we lived in Nashville, TN for one year, where we were exploring the opportunity to own a running specialty store.  Prior to moving to Nashville, we lived in Boulder, CO for eight years.  In Boulder, I worked as a marketing director and triathlon coach for MarkAllenOnline, the world’s leading online triathlon coaching business.  Prior to this, I worked as a marketing manager for Descente Athletic, a leading athletic apparel manufacturer in the cycling industry.  While working at Descente, I also operated my own exercise consulting/physiology business and competed as an elite triathlete.

Life was good. But when the economy started tanking, Coelho knew he had to prepare to do something else.

“My wife was very pragmatic,” he says. “We looked at careers that I would love doing and that there is a demand for — not only now but in the future. The OT program at Brenau worked really well for me and my family.”

The family moved to Atlanta in January 2010. He started attending classes at Brenau while he was still working.

“The weekend program and online classes gave me the options that I needed for my life and my family,” he says. “It was a nice balance.”

Initially Coelho had some concerns.

For one thing, the prospect of spending three years working toward a master’s degree in occupational therapy seemed like a long time. And, he did not know a great deal about Brenau – certainly not that the university has been on the cutting edge of OT graduate studies in North America for more than a decade and has one of the top-rated programs in the country.

“Frankly, I didn’t know whether the quality of the program would be what I wanted,” he explains. “Sometimes you think these weekend or evening classes aren’t as good as what you would get if you were enrolled in a more traditional college, but that was not the case at Brenau. The level of professionalism among the faculty and staff at the university is amazing.”

Besides the program’s flexibility, Coehlo was attracted to the school’s “humanistic approach.”

“Faculty members wanted me and my fellow students to understand what the patients are going through, what they are thinking. They wanted us to understand the whole person, the whole patient. They’re very in tuned to that. Too many people in medicine don’t do that, so I really liked Brenau’s approach.”


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