Commencement 2018: URI graduate makes her mark on rugby pitch, helps those with disabilities

Litchfield, N.H. resident plans to pursue doctorate in audiology

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Caitlin Heaton. Photo by Randy Osga

KINGSTON, R.I – May 11, 2018 – Caitlin Heaton began her freshman year worried about how she would find her place at the University of Rhode Island.

That place was the rugby pitch with the women’s rugby team. “Once I found people who have similar interests and goals, I began to feel like I was a part of the community.”

The Litchfield, N.H. resident not only enjoyed the rough-and-tumble of the game, she was named captain of the team. But as she rose to become a team leader, Heaton suffered four major injuries– a dislocated shoulder, severely sprained ankle, and a concussion.

“I took care of myself as much as I could to recover. All I wanted to do was to be back on the field,” Heaton said. “During those injuries, my friends helped me get to class, and my professors helped me keep up with my assignments. I realized the amazing support that I have here.”

Heaton credits her success on the field to her coaches. “I’ve had two coaches during my time on the team. My first coach, Karie Orendorff, instilled a passion for rugby in me and supported my development as a student-athlete. My second coach, Eric Catallozzi, helped me craft my skills on the field and taught me how to set the bar high.”

But rugby isn’t the only pursuit that keeps her busy. The senior communicative disorders major is also a member of Best Buddies, a URI club that pairs students with community members with disabilities. “I get to spend quality time with someone with a different perspective on life. They have taught me more than they can imagine.”

Heaton also lent a helping hand during her winter break. She’s been a volunteer at the Rhode Island Winter Special Olympics, which is held annually at URI and this year is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. As her enthusiasm for serving others grew, she set off to gain more experience in the health care field. Heaton has interned at the URI Speech and Hearing Center, Physicians Hearing Solutions, in Warwick, R.I. and also provides support for those with traumatic brain injuries at Gateway Services in Nashua, N.H.

Heaton has been accepted to the doctoral program in audiology at the University of Cincinnati Medical School in Ohio. She will start the program in the fall.

“Taking courses in communicative disorders, I was intrigued by the science behind the human ear, and being involved with the Best Buddies club on campus, I learned how much I love working with the elderly. Pursuing a career in audiology will combine both of my passions together. I wouldn’t have discovered my purpose in life without these experiences at URI.”