OT Graduate Finds Voice in Broadcasting

OT Graduate Finds Voice in Broadcasting

By Blake Ursch

The story of how an occupational therapist wound up interviewing Zendaya on Radio Disney is a long one, he admits. But for Peter Ferreri, OTD’06, BSHS’07, the experience has been a lesson in growing and adapting.

“The most important term I’ve learned in life is something called ‘transferable skills,’” says Ferreri, a Chicago-based tech development specialist and broadcaster who chose to pursue a career in radio and TV after earning his Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree from Creighton.

“What I learned from Creighton, what I learned from OT school is that everything in life is a network, and networking gets you from one place to the next,” he says.

During his OT clinical rotations, Ferreri worked with patients with traumatic brain injuries and stroke survivors, many of whom needed to relearn basic skills. It was intense, he says, being with people in some of their most difficult moments.

So for his last rotation, he proposed to his professors something a little different: He would go to the happiest place on Earth.

Disney World.

That summer, Ferreri interned in the Guest Services department, specifically focusing on the park’s offerings for guests with disabilities. To pay the bills, he worked part time as a greeter at Epcot.

There, he noticed many of the tables weren’t compatible for children in wheelchairs and pointed this out to park management. Impressed, he says, the park promised him a job when he graduated. But when the time finally came, park officials regretfully informed him they weren’t hiring.

After a brief stint as a wellness counselor, Ferreri mulled his options: He considered pediatrics; he considered working in hospitals; he considered coaching and umpiring.

Then he remembered something from years before: During his summer at Disney, he won a staff talent competition after performing a number from Phantom of the Opera, and another staff member encouraged him to pursue a career in entertainment.

“I told my dad, ‘This is going to sound crazy, but I think I might go back to school and take some classes in broadcast journalism. Scratch the itch,’” Ferreri says.

He started taking classes at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting (now the Illinois Media School) near Chicago. He scored an internship at NBC Chicago and later worked overnights at a radio station in Montana.

And eventually, he landed a job as an on-air host at the company he’d initially set out to work for: Radio Disney.

In his spare time, he taught classes at the Illinois school where he’d studied broadcasting. When Radio Disney opted to cut back on local DJs, Ferreri went to work for the school full time.

In his broadcasting career, Ferreri has served as the regional station manager for the Illinois Media School, an executive producer for the Windy City Bulls (the NBA G League affiliate of the Chicago Bulls) and a play-by-play announcer for the University of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the BIG EAST Conference. Now, as a new father, he’s decided to scale back his broadcast work to part time.

Looking back, he’s happy with the shift his career took. He’s had the opportunity to interview big names — country star Jason Aldean; actresses Zendaya and Bella Thorne; pro wrestling hall-of-famers Mark Henry, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Diamond Dallas Page; and singers Ben Folds and Ashanti. In doing so, he found he was repurposing skills he learned during his occupational therapy studies at Creighton.

“In OT, you have to sit and talk to parents and tell them, ‘Your child, we’re here to help them.’ That’s real-world stuff. You’re learning right there how to communicate during the best and worst of times,” Ferreri says. “You’re learning to be fearless when it comes to your life situations.”