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By John Hobbs

Five Things to Know About:
Kari Kretch


KARI KRETCH HAS ONLY BEEN A FACULTY MEMBER at USC for a few months, but her face is not new at the Center for Health Professions building. In 2019, she earned her doctor of physical therapy degree from USC before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in 2021. Today, she is an assistant professor of research, focused on perceptual-motor skills and processes of developmental change in infants with typical and atypical motor development. Here are five more things to know about her:

1. Before entering and completing USC’s doctor of physical therapy program, Kari Kretch had already earned a doctor of philosophy degree.

Kretch earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College and her PhD in psychology from New York University.

2. Kretch set her sights on a DPT degree to give her a deeper understanding of the research she was doing.

“My PhD research in psychology examined locomotion, exploration and learning in typically developing infants. The goal of the work was to understand processes of development: What are the sequences of events or experiences that build new skills or behaviors? During graduate school, I became interested in applying these theories of change to populations of children with atypical development,” she says. “I discovered the field of pediatric physical therapy through the research community — there was a lot of overlap in our work! — and was excited by the potential of physical therapy to promote exploration and learning in infants and young children with disabilities.”

3. Kretch’s research focuses on the developmental milestone of learning to sit independently.

“Sitting is a major motor milestone and enables lots of important new experiences for infants — for example, an expanded view of the surroundings, an improved ability to manipulate objects and new ways of interacting with caregivers.” Kretch explains. “The goal of my research is to determine how delays in independent sitting affect development and, most importantly, to determine how we can intervene to supplement learning opportunities in something approaching a typical developmental time frame.”

4. An Ohio native, Kretch lived in New York City several years before finding herself across country in Los Angeles.

“In New York, I didn’t have a car and could access the entire city through public transportation and walking,” says Kretch, who moved to SoCal in 2014 with her husband when he took a faculty position at UC Riverside. “I am not a big fan of driving, and I miss the pedestrian culture.”

5. She can carry a tune.

Kretch loves to sing. In college, she was a member of an a cappella musical group that covered ’90s pop hits.

Bonus: When she’s not chasing after her 4-year-old son, Jonah, Kretch enjoys reading, seeing live music (or at least did, pre-pandemic) and watching nature documentaries.