University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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About Us
About Us

Meet Our Trojan Family

Joseph Ryan MA II ‘18

Joseph Ryan MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: I was born in Irvine but grew up in Arcadia, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
When I graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in speech therapy, I did not want to pursue that path. I started to look into other options. Occupational therapy came up as a similar career, and I became interested in its potential to impact people in a fundamental way. The close friend of a family friend was finishing up her program at CSU Dominguez Hills, and she was kind enough to answer my questions about the field. I was drawn in not just by how diverse the field is, but how great a difference an occupational therapist can make.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I would really like to work with adults in physical rehabilitation, but mental health is also an important area. Personally, I think working with veterans would be a great way to combine these two areas, so I will definitely be looking into this. Helping people return to work would also be a great way to combine mental and physical health.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
This program has been a dream come true with many great memories so far, but one of my favorites has been working on various transfers with the actors who come in to portray individuals with various disabilities, or standardized patients. I loved interacting with them and figuring out how I could improve as a future therapist.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you choose and why?
Personally, I would choose Mohandas Gandhi because he was able to have peace with himself but still stood up for what is right. He also had a family and would be able to offer me advice in that area of life, as well. Though we have different religious beliefs, I think he would have a lot to offer from an outside perspective while offering a lot of help on a personal level.

Alexandra Zuck MA II ‘18

Alexandra Zuck MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Sandusky, Ohio

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I’ve always wanted to understand and help others. During my undergraduate program at University of Florida, I was working in a skilled nursing facility where I first discovered OT. The therapists and their patients were so engaged and happy; after learning more, I felt that I had stumbled upon the perfect career. When my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014, I watched him go through therapy in smiles and good spirit. The rehabilitation team at the acute inpatient care unit were so positive and encouraging. Before he passed away, he was able to have happy experiences as a human, not just a patient. This further confirmed that this was the right profession. The field’s holistic and dynamic approach to rehabilitation makes it truly client-centered and effective. I only hope that I can be as great of an OT as those that I have met so far.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Outpatient adult rehab, specifically outpatient neurology.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy:
Before discovering Occupational Therapy, I was getting my undergraduate degree in psychology.  I had worked on a crisis hotline and within hospital administration, so I had thought that I wanted to do something along those lines. As long as I was helping others, I knew that I would be happy. After graduation, I volunteered within hospice as a grief counselor and prepared to apply to programs.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love traveling, spending time with my family and friends, volunteering, going to concerts, trying new restaurants and breweries, and being on the water.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
My grandparents. I was lucky enough to grow up very close to my grandparents on both sides of my family. They’ve taught me so much about life and the importance of family. I know that I wouldn’t be as strong of a person without them.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as an advocate for people and communities who don’t have the support to live a just quality of life. More importantly, I want to be remembered not just as an individual, but as a part of a larger movement to improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of background and circumstances.

Ali Vogelsang BS-MA ‘18

Ali Vogelsang BS-MA ‘18

Bachelor's to Master's program

Hometown: Gold River, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I was brought to occupational therapy during the spring of my freshman year at USC. I signed up for an undergraduate elective course in occupational science and I could not believe that occupational therapy was an actual profession. It was as though somebody put a name to exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am open to any area of practice at this point, but I am most interested in working in a children’s hospital. I would love to be the person that allows a child to still be a child.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
My favorite occupation currently is running in new locations to explore LA. I recently took up golf so I can play with my parents since it is their all-time favorite occupation.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
If I could go anywhere in the world right now I would go to Thailand because I have never been anywhere like it and I can’t even imagine what it would be like. I would love to experience a culture so completely different!

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
I would pick JK Rowling because I love that she created her own world. She used writing as her outlet, creating characters, such as the Dementors in Harry Potter, to describe depression in a real yet personal way. I would love to hear her point of view and how writing became her coping mechanism to deal with her illness. I would also love to nerd out over all things Harry Potter related! Hufflepuffs for life.

Caroline Kim ‘18

Caroline Kim ‘18

Minor in Occupational Science program

Major: Sociology

Hometown: Los Angeles

What brought you to USC?
My dream job in high school was to be a doctor at CHLA, which is affiliated with USC, so I made it my goal to go to USC for undergrad and grad school to eventually work at CHLA. After some changes in career path, now I know that God brought me to USC to discover OT!

What made you decide to pursue the occupational science minor?
After deciding to drop pre-med, my friend told me I should check out occupational therapy. So, I went to an occupational therapy info session. During the meeting, I knew 100% that I wanted to pursue occupational therapy. It was the perfect balance of all my interests for my future career. The next day, I went to the OT advisor and began planning out my prerequisites for OT school. I saw that most of the prerequisites fulfilled the OS minor, so I added the OS minor.

How do you feel your OS minor has/will help you with your future schooling and/or career?
Having an OS Minor is an amazing opportunity and a great blessing because I get to take courses that give me a glimpse into what I’ll be studying in OT School. Having an OS minor has helped me discover areas of OT that I’m extremely interested in and it gets me excited thinking that this is just a small taste of what OT school will be like. I also get to have amazing OTs as professors that not only share their journey and experiences with me but have also become my role models.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Trader Joes salads for everyday of the week, all types of fruit, Panda Express left overs and tons of hot sauce.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who feared and loved the Lord with all my heart and lived every day to glorify His name.

You can check out my video and see what a typical day looks like for me here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO-YvtQkM2A

Jayshree Nagvekar, MA I, ‘17

Jayshree Nagvekar, MA I, ‘17

Post-Professional Master's program

Hometown: India

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Many things! All of my favorite occupations equally contributed to my decision to become an OT. As a child, my heart needed to be a part of social causes and help people. I always thought journalism, political science or law were for me. But with passing years, I began to develop affinity towards science and medicine. As I grew older and the time to make a decision approached closer, I had to make a choice. Keeping in perspective my need to be part of a profession that had both science and arts, and involved research, I landed on occupational therapy with a bang! Frankly, there has been no looking back; I have enjoyed all the academic and clinical sessions because being an OT allows me to be everything I always wanted to be! 

What area of practice are you interested in?
Neurorehabilitation, pediatrics and Lifestyle Redesign.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Reading, writing blogs, writing stories and poems, trekking, listening to music, going on walks, exploring places, talking

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Coffee and too much vanilla ice cream… really a lot of it!!

How do you want to be remembered?
By making a difference in someone’s life. I want to be remembered as a positive and life changing person to everyone I come across. It may sound too big a dream, but I want to create something that lasts forever!

Kendall Tillman MA II, ‘18

Kendall Tillman MA II, ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I think the human body is incredible and I have a passion for working with others, which led me to look into occupational therapy. During my sophomore year of undergrad, I took an inclusive physical activity course where we were asked to modify an activity to allow anyone to participate regardless of their disability. After seeing a young girl with a physical disability’s face light up the entire room when she was able to participate, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Right now I am most interested in inpatient acute adult rehab but I am open to all areas.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
If I am not studying, you will most likely find me somewhere outdoors, napping, or eating froyo.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Milk. I have an unhealthy addiction to cereal. 

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be the reason someone didn’t give up. I want to be remembered as someone who believes in everyone, who is kind, giving, and approachable.

Shannon Mirshokri, MA II ‘18

Shannon Mirshokri, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Since I was a young girl, I was always intrigued by two disciplines—medicine and psychology. Only problem was that I had trouble finding a medical field profession that looked at a patient not only biomechanically, but through a psychosocial lens as well. Enter—Occupational Therapy! While watching a television special with my mom one night in high school, I watched a pediatric OT in action helping a child improve his fine motor skills after a car accident injury. I paused the special, turned to my mom and told her, “This is what I want to do.” Five years later, I am in the occupational therapy program at USC and could not be happier.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I am interested in adult rehab, but can’t resist cute kids, so pediatrics as well.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

When I’m not in school or studying, I enjoy swimming, sleeping, going out dancing with friends, and baking sweet treats (then eating them). My favorite occupation of all is trying new occupations, so send me all your recommendations!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Cake…so much cake

Phoebe Yam, MA II ‘18

Phoebe Yam, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Arcadia, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I had never heard about occupational therapy until my friend told me about a program called Karate For All, where I met the director/OT there. During my interview, he pointed out a girl that had 16 brain surgeries but was fully engaged in karate and interacting with other children with special needs. I was extremely blown away. For three years, I was able to learn about occupational therapy through volunteering and shadowing OTs to find out that this was the career I was looking for. I love the creativity and variety this profession allows, and the plethora of opportunities USC provides.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love snowboarding, hiking, and anything outdoors. I also have the privilege of working with Reptacular Animals as an animal handler, which allows me to interact with spectacular exotic animals!

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am highly interested in pediatrics. My dream is to one day incorporate animal-assisted therapy with exotic animals into occupational therapy sessions.


If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
A stocked fridge! I have pretty much anything you can think of. Ice cream, fruits, veggies, dumplings, etc…

What is your spirit animal and why would this animal represent you?
Monkey! I am always ready to be out and about to play. I am also a social animal, so I definitely work much better in groups and try to form lasting relationships with friends and family.

Maryam Rahbariasl, MA II ‘18

Maryam Rahbariasl, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Tehran, Iran

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I didn’t know much about OT until I started my fieldwork for a CNA certificate program with the American Red Cross. I was placed in a skilled nursing facility where I met an OT. She gave me the opportunity to know more about the profession and eventually accepted me as a volunteer there. 

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love cooking and eating while watching a movie; I have found this to be very therapeutic. Beside that, I enjoy making leather crafts and taking care of my puppy.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
As an international student who is born and raised in a totally different culture, the summer semester was full of fun and joy for me, no matter how intense it was. In the very beginning, we were asked to do a Piñata activity. The purpose of this activity was to analyze upper extremity motions. I had never tried to break a piñata and, in fact, I didn’t have an idea about what it looked like until it was time for the activity! My friends asked me to be the first person in line to break the piñata with my closed eyes. Surprisingly, I hit the top of the piñata with my very first attempt!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Lactose free milk, salad, French Load

What is your spirit animal and why would this animal represent you?
My best guess for myself would be an owl, I like to stay up too late at nights and sleep during day.

Alita Borkar, MA II ‘18

Alita Borkar, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Fremont, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
My professor of abnormal psychology introduced me to the field in my 4th year of undergrad. I was becoming more and more wary about the future career I was set on for the last four years so I watched countless YouTube videos about the profession to find out if occupational therapy would be a better fit for me. After I talked to my friend’s mom, who is a director in an occupational therapy rehab facility, I knew this would be a great career for me. Occupational therapy was the combination of everything I loved in the previous jobs I worked in. I then made immediate plans to apply to occupational therapy programs.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
I started out my undergrad wanting to be a psychiatrist. After taking some of the pre-med classes I realized I didn’t want to be under that level of pressure for the rest of my life. I then switched to wanting to be a clinical psychologist. I tried out many different areas (children’s hospital, cognitive development lab, art studio with people with disabilities, hippotherapy, psychotherapist’s office, homeless shelter, gymnastics coaching, volunteering in the Dominican Republic, behavioral therapy, etc.) trying to find out what I wanted to specialize in. I learned that I loved standing up for the rights of people with disabilities, conducting interviews and assessments, and helping design programs. But as soon as I worked with the emotions experienced by people with severe mental illness in the homeless shelter I knew that becoming a psychologist would drain me.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I currently enjoy drawing/crafting, hiking, exploring/trying new things, going to the gym, team sports, and yoga.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
I would choose Carl Jung to be my mentor. His philosophy for what is needed for human growth would transform me as a person and as a practitioner.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who was caring and loving toward anyone who came into her life. Even if I’m not this person now that is who I strive to be.

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