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

Joanne Noonan MA ‘17

Joanne Noonan MA ‘17

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Co. Cork, Ireland

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Honestly, a whole lot of trial and error! From elementary school teaching in Ireland to working in the tech start up industry in San Francisco and everything in-between, I searched for a long time to find my path. When I discovered occupational therapy (thanks to my husband!) I knew it was the perfect blend of all my interests- science, healthcare, creativity, problem-solving and working directly with people and their families to make a difference in their lives. OT is not just a career, but a true passion.

You have a sister studying OT in Ireland — how do the programs differ?
Yes — my sister, Lorraine, has just finished up her MOT program in Ireland. The program here at USC offers elective courses in the final year, which isn’t a feature in my sister’s program. Her program requires her to complete a two-year-long research project, however getting involved in current research is extracurricular at USC.

What did you love most about where you grew up in Ireland?
I grew up on a small dairy farm in rural Ireland, about a one-hour drive into the countryside from Cork city. What I loved most was playing outside with my brothers, sister, cousins and neighbors — racing through the fields, climbing trees, cycling, playing in the river, soccer and just creating our own fun! When I visit home, I love to be near the farm and outside in the fresh, clean air.     

What are your favorite Irish foods? Do your parents cook? If so, what do they cook that you miss most?
I love (and miss) traditional Irish breakfasts! There is really nothing like it here in the U.S. My mother was the cook in our home, and still makes the best bacon and cabbage. My nana used to bake fresh scones and brown soda bread every week. Barry’s Irish tea is still a must have — even in California. My mom stuffs my suitcases with inordinate amounts of teabags whenever I visit. So if anyone reading this wants to chat over tea, let me know, I have at least a year’s supply and I keep some in my backpack at all times!

Do you have a favorite Irish saying?
“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” It means “Under the shelter of each other, people survive” and really speaks to the importance of family and a community.

If someone visits Ireland, what are the three places on the “must-see” list?
The Ring of Kerry for great pubs and live music, the Cliffs of Moher for the scenery and the Guinness Factory in Dublin for a good pint!

William Kim MA II ‘17

William Kim MA II ‘17

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Cerritos, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I came to occupational therapy school to learn how to facilitate healing in a holistic manner.  I was attracted to the client centered nature of occupational therapy. 

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am interested in adult rehabilitation as well as lifestyle redesign. 

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Two of my favorite occupations include singing and yoga. 

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
If you opened my fridge, you would see avocados and eggs! 

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
Ghandi

Kevin Casey MA II ‘18

Kevin Casey MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Since I was young, I’ve always enjoyed working with and learning from children who have disabilities. However, I wasn’t introduced to the field of occupational therapy until the summer after my sophomore year of college, when I volunteered at Bay Cliff Health Camp, a 7-week-long overnight therapy camp for children and teens. The experience was amazing (I’ve returned a few more summers) and the idea of becoming an OT has stuck with me ever since.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy?
Following my graduation from the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!) with a B.A. in Political Science, I knew that I wanted to engage in service and work with children. This led me to St. Petersburg, Florida, where I taught 4th grade for two incredible years through the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) teaching service program, while also earning my M.Ed. from Notre Dame. Following my teaching experience, I spent a “gap year” in St. Louis to complete OT applications and prerequisites, which gave me the opportunity to work at a respite care weekend camp for individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as travel the U.S. to visit friends.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
So this isn’t really a specific memory, but hopefully it still counts at an acceptable answer! I’ve loved living in the OT House, and most of my favorite memories of the program thus far involve building friendships with the other students living there too. While some of these memories include more organized events, such as trying dim sum for the first time, attending the OT Decades Party, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, or having a pumpkin-carving party for Halloween, many more include more low-key, impromptu times… Good conversations on the bus rides to and from school, eating dinner and studying together, game nights, or walking to the local market to get a late-night treat.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Milk, pineapple, apple butter (have to represent the Midwest!), an open container of ice cream (if you’re quick enough to catch it before it’s gone…), and lots of healthy produce that make me look at lot healthier than I am (it’s the thought that counts, right?). 

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Does this include time travel? I’d love to visit all of the national parks before people discovered them, when they were completely untouched and pristine… However, traveling to 1890s St. Louis or 1920s New York City would be pretty neat, too!

Deborah Metz MA II ‘18

Deborah Metz MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I have always been drawn to helping professions wanted to work with people. My first “real” experience in OT was volunteering at a summer camp for Kids with Hemiplegia using CIMT. I had a blast working with the children and felt like I was really making a difference. The children’s enthusiasm and the improvements they made in just 10 days truly inspired me and fostered my passion for OT.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am interested in going into pediatrics. Specifically working in sensory integration, early intervention, and developmental disorders.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
I was born and raised North Carolina and graduated from North Carolina State University with a BA in Psychology and minors in international studies and French. After graduation I spent 7 months in South Africa shadowing occupational therapists and working with underprivileged children. It was the most rewarding experience and I loved every second of it.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
If you were to open my fridge, you would find at least 5 different types of cheese (cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, goat cheese, and sheep’s milk cheese!) Back home my family eats a lot of cheese and I love it!

How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered for making a difference in people’s lives; for helping others discover their strengths and live their lives to the fullest.

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.

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.

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