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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Academics
Academics

Meet the Entry-Level Master's Students

Amber Malinowski MAII ‘19

Hometown: Pacifica, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a career helping others. Through my volunteer and work experience I was able to learn about the field and immediately fell in love with it.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I hope to work either with kids on the Autism Spectrum or in pediatric oncology.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love working out, cooking, and reading. But… mostly eating!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Avocados, cookie dough, and cheese!

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Australia

Vanessa Miller MAII ‘19

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

What brought you to occupational therapy?
With plans to pursue physical therapy, I decided to shadow an OT during my sophomore year of college to get a first-hand look at the differences between PT and OT. I fell in love with the preventative approach of occupational therapy and how there was a focus on finding adaptive strategies for individuals to use that would help them long-term.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Pediatrics

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I have run cross country and track since I was ten and like to do yoga. I also love to cook- particularly plant-based dishes!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Mangoes and probably tempeh!

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

How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who has a passion for life and is unafraid to pursue what sets my heart on fire.

Alya Turcotte MAII ‘19

Hometown: Stevenson Ranch, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I nannied a young boy who had some developmental disabilities and I got to work with his OT in the home, and it was a wonderful experience! Also, I volunteered for a program where we do physical activity and sports with individuals with disabilities, and it really fueled my love for OT and adaptations that are possible for individuals of any ability.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Right now, I’m interested in working in pediatrics, but am open to any area - I can’t wait to start fieldwork to get to experience many different populations and find where I fit best.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I was a gymnast, and still love to get into the gym and flip around. But, mainly I enjoy weight lifting, running, hiking, and walking my dog, Stella.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
A lot of fruit, asparagus, and LOTS of cheese. And most likely a pint of ice cream (in the freezer, not the fridge)

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
My dream is to go to Greece, Spain, and India, but especially India, so I can see where some of my family is from.

Eric Alcantara MAII ‘19

Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I knew I wanted to do some kind of rehabilitation/therapy with my undergraduate degree but I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do. After a ton of hours spent volunteering and shadowing, the client-centered approach and holistic treatment brought me to this field.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
I’ve always been motivated to stay active and work with my hands; While I earned my degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton I volunteered at various rehabilitation settings to get an idea of what I wanted to do. But before I came to USC, I worked at the regional hospital near my hometown and as an aerospace machinist.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
That’s a tough one to answer. I like to travel, watch/play baseball and football, and play guitar. More recently I have picked up playing golf and piano.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Adult rehab and pediatrics. It’s tough to choose between two opposite sides of the spectrum but luckily USC gives me the chance to see both sides before I get tossed into the real world.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Yikes. Most likely two different kinds of chicken (fried or roasted), leftovers of spaghetti and garlic bread, spinach, and orange juice. It’s not the healthiest choices available but it gets the job done (most of the time).

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. One motivational talk from him and I’m set.

Mia McGovern MAII ‘19

Hometown: San Diego, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I’ve always had a passion for helping others, especially children. After exploring similar options, an older college friend suggested OT. After my first day at my internship (and every day after that) I knew OT was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Although I’m excited to explore geriatrics and mental health, pediatrics is where my heart and passion lie!

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
In college, I was a psych major and did a few internships at pediatric OT clinics, including one that involved the use of horses (hippotherapy). I took a year off while applying to graduate programs and worked as an ABA Behavior Interventionist for Easterseals, which was great experience in implementing therapeutic techniques before beginning my Masters program!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love traveling, playing piano, exploring new coffee shops, and playing with my kitten Olive (crazy cat-mom in training)!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

A few things you’d find are hummus and carrots, Trader Joe’s soyaki, and Sprite Zero (I’m not actually that healthy, all the chocolate and ice cream is in my freezer!)

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I would travel back to Florence, Italy! It’s such a beautiful town that’s so rich in culture, and it’s filled with amazing people, pizza, and wine!

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a kind, loving person who loved her job and family and lived to help others. Also, my friends will probably remember me as an owl & coffee lover and a really good parallel parker!

Ellie Clark MAII ‘19

Hometown: Hastings, MN

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I fell into OT by chance, after applying for a volunteer position at a local children’s hospital the summer after my freshman year at college.  I had the opportunity to volunteer as an aid in the rehabilitation unit which was home to the Speech Pathology, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy programs.  I was fascinated by the role an OT has in a patient’s progress and the positive influence they can have through the simplest of interactions.  I also noticed just about every OT I worked with came and left work with a smile, day in and day out.  That’s when I knew that I wanted to follow that path. 

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am interested in working in pediatrics and with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am looking forward to exploring other areas throughout the program, as well.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
Before coming into this program, I worked as lifeguard and swim instructor for several years.  I loved working with children, especially by means of skill development.  More recently I have worked as a clinical research intern with a psychiatric center near my college.  I worked with a study that focused on adults with ASD.  In this study, the intent was on improving social communication skiills and cognitive enhancement through curriculum interventions for the purpose of more effective and efficient integration into the workforce.  I love working with people and for people and these experiences really opened my eyes to this ambition of mine.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
If you were to open my fridge you would definitely find anything breakfast related (eggs, grapefruit, yogurt, etc.) because I can eat breakfast over any other meal at any time of the day.  You’d also find some chocolate!

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
If I could travel anywhere I think I would backpack through South America.  I studied for a semester in Spain and loved immersing myself in a region with different language and culture.  It’d be cool to put my Spanish to use again in an entirely new way.  Plus it would be incredible to explore the region of Patagonia (possibly while wearing my favorite item of clothing, patagonia).

Eddie Chu MAII ‘18

Hometown: Syosset, New York

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Working in a psychology and education setting for most of my life, I have always been an enthusiast for understanding what is lesser known and learning what has yet to be learned.  Through my experiences as a counselor, paraprofessional, behavioral coach, field researcher, and many other roles, I found one major aspect that was in common with them all: sincerity.  Sincerity with the professional work I provide, and sincerity with the respect and gratefulness from the people I’ve worked with.  Nothing can really top the feeling of someone telling you that you’ve made a difference in their lives.  I can only imagine how much more I am able to provide for those who I will work with when I am able to utilize the biopsychosocial aspect of occupational therapy.
 
What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I am an avid traveler, and hope to continue that occupation.  As a traveler, I get to experience so many cultures and seeing the different ways that people go about their lives, occupations, etc.  I am grateful for the lifestyle I am able to have, something that I feel could be quite different had I been in different cultures.  When my travel funds run dry, I often enjoy doing various active sports, such as hiking, rock climbing, and playing basketball.  I try not to decline any activities - trying new things is always on top of my list.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
In all honesty, I miss the late-night summer study sessions.  Despite there being a ton of information to learn and remember, it was definitely all of the bonding time my friends and I shared that brought us closer to each other.  Whether it was studying for kinesiology or neuroscience, enjoying our dinner, or doing headstands and handstands during our study breaks, we stuck by each other and kept each other going.  Summer, oh summer.  Those were the days!
 
What do you think is the greatest invention of mankind?
The Internet.  We are all interconnected now in SO many ways.  Via news that can give information minutes after something happens.  Via video calls that allows you to actually see your dear friends and family from afar in real time.  Via learning tools that were only accessible through libraries, books, schools, etc.  Via portability of access and ability to contact people (and stay connected) in so many various ways.  How would all of this be possible without the Internet?

How do you want to be remembered?
I’ve thought about this for a bit.  It would be pretty awesome if I had an acronym of my name as some sort of intervention plan or assessment tool.  How cool would that be?!

Savannah Colhour MAII ‘17

Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
My mom broke her hand and saw an occupational therapist who specialized in hand therapy for about 6 months. My mom believed I would love what her OT did, so I was given the opportunity to shadow her hand therapist for a few months. I did indeed love the OT’s creativity, kindness, and rapport with clients. I had originally considered physical therapy, but after seeing both in action I loved OT much more!

What area of practice are you interested in?
I’m interested in hand therapy or mental health. I would love to influence public policy someday as well!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love dancing and eating! I’m a foodie and boba fan.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Mostly Greek yogurt. I live on that stuff.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a compassionate therapist who helped increase OT’s presence in the policy world.

Joanne Noonan MA ‘17

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

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?
Gandhi

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