University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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Academics

Academics

Meet the Entry-Level Master's Students

Rachel Kent, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Newport Beach, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I observed my cousin, who is an OT Trojan, at her pediatric sensory integration clinic and immediately fell in love with the profession. However, what really solidified it for me was when a friend’s sister was born with special needs. A multitude of specialists worked with her sister, but the OT was by far the most effective, caring and helpful.

What area of practice are you interested in?

Pediatrics

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

Making dinosaur-themed orthotics for kids in the Physical Disabilities immersion. 

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Lots of frozen pizza, Sriracha, fruit, spinach, left over Panda Express, and a Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Ravenclaw. They are smart, witty, and let’s be real, Luna Lovegood was by far the best character. She could see the Thestrals!

Angela Linghu, MAII ’15

Hometown: Arcadia, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?

When I work in the hospital, it’s very clear that the rehab therapists are the happiest and most relaxed people on the floor. 

What area of practice are you interested in?

I’m still trying to figure that out. The wonderful thing about OT is that our services can be applied in settings beyond traditional clinic work.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I graduated from UCSD and concentrated my studies in Neuropsychology and Healthcare/Social Issues. Shortly after, I returned to the Los Angeles area and began working for AHMC Healthcare. During the work week, I was also involved with Patient Satisfaction and Worker’s Compensation.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I loveeee the outdoors, especially camping! I also enjoy challenging my friends at the driving range, cooking, hosting parties/BBQ’s, and being involved with various community organizations. I’m also always down for a long game of Risk!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

A lot of healthy foods (tofu, kale, soymilk, lettuce, etc), a lot of beer, and a lot of hot sauce.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Hufflepuff, hands down. You may laugh but they are, by far, the chillest and friendliest house of Hogwarts. First, their common room is right next to the kitchen. Late night snacks anyone? They’re also “just and loyal,” as evidenced by being the only ones that stayed behind to help the Gryffindors while Hogwarts was under siege. Lastly, they all kind of excel at Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. I personally think most OT’s belong in this hippie house.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Teleportation. It would save so much time! I could have breakfast in Paris, go snowboarding in Colorado, have dinner in Hawaii, and take care of all my errands in between. How fabulous would that be?

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

He had theories about sensory perception and sensory experiences far before SI was a thing. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy Yosemite, you can thank him! He took Teddy Roosevelt on an epic backpacking trip in the valley to convince the former President that Yosemite needed to be a National Park.  John Muir, environmental activist/preservationist AND wilderness explorer. What a gangster.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I have worked for a Congressman. I won the struggle with a 4-foot Bluefin Tuna and served sashimi for dinner. I broke my clavicle trying to do tricks while snowboarding.

Connie Suh, MAII ‘16

Hometown: La Canada, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I’ve always been interested in anatomy and health care but I really liked the creative and interpersonal aspect of this field.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I really enjoy being active (hiking, running, beaching, exploring, eating) so I’m all about just going on adventures and having a good time. Honestly, I think we stay and sit inside way too much and with weather as awesome as LA’s, why not go outside and try something new?

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

I’ve only been here for 3 months but one of my favorite memories was 80s day in Neuroscience during the summer. I remember walking into class in my rad purple shimmery pants and Nike jacket get up, seeing Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video, and thinking “ya, this is gonna be a good day”. Even though we had a few hours of dense lecture, Leah and the CA’s danced in front of the class and it was just a hoot. You know, keeping things very learning centered but fun at the same time.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

My fridge will have eggs.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

I’m totally in Gryffindor. I actually joined the Hogwarts website to take the test and that’s what I was placed in. I’d say that’s the second closest thing to the Sorting Hat. But really, I’m not afraid to try new things and I sometimes do things without thinking about the consequences (haha maybe that’s why I’m more prone to risky behavior?). I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself or laugh/ be myself so I think that that is with the Gryffindor spirit of raging on. (I’m also not mischievous/conniving enough for Slytherin, genius enough for Ravenclaw, and I don’t know what Hufflepuff is known for so, not Hufflepuff.)

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

There’s too many superpowers I wish I had soooo I’m going to list a few.
1. Being able to shoot things out of my fingers
2. Being able to do any accent (hmmm maybe also speak any language)
3. Spitting mad game (dropping a beat/rapping/ beat boxing)
4. Obviously flying

Cindy Culp, MAII ‘15

Hometown:  Redding, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

The professor in my first Psych class in my undergrad program mentioned Occupational Therapy.  She spoke about a foster child she was taking care of that had Sensory Integration issues.  This piqued my interest and I began researching the field.  Ultimately, it was that spark that led me to a new career!

What area of practice are you interested in?

At this point, I’m interested in all of them!  I am interested in mental health and working with veterans.  My Level II Fieldwork for Summer 2014 is at a VA Hospital in Houston, Texas in-patient psychiatric unit.  I also am interested in phys dis and am waiting until the Fall 2014 immersion to form an opinion about pediatrics.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I have held many jobs.  The main two careers I had as an adult were as a paralegal and then owning a real estate appraisal company.  I had never worked in healthcare until I began looking for volunteer hours for my OT program application.  I have also been a lifeguard, church secretary, cowgirl, human resources rep and substitute teacher.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love the arts and sing in a local church choir.  I also enjoy hiking, and have found some great Meetup groups in LA that sponsor free concerts and hiking events.  I also try to take advantage of as many events as possible through the USC Visions and Voices program.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

It’s hard to pinpoint just one!  There have been so many great moments formed through the connections made within our class.  One of our classmates hosted a Bollywood Movie Night at her home.  We had a huge potluck, watched a hilarious Bollywood movie and danced Bollywood style.  It was great!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Not much on my side of the fridge.  I think there are some supplements from Rainbow Acres Natural foods, a couple of bottles of water, 2 sticks of butter, 2 eggs left in a carton, a package of sliced swiss cheese, some coconut milk…and that’s about it.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Griffindor – because they’re my favorite : )  They are smart, kind and tenacious.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Definitely to fly.  I have always loved to fly and have had dreams since childhood about being able to fly.  I guess I’ve always enjoyed watching birds ride the wind and I would love to be able to do the same thing.  Swimming in a deep pool underwater can give me the same sensation – without the falling part!

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I am the proud grandmother of four. I went skydiving in 2011. I hate shellfish with a passion!

Priscilla Gee, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Fountain Valley, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

A combination of things brought me to occupational therapy… research in biochemistry & molecular biology, teaching preschool at church, teaching jewelry, and working with international students. I found that I liked aspects of every field I was involved in, but I didn’t want to pursue any of them as a career (ex: I loved doing research in the lab and learning about science, but I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career because it lacked interpersonal interaction). After a couple suggestions from friends and family to look into occupational therapy as a career, I began volunteering in hand rehabilitation and outpatient pediatrics and before I knew it, I was sold!

What area of practice are you interested in?

Early intervention pediatrics

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Crocheting, knitting, crafting, trying new foods, reading my Bible, spending time with friends, singing, and spending time in nature.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Eggs, leftovers, string cheese, half and half, and salami.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

It would be the ability to find really yummy and cheap food!

Stacy Weingarten, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Agoura Hills, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I have always been interested in working with people and working in the healthcare field, but I never had any idea that occupational therapy existed. When a friend told me that his mom was an occupational therapist, I immediately began to look into OT and knew that I found the perfect career for me! I continuously find myself having conversations with my classmates about how lucky we are to be in a career that we absolutely love.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I have enjoyed fieldwork in all the different areas of OT, but I am mostly interested in wellness and primary care.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love doing anything where I am outdoors! I enjoy hiking, going to the beach, running, yoga, being with my friends and family, and traveling.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

One of my favorite memories was attending the 2013 AOTA conference in San Diego. It was such a wonderful combination of learning from the leaders in occupational therapy while also having a great time with my classmates and professors.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Soy milk, lots of fruits and veggies, tons of leftovers, and hopefully some chocolate.

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

Beyonce. She is an extremely hard worker who inspires women to achieve their goals and to be leaders. She manages to be incredibly successful in her career while still donating her time to doing charitable work. Also, she and I share an interest in working on childhood obesity.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

My family has a therapy dog named Maggie. I once ate 5 hot dogs in 10 minutes. At age 23, I got my tongue badly stuck to a popsicle at Disneyland.

Kirsten Peterson, MAII ‘15

Hometown:  Sunnyvale, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I was a music and psychology major in college, and I was interested in the therapeutic effects of music.  I’d originally planned to study cognitive psychology and do research on music cognition, but I decided that I wanted to do something that tangibly impacted people’s daily lives.  My dad read about occupational therapy as a profession in U.S. News and passed it along, and I quickly discovered it offered a great combination of my interests.  I guess in two words, “my dad”.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

After getting my bachelor’s degree, I spent some time working as a receptionist for a small but successful tech company in the Silicon Valley.  I got a glimpse of the corporate world, as well as the perks and drawbacks of working in the heart of the tech industry.  I miss the free lunches, but I am happier where I am now!

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

I absolutely love my Level I fieldwork this semester.  My clinical instructor is an occupational therapist working in a short-term inpatient acute hospital, and she’s both a great teacher and a helpful projection of where I’ll hopefully be in ten years.  Through her therapeutic use of self, she connects with patients in ways that some of the other health professionals don’t seem to be doing.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Hummus!  Also coconut water, kale, and salsa.  Ideally also something more filling.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I have always really wanted to fly.  When you’re a kid they tell you, “You can do anything if you practice enough,” so I would run around my backyard, waving my arms to practice flying.  Once, when I caught some air jumping off my couch, I decided that I’d reached a new level of flight.

Justin Waring-Crane, MAII ‘15

Hometown: South Bend, Indiana

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Yoga, busting my AMAAAZING dance moves, cooking, thrifting!

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

Teaching Amy Irvin how to twerk during class break.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Sesame sticks, Trader Joe’s sauvignon blanc, leftover curried potato salad.

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

Jennifer Lawrence. J-law I hope you see this!

Erica Wright, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Cabin John, Maryland

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I can trace my initial interest in OT to an article I read in the April 1992 issue of National Geographic for Kids Magazine (I still have the issue). The article highlighted a charity that trained monkeys to help adults who were wheelchair bound live a more independent and engaged life. One member of the team that helped train the monkeys were these people called “occupational therapists”. I researched what else occupational therapists do and have been hooked ever since.

What area of practice are you interested in?

Primarily pediatrics (the younger the better) but I am also interested in adult rehab in a hospital setting.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Playing and coaching soccer, playing squash, dancing in empty elevators, people watching at the beach, watching movie trailers and anything sporty that gets me outside.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

I took a tour of the Warner Brothers studio when I was in high school and I got to try the real sorting hat on. It put me in Slytherin. I cried.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I met President Clinton at a bowling birthday party. I coached David Beckham’s son. I went to high school with the Marriotts.

Rebecca Cunningham, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Newbury Park, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

My initial interest was sparked from witnessing the progress my cousin, who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s, was making by working with his occupational therapist. I knew then that any career that could have that kind of impact on a person’s life was something I had to be a part of.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I received my degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego in 2008, and stayed on as the lab manager of the Developmental Cognitive and Social Neuroscience Lab until I came to USC. I ran multiple projects during my time there that involved both behavioral and Event Related Potential (ERP) testing. These projects included memory studies with 8 and 9 month olds, social referencing with 18 month olds, and help-seeking behavior with 2 and 3 year olds.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Camping, reading, pilates, and cross-stitching.

If we opened your fridge what would we see?

Greek yogurt, banana bread, extreme moose tracks ice cream, and all sorts of leftovers.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I learned to hula during college. I had ACL reconstruction surgery when I was 17. I am originally from Tennessee.

Donna Benji Meir, MAII ‘15

Hometown:  Los Angeles, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I wanted a job where I could make a great difference in the lives of others while fulfilling my own passions as well.  I did not want to sit behind a desk all day, and aimed to find a career where I could put my “people skills” to good use.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I went through several career changes prior to finding my passion for occupational therapy.  Immediately after college, I contemplated going to law school, but I eventually got involved with diplomacy and international relations and held positions both in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel and then the Consulate General of Israel’s office in Los Angeles.  I also worked in the corporate world for three years in a real estate and finance company, and simultaneously started a small business with my husband.  However, none of these fields afforded me the opportunity to help others, and ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled.  After some quick research, I fell in love with occupational therapists and the work they do!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I absolutely love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients in the kitchen.  I rarely go by recipes, and instead love to create my own concoctions.  I like to think of my food as healthy, creative, and delicious!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Kale, celery, eggs, Arizona green tea, and the refill-size Heinz ketchup.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I have had the chicken pox twice. I am allergic to grass and therefore cannot sit on it. I can wiggle my ears.

Lydia Cheung, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Hong Kong

What brought you to occupational therapy?

One of my close friends got into a car accident and suffered third-degree burns to more than half of his body. I visited him several times during his stay at the ICU, and l learned that occupational therapist is part of his treatment team, but I had no idea what occupational therapy was. At that time, I had deferred my admission to a graduate program in Clinical Psychology because I was not certain whether that was the right career path for me. Then I thought to myself, “Why not explore other career option?” so I did some research online about OT, and volunteered at pediatric clinics. I realized OT was the right fit for me!

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I was an undergraduate research assistant in a Clinical Psychology lab, Developmental Psychology lab and Health Psychology Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’ve also worked as an account manager at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company and a campaign manager at a marketing firm.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Cooking, shopping, eating, watching movies while sipping on wine, hiking, running and playing poker.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Plain greek yogurt, orange juice, carrot juice, berries, avocados, chicken breasts and wine.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I am the first college graduate in my family. I have to eat something every two hours; if not, I would get dizzy. I am half Japanese and half Chinese.

Alex Nishi, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Issaquah, Washington

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I first encountered OT as a Special Education teacher. An OT came into my classroom every week, and she made therapy look so fun! After seeing the positive impact that occupational therapy had on my students, I decided to pursue it further.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I’m interested in school-based practice and pediatric mental/behavioral health, particularly in low-income communities. I would love to eventually be in a position where I could incorporate mental health practice into school-based occupational therapy.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I got my BA in Psychology at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. While in Spokane, I ran a mentoring program for at-risk elementary students in the area. After undergrad, I joined Teach For America and worked as a Special Education teacher in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve also spent time as a camp counselor, a tutor, a nanny, a waitress, a track coach, and an ice-cream scooper. I love that OT allows me to incorporate all of my experiences in such a diverse field!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love the outdoors! Rock climbing, hiking, and ultimate frisbee are some of my favorite occupations currently. I’m also excited to explore all of the unique experiences that Los Angeles has to offer, and I always love a good book.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Lots of vegetables and fruits! I got a juicer for my birthday, so I’ve been experimenting with different concoctions.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

The power to be instantly fluent in any language. I’m currently working on a few, but it’s pretty slow-going. 

Delila Newman, MAII ‘15

Hometown: I grew up mostly in Boise, ID, but have lived in 10 different states (Texas, Maryland, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada & Hawaii). I most recently moved to California from Maui almost 3 years ago.

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I grew up as a competitive athlete (gymnastics, snowboarding, track & field) and have always been intrigued by how the human body works. I started college at the University of Colorado in 1998 as a fine arts major (ceramics), but after a year and a half, I wasn’t sure of that path. I took some time off to live in ski resort towns & travel to New Zealand & Australia. While abroad, I realized that I I should further my education. From the time I was a child, I enjoyed giving massages, so I choose to enroll in massage therapy school. It was there that I fell in love with kinesiology.  After several years of being a massage therapist, I returned to school (CalPoly SLO) with an intention to get my Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and my doctorate in physical therapy. After a year, I realized that being a PT didn’t exactly fit me. While I was working as a PT aide, I met an OT who came to the clinic a couple times a week. As she explained her job, I felt an immediate connection. I left CalPoly and continued my career as a massage therapist until 3 years ago when I enrolled at CalState Northridge, finished my Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology & was accepted to USC!


What area of practice are you interested in?

As of now, I’m interested in working at a rehabilitation hospital for physical disabilities on one of the Hawaiian Islands.  I want to incorporate aquatic therapy into my treatments when possible.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I run and surf. I’m crafty and make birthday, Christmas & Valentine’s Day cards for my friends & family. I enjoy pushing myself physically and going after an adrenaline rush. I’ve been skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, white water rafting, cliff jumping, scuba diving and I completed P90X as well as running the Maui Marathon. I want to try CrossFit next and then sign up for the Tough Mudder.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

I pretty much always have juice, vegetables, 12 grain bread, coconut milk, peanut or almond butter, chocolate & cheese.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

If I could have a superpower it would be the ability to help others get over emotional trauma. I would be able to go do the depths of their pain and assist them in overcoming the hurt, loss and grief. I would be able to magically make their trauma dissolve, so they could go on to lead happy, healthy and amazing lives! That’s why I love OT, because I can accomplish at least a fraction of that superpower smile

Alyssa Kessler, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Santa Clarita, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I had shadowed many professions in health care, and while all were doing their part to save their patient’s lives, something was missing.  After doing some research, I decided Occupational Therapy was something worth looking into. I took my growing interest in OT and began to shadow at a pediatric clinic and completely fell in love. My passion for the career was cemented while working with patients and seeing them undergo amazing transformations. It was here I realized that OTs give people their life back, and I want to be the person that delivers hope and confidence as I help patients reach optimal function in their daily lives and the occupations they value most.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I am interested in pediatrics. Although I really enjoyed volunteering and doing my Level I fieldwork at a pediatric clinic (which focused mostly on sensory integration), I am drawn to the “physical disabilities”/ medical model side of pediatrics. I think working with children who have physical conditions or diseases such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other congenital orthopedic disorders to promote the greatest possible independence would be the most challenging, engaging, and rewarding area of practice for me.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

Although the summer was an extremely challenging time in the program, it was a great experience full of memorable moments. In a kinesiology lab, we all went outside and played with those giant rainbow parachutes that everyone loved so much in elementary school. We were still learning, but having an absolutely amazing time.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Depending on how difficult the program currently is, you would either see a plethora of fruits and vegetables, turkey, and Greek yogurt, or chocolate everything… and a lot of takeout… and pizza.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Gryffindor, because “I have the heart of a lion. I never give up, never back down and give everything 100%. I stand up for myself and for my friends because I believe in what is right. My energy makes me a natural leader.” Actually, I just took a Buzzfeed quiz, called “Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?” which told me I was in Gryffindor, and then I copied and pasted what it said above because I was being lazy. That’s totally something Harry would do.

Tiffany Chen, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Cypress, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I was all set to go into Industrial Organizational Psychology and Human Resources. I wanted to help the employees with their work fit, team-building, happiness, etc, but the business atmosphere was not for me. Luckily, OT came by as a more stable and fun option! A family friend who was an USC OT graduate told me about her job right before I applied to IOP grad schools, and within a month, I started my prerequisites for OT.

What area of practice are you interested in?

Hand therapy, hands down (haha…) & ergonomics!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Crafts/DIY, weight lifting & running, reading

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

According to my roommate, Dr. Pepper, Pizza Hut, and Wienerschnitzel. Good thing I like to exercise or else my body would hate me.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Ravenclaw! I love watching The Big Bang Theory & Sherlock and teaching myself random skills & figuring out how things work. And the prospect of learning hand anatomy excites me. I don’t think anyone else would find that exciting.

Monica Stephen, MAII ‘15

Hometown: La Canada, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

During my undergrad, my roommates found two ladies for me to live with while they went home for summer break. The two students moved to LA for their fieldwork and were studying something called occupational therapy. They came home every day exhausted but genuinely excited about what they were working on and the incredible people they met at their sites. It didn’t take long (just a couple of explanations of what occupational therapy was) for me to realize that this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life! I applied the following year.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love to travel, hike, camp, swim, paint, dance around, and practice yoga. If there was more time in the day, I’d like to get better at piano, surfing, and the ukulele.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

Though it was one of the most intensive learning experiences I’ve had, the first summer in the program was my favorite. There was a lot of bonding, and Dr. Fazio’s Creativity, Craft and Activity Analysis class was the best.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Time travel! I would visit the dinosaurs, hang out with the great philosophers of ancient Greece, catch a performance by Duke Ellington, meet Hokusai, see what Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu were like, and have most excellent adventures.

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

If there’s anyone throughout history who disproved the saying “jack of all trades, master of none,” it was Leonardo da Vinci. I could learn so much from him.

Mai Sou, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Xuan Loc, Vietnam

What brought you to occupational therapy?

After completing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at UC Berkeley, I was ready to head home to see my family. I applied to many Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology thinking that I wanted to become a Clinical Psychologist, but when I was in the middle of my interview, I realized that I couldn’t convince myself that this was the path I wanted to take. I took some time off to explore other options. I wish I knew about occupational therapy early on. My brother’s friend told me about OT and I knew that OT was right for me. I was attracted to the varied settings and specialties of OT as a healthcare profession. I love that the sole focus of this profession is to help others live a meaningful, happy, and independent life.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I am pursuing clinical work with children after graduation. I have been working with children for many years and I find them ever so fascinating. They have such incredible energy, presence, optimism, and potential that I want to use my personal and professional abilities to harness and appreciate what they have to offer to themselves and the world. I enjoy working with children and I find that my creativity in terms of arts and crafts, ideas, and various hobbies will serve as a real asset for me and for the children I serve. I have worked with children in various settings: academic (elementary and middle after school programs and tutoring) and clinical (mental health facility, sensory integration clinic, and hospital).

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I picked up a handful of hobbies during my undergrad years. I love to learn new things on my own and these are some of the occupations I engage in: baking, knitting, tennis, hiking, swimming, and practicing the guitar and piano. 

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

It’s empty right now, but typically, you’ll find vegetables, blocks of butter (because I bake), baked goods, milk, apples (my dad loves them), leftovers (because my mom tends to make too much food), etc.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Slytherin house because I value ambition, craftiness and resourcefulness. Plus, I tend not to play nice with others wink

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would want the power to heal self and others. I want this power because I don’t like being in pain. This power may raise some ethical issues…

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I have never seen snow in real life until I was 21 years old. I am fluent in English, Cantonese, and Vietnamese. I am one of seven children.

Eliza Hart, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Agoura Hills, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I was interested in a career change and wanted to pursue a helping profession. After doing some informational interviews with some OTs and shadowing a USC OT alumna in a pediatric outpatient setting, I was sold!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Playing tennis, cooking, hiking, and kayaking

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

I have made so many wonderful memories thus far, so it is hard to choose just one. My classmates and I planned a surprise baby shower for one of our professors, Dr. Rafeedie. We all worked together to contribute to the surprise and make it a special moment for her. She is a fantastic professor and we wanted her to know that we appreciated everything she did for us - she really made learning fun. The smile on her face when she walked into the room was amazing and she was so grateful. She hugged every single person in the class, personally saying thank you to everyone. It was a great moment that demonstrated mutual respect between students and professor and teamwork and collaboration between students in our cohort.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would want to be able to travel places at the snap of my fingers. I commute from Orange County to campus, so this would be very helpful in eliminating my morning commute. I also love to travel, but do not enjoy long plane rides, so it would be amazing to be able travel across the world so quickly.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I have an identical twin. I went bungee jumping with my mom on my 21st birthday. I once won a booty-shaking contest.

David Park, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

What brought you to occupational therapy?

Lot of researching & volunteering

What area of practice are you interested in?

I’m really interested in working with adults and elder adults (adult rehabilitation) and forensic and at-risk youth population (mental health).

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I like to stay active, grab late-night donuts with friends, watch movies, listen to music, and laundry.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

One of my favorite memories from the program is when I got to dip Rob Russow at the Boat Party.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Hufflepuff: hard work, patience, justice, and loyalty.

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

Jane Baumgarten. She is the most amazing OT I’ve ever had the privilege to study under. She has so much clinical knowledge and experience. She never ceases to amaze me with her skills.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I lived in Poland before coming to America. I almost lost my sight at age seven. I love the Los Angeles Lakers.

Megan Ruth Atkinson, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I lived and worked in New York City for nine years, and for part of that time I was a practice manager for a behavioral optometrist in Brooklyn. I found out about OT there, since many OTs referred kids to him, and after some research I decided it was the perfect follow-on to my psychology studies.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

In high school, my mom encouraged me to teach dance classes to kiddos in Head Start programs outside of Pittsburgh.  Mom is amazing with children and incredible with older adults.  She taught special-needs pre-school and is now a home aid for people with Alzheimer’s who have additional serious medical conditions.  I feel like I learned a lot about OT from her, even though she was unfamiliar with the profession before I applied to school. 

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Boogying on down the road; finding hikes for me and my best friend who is a schnauzer-dachsund named Oliver; apparently watching lots of “Foreign Steamy Romances” and “British Biographical 20th Century Period Pieces” on Netflix.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Delicious dips.  I basically live off hummus and salsa and dip-delivery methods such as delicious chips.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I’ve lived in 3 of 5 boroughs of NYC; I’ve worked at fish markets in both NJ and CA; I’m a clog dancer.

Susanne Elkrief, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Encino, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

Witnessing the impact occupational therapy had on my grandfather when he was in the hospital, encouraged me to research OT as a potential career option. After shadowing a clinical school psychologist and a school based occupational therapist, the incomparable amount of progress pediatric OTs were able to facilitate and maintain in children helped me determine that OT would be the most personally rewarding field for me.

What area of practice are you interested in?

The areas of practice I am interested in are pediatric mental health and school-based occupational therapy. I feel both areas play such a vital factor in childhood development and I would love to play a role in facilitating health-promoting interventions to encourage healthy growth and development.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

Before coming to OT, I was a psychology – pre-med student at University of California, San Diego.  I had a strong passion for psychology and found myself gravitating towards neuropsychology research and autism. I worked as a research assistant in three different labs throughout my undergraduate experience: a language and development lab, a memory lab, and a research on autism and development lab. After researching several career paths, I found OT would provide me with the most opportunity to interact with children on a personal basis and really cater my skills towards targeting their individual difficulties and goals.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Starbucks double shot coffee cans and hummus!

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

I would pick Dr. Jean Ayres, a true leader in the discovery and development of treatment methods for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and sensory integration dysfunction.

Korey Brent, MAII ‘14

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

The mother of a baby I nannied in undergrad who was an autism specialist heard that I was looking into various health professions and she said that I HAD to be an OT.  All it took was a google search to realize that OT was for me!

What area of practice are you interested in?

Currently I am split between adult rehab and pediatrics

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far:

My favorite memory from the program so far was when we were at our Level II fieldwork for the summer and I met two of my classmates for dinner one weekend and we all shared our stories (both positive and negative). We just all realized that we know so much more than we thought we did, and that we couldn’t be more excited about choosing OT for a profession.  Also, hearing my Level II clinical instructor say that she believed I was going to make a great OT was definitely a high point.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Gryffindor, because I would definitely have been the fourth wheel to Harry, Ron, and Hermione (or at least I would’ve tried to be)!

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

Kobe Bryant is the most dedicated person I can think of.  He is 110% dedicated to his field and being the best that he can be at it, and has an overwhelming amount of passion for what he does.  He is constantly working to be better and to refine his skills, works harder than most, and still maintains a sense of humor; these are all traits that I am working on!

Jonathan Li, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Hong Kong

What brought you to occupational therapy?

Being a person who is big on balance and practicing what I preach, I believe occupational therapy was the field for me. I want to learn more about myself and the field of occupational therapy and be educated on how I can share my experience with others. Helping others come closer to achieving their potential while leading happy, healthy, balanced life.

What area of practice are you interested in?

Ergonomics, Wellness, Lifestyle Redesign, Home Modification, Pain Management

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Exploring the city of Los Angeles and hopefully partaking in a road trip to the various states in the United States. Enjoying the various restaurants available in Los Angeles. Spending time with my family, especially my younger sister who is also studying in USC, and meeting up with my friends. I also enjoy sports and am willing to try new sports if given the opportunity. Some of the sports I currently do are hiking, running and practicing Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. I also enjoy playing a computer game called Leagues of Legends.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

The one superpower I would like to have is the power cosmic, which the Silver Surfer has. The power cosmic, in itself, consists of a lot of other powers, however, so it would not be fair. Instead, if I was given one super power, it will be telekinesis with the ability to manipulate molecules. I believe this power will provide me abilities to do much to help the world. If it is a cancerous tumor, I can manipulate the molecules to remove it; if a device is needed I can manipulate the molecules to create one. It provides an infinite potential only limited by one’s own mind.

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

It would be Wong Fei Hung. Wong Fei Hung is a folk hero that is well known for his martial arts skills, Chinese medicine skills, helping his country and compassion. These are all skills I would love to have and wish I will be able to use it to benefit and improve society in the future.

If you got to choose to be a comic character, who would you want to be?

I would choose to be either Silver Surfer or Cable from the Marvel Comics. Although both of these characters tend to be more of an anti-hero, I want to be these characters since I enjoy the freedom they have, allowing them to either time travel or explore the universe. They also share similarities in wanting to better the world through actions. Despite the many positive deeds, they both have their own limitations such as facing their death due to old age or constantly fighting an illness similar to cancer while pursuing their goals.

Victoria Tracy Wong, MAII ‘15

Hometown: San Francisco, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I previously worked with seniors who had mental disabilities prior to college. When my best friend told me she was thinking of switching from nursing into occupational therapy, I looked into it. Much of the description seemed to be what I had done that previous summer. As I looked into it further, I decided to shadow a registered occupational therapist and found one at Ronald Reagan Hospital’s Neurological Rehabilitation Unit and in the Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program. I loved being in both settings, and I learned so much from observing that I knew I wanted to pursue occupational therapy as a career.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I came into occupational therapy interested in pediatrics, but I am still open to the different immersion experiences I will have!

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I was a psychology major at UCLA and had a minor in applied developmental psychology. I loved working with children and figuring out how minds think. My friends and family members always thought I might go into teaching or into the health care field, so it was not too surprising when I decided on occupational therapy.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I enjoy baking (especially if it I can change up the ingredients to make it healthier), hiking, and just hanging out with friends.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

I took a fun personality test before to see which Hogwarts house I would be placed in, and I got placed in Hufflepuff! I would say it’s pretty accurate considering this house values patience, hard work, loyalty, and fair play, which I do as well.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

My favorite color is blue, I would choose a sunrise over a sunset, and I really love citrus-y fruit.

Rebecca Brito, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Orange, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I initially wanted to go into physical therapy but after doing some volunteering and observation I realized occupational therapy was a better fit and I enjoyed it more.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I’m interested in working with veterans or working with individuals with low vision.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I’ve worked as an English language instructor and an ophthalmic technician and have my degree in human development.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love to hike, take trips to the dog beach and bake!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Nothing. My top ramen is in the cabinet.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

To freeze time! I would be able to get all my homework/studying done AND get a full 8 hours sleep!

Yasi Amanat, MAII ‘15

Hometown: Calabasas, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

Once learning about this profession from a friend, I was intrigued by the multi-faceted dimensions of OT. This profession encompasses any and every component of the careers I had wanted to pursue growing up, into one lifelong goal of helping others in leading an active and fulfilling life.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Eating, being outdoors, and taking silly pictures with my grandma.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

During the summer, in our Kinesiology course, we had the opportunity to go outdoors and play with parachutes. Although we were learning, it was fun playing parachute games together that we had not played since elementary school. We all absolutely loved it!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Yogurt, salad, dark chocolate, and MILD salsa because I can’t handle spicy!

What are two truths and a lie about you?

I practiced gymnastics for 7 years, I only applied to USC for OT school, and I am allergic to kiwi.