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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events
News and Events

Chan Community Commission meets the moment

How student-leaders, faculty and staff kept the division connected during USC’s first fully remote semester.

August 19, 2020

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By Kayla Johari MA ’21 and Calvin Lee MA ’21

During the Summer 2020 semester — the first full academic semester spent away from campus due to the Covid-19 pandemic — the Chan Community Commission (CCC) was assembled to support the incoming Class of 2022. The commission joined USC Chan faculty, staff and students together to host positive, welcoming events for the newest members of the Trojan Family. CCC student members Kayla Johari and Calvin Lee recap the CCC’s summer programming.

The Commission assembles
Back in May, Dr. Julie McLaughlin Gray put out an open call for ideas about how to support the incoming class of occupational therapy students, and those who answered that call formed a preliminary taskforce, which grew into the Chan Community Commission! The CCC was designed to support and promote a positive environment for all students, faculty and staff of the USC Chan Division to come together. We partnered closely with the Global Initiatives team and the Diversity, Access, and Equity Committee in hopes of creating events and spaces that were welcoming for all, and that fostered improved health and well-being through greater interaction and social support. Over the course of the summer, the CCC offered events and activities that surrounded four categories: social experiences, advocacy, peer mentorship and health and well-being.

Creating social experiences

Incoming PhD student Loree Pham PhD ’25 shared her cake baking and decorating talents at the CCC-hosted Passion Show. (Photo courtesy of Maggie Goodfellow)

Incoming PhD student Loree Pham PhD ’25 shared her cake baking and decorating talents at the CCC-hosted Passion Show. (Photo courtesy of Maggie Goodfellow)

The CCC Social Committee presented several different events that were open to both first- and second-year students, including the Passion Show and OT Trivia Nights. Students from all different degree programs, as well as faculty, came together for a fun night of Zoom PowerPoint presentations showcasing people’s passions ranging from potatoes, to Coldplay, to conspiracy theories! Additionally, the CCC held two OT Trivia Nights to raise money for the Black Lives Matter movement, and participants were able to donate over $1000! The Social Committee also held mask-making events and a student-only mixer, so that first-year and second-year students could casually get together and hang out.

Overall, the social experiences that were presented by the CCC were truly successful and brought together the Trojan community. Thank you to the CCC Social Committee members Shawyon Aminirad MA ’21, Nora Dixon MA ’20, OTD ’21, Maggie Goodfellow MA ’21, Brendan LaScala MA ’21, Calvin Lee and Jeffrey Palomino MA ’21 for working so diligently at putting these events together!

Advancing advocacy

The CCC Advocacy Committee held a Let’s Talk Advocacy information session on OT’s role in advocacy and student involvement. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Freeman)

The CCC Advocacy Committee held a Let’s Talk Advocacy information session on OT’s role in advocacy and student involvement. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Freeman)

The CCC Advocacy Committee held an informational session for first-year students on why advocacy is vital to occupational therapy, and how to get involved. Representatives from the Occupational Therapy and Science Council, the OTAC Advocacy & Government Committee, and the Coalition for Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity all spoke about their different roles and organizations. OTSpeaks spearheaded a discussion forum for first- and second-years reviewing proposed federal and state legislation affecting occupational therapists, including H.R.4932 “Connect for Health Act,” H.R.6720 “Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act” and A.B.2025 “Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorder: Restorative Care Program.”

Moving into the fall semester, the OTSC Advocacy and Government Committee will continue to provide opportunities for student engagement in advocating for our profession. Thank you to CCC Advocacy Committee members Jenna Freeman MA ’21, Kayla Johari, Heidi Lee MA ’21 and Sarah Morris MA ’21 for banding together to raise awareness of OT’s role in advocacy!

Fostering peer mentorship

In the Mentorship Circles, students got together to talk about life, de-stress, play games, share advice and, just overall, have fun! (Photo courtesy of Maggie Goodfellow, Calvin Lee and Heidi Lee)

In the Mentorship Circles, students got together to talk about life, de-stress, play games, share advice and, just overall, have fun! (Photo courtesy of Maggie Goodfellow, Calvin Lee and Heidi Lee)

CCC Mentorship Circles were created in order to support incoming first-year master’s students as they began graduate school on a virtual platform. Kayla Johari and Sarah Morris worked closely with Dr. Daniel Park in developing the program, and ultimately garnered 30 second-year student mentors, along with 63 first-year mentees. The goal of the Mentorship Circles was to help incoming students develop friendships with peers, increase a sense of belonging in the Chan community and provide access to social support during these uncertain times. Feedback showed that first-year students were incredibly grateful to have had the intimate support from their mentors, while the second-years also thought that this was such a special and unique way to interact with them.

In the fall semester, the program will continue within the Global Initiatives office under the name “Friendtorship” Circles. It will have a similar format and will encompass individuals from all USC Chan degree programs! Thank you to the CCC Mentorship Circles Committee Nora Dixon, Maggie Goodfellow, Kayla Johari, Calvin Lee, Heidi Lee, Sarah Morris and Adam Strizich MA ’21 for developing and leading these circles!

Prioritizing health and well-being

On Zoom, students learned more about setting up an ergonomic workstation with recent OTD alumna Vanessa Miller. (Photo courtesy of Adam Strizich)

On Zoom, students learned more about setting up an ergonomic workstation with recent OTD alumna Vanessa Miller. (Photo courtesy of Adam Strizich)

The CCC Health and Well-being Committee presented numerous opportunities to engage the Chan community in self-care and wellness awareness. Throughout the summer, they hosted Zoom workout sessions for anyone to participate, and also invited OTD students Erin Bussell MA ’19, OTD ’20, Vanessa Miller MA ’19, OTD ’20 and Serena Hobson MA ’19, OTD ’20 to host wellness workshops where they discussed topics such as stress and time management, ergonomic workstations and building strategies while sheltering in place. Second-year master’s student Jenna Freeman led a mediation, yoga and journaling workshop to help students cope with the stress of the summer semester. Thank you to CCC Health and Well-being Committee members Jenna Freeman, John J. Lee BS ’20, MA ’21 and Adam Strizich for creating these healthful and life-giving events to all!

Coming full circle
Students on the Chan Community Commission took the initiative to create programs to help welcome and bridge the gap for the incoming class of master’s students! The CCC was created by and for students to serve the greater Chan community, and its programming will continue as part of OTSC and Global Initiatives in the Fall 2020 semester. The CCC encourages all Chan students to recognize that, even as students, they can make a difference in our division during their time at USC.

Special thanks to the following Chan Community Commission leaders:
Shawyon Aminirad,
Nora Dixon,
Jenna Freeman,
Maggie Goodfellow,
Kayla Johari,
Brendan La Scala,
Calvin Lee,
Heidi Lee,
John J. Lee,
Sarah Morris,
Jeffrey Palomino and
Adam Strizich,

and to USC Chan faculty members:
Dr. Julie McLaughlin Gray,
Dr. Kristin Nxumalo,
Dr. Daniel Park and
Dr. Samia Rafeedie.