New course bridges continents to discuss global perspectives on occupation and justice
April 25, 2019
This spring semester, USC Chan master’s students had a new elective opportunity in their course options, one that connected them with new classmates halfway around the world.
OT 599 Special Topics, titled “Bridging Global Perspectives on Occupation and Justice,” was taught for the first time by USC Chan’s Associate Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy Rebecca Aldrich. Aldrich designed the new course specifically to be taught simultaneously with a partner course at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, thanks to UCT Faculty of Health Sciences faculty member Liesl Peters. Aldrich and Peters met in 2014 at the World Federation of Occupational Therapy Congress, and with a shared interest in expanding global perspectives, have been working together ever since.
Peters and Aldrich believe it is important to learn how ideas do or do not translate across international contexts, and they have found that students seem to value the opportunity to learn and assess content with people who have different cultural perspectives from their own.
According to Aldrich, one of the unique features of this course is its emphasis on student-centered learning.
“Peters and I tried to create a framework for students to take ownership over their learning and engage with topics in ways that align with their questions and interests,” Aldrich said. “I hope that students who take this course will find it easier to connect with international peers in the future, and will feel inspired to locate their professional understandings within the rich global landscape that shapes occupational therapy practice, research and education.”
Some of the OT 599 students offered to share their own experiences:
“I was initially drawn to OT 599 because of its focus on occupational justice. I personally am extremely interested in advocacy work related to community inclusion and accessibility, and thought that this course would further my knowledge on how to address occupational injustices and better advocate for disenfranchised communities. However, the experience I got out of the class was so much more. I was able to connect with students from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and learn about how occupational therapy is practiced there and how occupational injustices are perceived and addressed in their country. I never expected to have this opportunity when I initially registered for the class.” — Zack Pinto MA ’18, OTD ’19.
“One of the things that has stuck out to me about this course is the understanding of how beneficial it is to have open discussions with individuals from other contexts. There are similarities and differences that arise due to the culturally situated nature of the topics we discuss. Even though we are all looking through an occupations lens, our conversations make way for a greater depth of understanding of the complex constructs of occupation. Furthermore, this course has augmented how imperative it is to address occupational injustices and let the voices of impacted communities be heard when determining solutions. In occupational justice, as in social justice, I have come to believe that we, as occupational therapists, are uniquely situated to bring the communities’ voices to the forefront, as it should be. And we may be a crucial piece for implementing change and having a broader impact on marginalized communities and on the greater society.” — Ashley Hvidt MA ’19.
“Dr. Aldrich’s course is by far one of the best courses I have taken at USC! The course truly challenged and inspired me to study occupational justice in depth, acknowledge my own assumptions and learn how to apply these concepts individually and as an OT. It was a unique and invaluable experience to have the opportunity to discuss these complex but very important concepts with fellow OT students in South Africa, and to also learn about their perspective of occupational therapy.” — Jenna Kobara OTD ’19.