The USC Chan Student Ambassadors are current occupational therapy students. The role of a student ambassador is to help raise awareness for the field of occupational therapy and our programs here at USC. They provide tours, give informational presentations, help with events, blog about their experiences, post to Chan Division social media accounts, and answer questions from prospective students.
Brooklyn, New York
Hi! My name is Brigid McInnes Connelly and I’m a second year in Chan’s inaugural Entry-Level OTD program. Originally from New York City, I graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with a BA in Religion.
I was drawn to occupational therapy through a combination of educational, professional, and personal experiences. Raised in a family in which chronic illness and dis/ability were ever-present, I have long been interested in how people, as individuals and in community, cope with hardship, make sense of their experience, and learn to thrive. As an undergraduate, I studied theory (social, political, and religious), developmental psychology, and medical humanities, disciplines that informed my work as a teacher and caregiver to young children, and now, as a student of occupational therapy.
In addition to my clinical studies, I work in Dr. Mary Lawlor’s Boundary Crossings lab on projects related to stakeholder research engagement and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic for members of the autism community. My research interests include narrative medicine, accessible design and architecture, and participatory research. As a recipient of the Research Student Worker Scholarship, I welcome conversation from any student interested in learning more about occupational science, how to balance clinical education and laboratory work, and/or getting involved in research at Chan.
Outside of school, I enjoy taking road trips, visiting museums and gardens, and walking my cat on a leash (she likes it too, I promise!). I am always happy to chat about navigating graduate school, adjusting to life in a new city, and everything in between. I look forward to meeting you all, Fight On!
Hello! I am Yung-Hsin Chang, 張永馨, but everyone calls me Cindy. I am a Post-Professional Master’s degree program student. I am from Taoyuan, Taiwan. I received my BS in Occupational Therapy from Chang Gung University. After graduation, I worked as an occupational therapist in hospital settings for two years. I primarily worked with adults with neural conditions, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.
Like some, I had not had a chance to even hear about occupational therapy. I stumbled across occupational therapy at the end of my high school years. I was drawn to its holistic view of humans and strong emphasis on client-centered approaches. I attended the SOTI program, organized by our Global Initiatives, in 2019 to learn more about occupational therapy in different settings, areas, and countries. Everything I learned during the program encouraged me to remain curious and innovative. It also led me to the decision to pursue post-professional training at USC Chan. I am most interested in Occupational Science and Lifestyle Redesign®. I am excited to explore more about them here at their origin!
As for my meaningful occupations, I am a learning enthusiast. Besides professional related learning, I love going to art or science museums. I spend my free time painting or cooking. You can also find me bouldering at a climbing gym or going to movies with my family.
I am most honored to serve as a student ambassador and work with international perspective students. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I hope to see you soon. Fight on!
Little Rock, Arkansas
Hey ya’ll! My name is Jaida Cruz and I am a second year student in the Entry-Level OTD Program at USC Chan. I am a Southern girl at heart, having been born and raised in Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a BS in Clinical Exercise Science.
If you had asked me before undergrad what occupational therapy was, I would’ve looked at you crazy. It wasn’t until I took an intro to exercise science course (after having changed my major during my second year) when I met an occupational therapist and learned about this powerful and needed profession, that I decided occupational therapy was right for me. Occupational therapy combines problem-solving, science, and creativity to empower individuals to overcome challenges and improve their quality of life.
One of the beautiful things about this profession is that there are so many different practice areas you can pursue and work in. Before coming to USC, I experienced working as a Patient Care Tech in a Neurology clinic and interned under a Certified Hand Therapist as well as a pediatric clinic. Currently, I am interested in inpatient acute rehab and community mental health, with more of a focus on working with incarcerated individuals and refugees.
When I’m not in class, I’m usually at Disneyland or Universal Studios because I love theme parks! I enjoy traveling to new places, reading, trying out new restaurants, working out, and winning escape rooms. I’m a very social person and am always willing to share more about my life experiences, offer guidance, or just hang out! Fight on!
What’s good y’all! I am Jared Bague (he/him/his) and I am in the inaugural Entry-Level OTD class of 2025!
While I’m a Bay Area boy at heart, I spent my whole childhood in the suburbia of all suburbias: Irvine, California. Like the other 70% of OT students in this program, I majored in Kinesiology, but I am most proud of receiving a minor in Philippine Studies.
Many of my most meaningful occupations are centered around my Filipino culture. From listening to my Lola’s out-of-this-world storytelling to learning Philippine dance, I find strength in my roots that span generations upon generations. Through my personal journey of cultural exploration, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of embracing one’s cultural traditions. These occupations have the potential to heal and provide a sense of purpose. It is this fundamental belief that propels me to strive to become the best Occupational Therapist I can be.
I am a HUGE nerd for neuroscience and want to eventually work in neurorehabilitation, but I also am interested in pediatric oncology . . . but I am also interested in working in a cardiac unit. I have a lot of passions, which is why I know that this profession is right for me! Something I know that I certainly want to pursue in the future is spending a few months in the Philippines to work on healthcare outreach programs for rural provinces that commonly face adverse social determinants of health.
I am incredibly excited to serve as an ambassador and contribute to the dynamic synergy within our esteemed Chan Division. Fight on!
Read Leah Mary’s blog posts ⟩
Hey there! My name is Leah King and I am originally from Chicago, IL. I am a triple trojan; I graduated with a BA in Cognitive Science and a BA in East Asian Area Studies. I just completed my Master’s in the Entry-Level Master’s Program at USC Chan!
I learned about occupational therapy at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab when I drove my grandma there for rehab. Shirley Ryan is a state-of-the-art research and rehabilitation facility. So I was hooked. I finished my last Level II fieldwork on the brain innovation floor (the same one my grandma was on) at Shirley Ryan this summer, which was a meaningful way to end my Master’s.
Some of my favorite occupations include hiking, camping, traveling, hanging out with family and friends, and eating. I’m so excited for this upcoming year and to see where we all end up. Fight On!
La Habra, CA
Hello! My name is Natalie Palencia and I am finishing my first year of the Entry-Level OTD program here at USC Chan. I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in the IE (Montclair & Pomona specifically for my SoCal natives), and attended Santa Clara University in the Bay Area for undergrad. I graduated in 2018 with my BS in Psychology and double minored in Sociology and Studio Art.
Toward the end of my undergrad career at SCU, I took a class focused on the geriatric/aging population and discovered art therapy. While researching that, I was introduced to OT by a friend (now mentor) who shared her love and passion for the field with me. I immediately knew OT was the career I wanted to pursue. I love how holistic, individual, and client-centered the profession is, and appreciate that OT uses meaningful occupations to promote health and well-being.
When I chose to pursue OT, I was specifically interested in both working with youth who are at risk and incorporating art therapy into my practice. Once I started talking to OT practitioners in and outside Chan, I discovered how boundless and substantial OT really is and have since expanded my interests. Currently, I am very interested in community mental health and want to explore other areas such as pediatric mental health, neurorehabilitation, and other non-traditional practice areas. Although I am still exploring and do not exactly know where I want to land post-graduation, I am sure I want to practice using a trauma-informed care approach and will work to promote occupational justice.
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my 13-year-old yorkie, Chubaka, gardening, making art, enjoying the beach, and trying out new low-risk hobbies. Please feel free to reach out, I would love to meet and chat with you!
Yorba Linda, CA
Hello! Hola! 你好! My name is Samantha Osuna and I call Yorba Linda, CA home. I am in my second year of Chan’s inaugural Entry-Level OTD program and fifth year at USC as a student in the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Doctorate program.
As the saying goes, I didn’t find occupational therapy, occupational therapy found me. In high school, I was introduced to OT when my little cousin, Tori, was born with Down Syndrome. My aunt asked me to help her research what that meant and what it would entail, and invited me to join Tori at her OT, PT, and speech therapy sessions. There, I saw the beauty of playing with a purpose and fell in love with the idea of helping people do what they want to do, need to do, and love to do across the lifespan. As a senior in high school, I was accepted to USC’s BS-OTD Program and began my OT studies while also minoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures, with an emphasis in Chinese.
Like many, I came into OT school with my heart set on peds, but am no longer sure if that’s where I’ll spend my career. While taking kinesiology, hands caught my attention and I had the opportunity to spend my first fieldwork rotation at a hand therapy clinic. There, I discovered that I’m obsessed with the hands — how they work, their intricacies, and the many disorders that affect them. However, I am still interested in pediatric occupational therapy and potentially working somewhere in the intersection of sports and OT. Regardless of what practice area I end up pursuing, my goal is to practice OT in Spanish- and Chinese-speaking communities while increasing awareness and accessibility to occupational therapy.
Outside of CHP, you can find me exploring other cities (in the U.S. & internationally), singing along to my favorite artists in concert, and cheering on my favorite sports teams, especially at Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum! I’m always happy to share my experience within the Division, as a SoCal native, and as a spirited Trojan. I look forward to meeting y’all, fight on!