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University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Looking Beyond >

by Marilyn

Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

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On April 22nd, I woke up feeling the usual stress of a graduate student during the “Stay at Home order.” My dad greeted me with a small envelope, which left me perplexed and confused. This envelope was addressed to me in my handwriting. What could this be? I opened the envelope and revealed a handwritten letter that I wrote to myself in Fall 2018 on 11/26/18 in the OT 511 Therapeutic Use of Self Course. It was 1st year OT Grad student Marilyn. You see, Dr. Kristin Nxumalo instructed the class to write a letter to ourselves that would be mailed to us closer to graduation day.

the infamous envelope

The infamous envelope!

Upon opening the letter, I did not know what to expect, but the first line stated, “You made it to graduation day!” I immediately had a flashback of sitting next to my peers in class as we engaged in this activity. I had no idea of the power of my words until I read the letter. It gave me hope and strength to carry on studying for the comprehensive exam that I took this morning.

class of 2020

Class of 2020 — we made it!

In my letter, I wrote “I pray that you are feeling peace at this moment knowing that you’ve made it this far! There is nothing that you cannot do, nothing that you cannot conquer because God makes the impossible possible. I’m not sure what you have lost within these past two years as you’ve sacrificed plenty to get to this point but remain present in the moment. Celebrate this milestone with your loved ones because you deserve it. Moving forward remember to find balance in your personal and professional life. Do not compromise your character currency for no one or nothing. Speak honestly, think with sincerity, and act with integrity. Now give your parents a big hug and tell them congrats! Your successes are not your own. Remember the village that helped you make it this far because they continue to spur you towards your goals” … Live out your God given purpose!

Rodriguez parents next to the Salvadoran and Guatemalan

Thank you Dad and Mom for making the decision to chase the American dream, in order for your children to pursue higher education. I love you both and I am proud to be Salvadoran and Guatemalan!

my siblings

To my siblings — thank you for believing in me and reminding me that pursuing higher education is not a depreciating asset.

my amazing village

Thank you to my phenomenal village for spurring me on and reminding me that we rise by lifting others.

As I re-read this letter at the end of taking the comprehensive exam this morning, I immediately asked my husband and parents for a giant hug. There were many times throughout my master’s educational journey that I allowed fear, failure, hopelessness, or unmet expectations to become my primary focus. However, I have been reminded by my loved ones and mentors to redirect my focus right back where it belongs — on my faith and passion for being of service to others. 

Moving forward letter writing will be an activity that I will continue to practice. I will continue to act on my plans and visions but will remain open to new opportunities. I will trust in my abilities and make sure to increase access and decrease barriers for marginalized communities. I will move on to complete my summer level 2 fieldwork at the USC Occupational Faculty Practice under the supervision of Dr. Ashley Halle. Lastly, but certainly not least, I will become Dr. Thompson as I will pursue my doctoral degree and complete my clinical residency in a primary care setting at Kaiser Permanente.

Thanks for reading my blogs this past year and I hope I have the opportunity to interact with you in the near future!

ambassador team

To the 2019-2020 Ambassador team thank you for inspiring me to be innovative and reminding that there is no I in team!


Dear Class of 2020 >

by Marilyn

Life Hacks Videos

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To all of the graduates of Class of 2020 or anyone who was about to be celebrated, but due to the pandemic things have changed - this is for you! I know at a certain point we had to grieve the change of an expectation due to things not going as planned (graduation, fieldwork, last day of class celebration with peers, etc.). However, I genuinely believe these changes are outside of our control, so we learned how to become flexible and developed the faith to trust the process. We have discovered the greatness of leaning on our village of family, peers, mentors, staff, and faculty now more than ever for support. And they have risen to the occasion!

As we move on to a different phase of life academically or professionally there will be moments that our highest accomplishments will not be celebrated or may go unnoticed, but that does not mean you didn’t accomplish it! If you ever forget how great you are, please remember how you were able to navigate this experience and you will remind yourself that you are prepared! If you are a prospective student or a student in the program I hope this video can show you how student life was like before COVID-19.

We will see each other soon!



A Day in the Life of Zoom University >

by Marilyn

Classes Life Hacks Videos

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Throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, I avoided taking online classes for the simple fact that I enjoy interacting with peers and professors in a classroom setting. Due to the unprecedented circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been receiving questions from prospective and newly admitted students about how I have been navigating the change to online class instruction. I share in this video strategies that I have incorporated into my home environment to support my online learning. I also discuss how I engage in mental health check-ins to assess how I am doing with the various transitions I am navigating as a student — both professionally and personally. We can get through this together and do not forget to FIGHT ON!


Formula for Success >

by Marilyn

Life Hacks

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Town & Gown of USC is a non-profit philanthropic organization whose purpose is to support USC through scholarships for students, building and campus enhancements, and cultural programs. On February 4th, 2020 the USC Town & Gown Scholarship held its annual Town & Gown Scholars and Donors recognition lunch, in which Dr. Arthur C. Bartner (Director of the USC Trojan Marching Band) was celebrated and recognized for embodying the Spirit of Troy for the past 50 years. During his speech titled “The Man & Legend Behind the Spirit of Troy,”  Dr. Bartner shared with Town & Gown scholars and soon to be graduates 7 tips for the formula to success that I will be sharing in the blog post. As I reflect on these 7 tips for success, I recognize how blessed and grateful I am to learn alongside amazing and talented people. I have decided to share about peers in the program that embody one of the success tips mentioned in Dr. Bartner’s speech.

  1. Busy people are successful people

    LiShan Wee — “The key is doing something that you are very passionate about.” She currently serves as the Graduate Student Government Senator for the Occupational Therapy and Science Council and is part of the Global Initiatives team.
    LiShan Wee
  2. You have to believe in yourself

    Nicole Yoon — Selected as a Presenter for the AOTA Occupational Therapy Inventors Showcase at the 2020 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo in Boston, Massachusetts. Nicole perseveres relentlessly regardless of previous rejections that could be deemed as setbacks. She rebuilds her self-confidence by taking on new challenges and always proves how much she can achieve. Her ambitious goals and grit will make her a global phenomenon in OT.
    Nicole Yoon
  3. Seek out the mentors that can help you

    Rachel Kent — After completing my Level II fieldwork with Rachel during summer 2019 at St. Joseph’s Center, I was reminded about the importance of mentorship. She was always open to reaching out to mentors for assistance and feedback, in order to best support her clients. Her willingness to seek out mentors will propel her to make an impact across multiple settings in OT.
    Rachel Kent
  4. You have to be ambitious

    Janis Yu Elected as the AOTA Student Representative to the Commission on Education
    Janis Yu
  5. Continue to grow

    Daniela Valle — “The key to success is accepting feedback. Aspiring to be the best version of myself is a daily challenge. I am happy to say that I have friends and faculty in the program that I can count on to give me feedback. (They are also more than willing to discuss heavy topics that affect our communities and clients.) By accepting feedback, I can hone my strengths and work on challenges. Receiving feedback on areas that need changes helps me put my ego aside and focus on what can essentially make me a better practitioner. I have learned to not take feedback personally, but rather understand that it is an opportunity for growth.” Feedback provided by a peer, professor, or supervisor can often seem intimidating, however Daniela’s approach to feedback is valuable. Often the individual providing constructive feedback has a genuine desire to help improve your performance, which will ultimately lead to growth!
    Daniela Valle
  6. Networking is a way of life

    Ellie Bendetson — “Through networking, I have been able to pursue a variety of passions I didn’t know I had! During undergrad, I interviewed Dr. Stacy Schepens Niemiec about the use of technology to promote successful aging. After the interview, I continued to network and pursue opportunities in her lab and eventually gained a position assisting on a variety of exciting projects. I never thought I’d be interested in working with an older population or utilizing technology in my practice, but this networking allowed me to explore new areas of practice and build impactful connections.” I can relate to Ellie given my experience with volunteering in Dr. Schepens Niemiec’s lab on the Vivir Mi Vida pilot study. Networking often does not come easy to students, however it is encouraging to see peers use this tip to gain further research experiences in OT.
    Ellie Bendetson
  7. Be grateful

    Kiana Phillips — Grateful people make the world a better place. In my case Kiana has been my gratitude anchor that keeps me present in the moment. Her gratitude can shift the energy of any conversation or clouded perspective whether it be professionally or personally related. I am certain that she will continue to be source of light and harmony in my life, but most importantly for her future clients.
    Kiana Phillips


Being Waitlisted >

by Marilyn

1 comment

Admissions Videos

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The feelings one has when learning that they are waitlisted from a top-choice school can vary among each student. However, the reality is that there is still a possibility of gaining admittance to the institution. In this video, three MA-II 2nd year students (Nicole Yoon, Daniel Padilla, and I) discuss our experience with being waitlisted for the USC OT program. I am definitely not tech-savvy, so bear with me. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and hear about how we navigated this experience.

Fight on!

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