Tips to Stay Organized >
September 10, 2020
During my time in graduate school, I found that success is closely tied to organizational skills. Towards the beginning of each semester, I typically become overwhelmed by my new schedule and all of the combined assignments. I, therefore, have discovered a few simple ways to help ease my concern and make it ALL seem a little more manageable. Here is a list of a few tips you may find helpful to assist you with staying organized throughout the semester:
- Weekly Schedule: Develop a weekly schedule PDF, Excel, or Word document that you can always refer to when you need to schedule a meeting, a study session with friends, a doctor’s appointment, or time to engage in a meaningful and rejuvenating occupation such as exercising. This weekly schedule can be color-coded and can include everything that you have committed your time to on a continuous weekly basis. This will allow you to view your weekly class, volunteer, fieldwork, and work schedule in one location, making it easy to see what time you have available in order to schedule events or utilize and assign your free time to activities and assignments. I also add in blocks for driving and eating to better understand what time I have completely free and what time I am filling with other necessary occupations. Here is my weekly calendar example:
- Excel Assignment List: At the start of each semester I go through every single syllabus and note the assignment with the due date on an excel document. I color-code each class and then use the sort tool to organize the assignments by the due date. This way I can scroll through at the end of each week to see what I need to do over the weekend, plan what I can complete during my free time allotted in my weekly schedule, and check to make sure I have completed the all of the assignments before I go to bed each night. This is a quick and easy way to have all the assignments and exam due dates listed in one location! You can also delete the row or change the color of the assignment once it is completed to feel a sense of relief and instant satisfaction. Here is how I created mine:
- Digital USC Folder: I created a folder for all things USC on my desktop. Inside this folder, I have created subfolders to save and organize my documents into. For example, I have folders for each semester. Once you open my semester folder you will find a folder listed for each class I am taking. This makes it extremely easy to find my notes, study guides, online textbooks, or anything else I need for each particular class.
- Sticky Notes: I utilize the sticky note tool on my desktop to write down small to-do lists each day, reminders, and zoom links for class that aren’t linked through blackboard to make them easily accessible. If you do not have the sticky note tool on your desktop you can do this by hand in a planner, on your phone in a notes section, or in a word document that you can continuously update.
- Shared Calendar: I have developed a monthly calendar that is linked to my computer and to my phone. That way if I add anything on one device it will automatically link to the other. This is helpful if I am out of the house and have to organize a meeting, event, or group project. You can do this on Outlook, Google Calendar, iCal, etc. I add my classes, any breaks or holidays to that calendar, and any appointments or future reminders in this calendar.
I hope this list has provided you with at least one technique that can help you stay organized this semester. Be sure to tailor these items to fit your particular needs!
Crafting a Personal Statement >
August 26, 2020
During my application process, I wanted to make sure that I would stand out. I spent weeks worrying about what I could do to make the admissions team stop and say “WOW” when reading through the hundreds of applications they received that year. This was stressful, to say the least. I felt as though everyone else applying also had good grades and GRE scores. I volunteered in a variety of clinics, held leadership positions in multiple organizations, and participated in an OT research lab throughout my undergraduate career but I knew that most applicants were also very involved. Despite all these achievements I continued to worry about how I could stand out! What would grab the admission counselor’s attention? I soon realized it would have to be my Personal Statement.
The USC Chan Personal Statement was my time to shine. I spent weeks drafting different ideas about what I thought the admissions team wanted to hear. I spoke about my leadership, my academic success, etc. Each time I would read over the new version I didn’t think it was good enough. After speaking to my sister about my dilemma and having her read over my outline she turned to me and said, “Savi we all know you are successful. Now tell them who you are beneath all the success. Who is Savi and why are you built to be an OT?” This quickly made me realize that I had been spending my time writing a personal statement with the sole purpose of impressing the admissions team. Instead, I needed to focus my energy on finding one story that exemplifies who I am and how I fit into the Chan community.
I deleted my list of achievements and started fresh. I brainstormed ideas of when I had implemented techniques similar to OT intervention in a non-traditional setting. I did this because I wanted to demonstrate that my imagination would benefit me as both an OT student at USC and as a future OT practitioner. I landed on my experience as a Human Resources intern at a start-up tech company after my freshman year of college. During my time at this company, I noticed that employees led a primarily sedentary and ergonomically insufficient work lifestyle. I, therefore, focused my time as an intern on developing an innovative approach to educate and enable the employees on adopting a healthy and ergonomically sustainable lifestyle in the office. I used the company’s core values, personalities, and goals to develop the perfect “interventions” based on their needs, including a wellness competition, games to engage in physical activity, and workshops on how to set up their workspace to promote sustained engagement and success.
Looking back on this internship I realized how aligned my innovation skills were with OT techniques. Naturally, I found myself understanding the importance of exploring clients’ situational context, personality, and environment in order to develop innovative treatment plans that promote engagement in meaningful occupations. This story exemplified that even before I decided to pursue a career in OT I utilized the leadership and career opportunities I had to use my creativity to help others…sounds kind of like an OT right!? Was this internship the biggest success I have ever achieved? No. Does everyone else applying also have work or internship experience? Yes. Although the experience of being an intern may seem common and unoriginal, I was able to dive deeper into how I utilized one of USC Chan’s core values to demonstrate who I am and what kind of OT I want to be. So dive deeper into those “regular or unoriginal” experiences in order to demonstrate how you made it extraordinary just by being yourself!
What Student Organization Should I Join? >
August 4, 2020
As the summer semester is coming to an end and the fall semester is quickly approaching, many students become aware of the various opportunities they have to get involved. Emails start to trickle in informing them of volunteer opportunities, student organizations, student council, student worker positions, and much more. Looking back on my first year, I recall this being one of the most overwhelming times for me because I didn’t know which organization would be the best fit for me. For that reason, I have gone ahead and reached out to individuals in our program who are involved in each organization. I asked them why they chose to be a part of this organization and what they have gained from or learned about by being a member. Hopefully, this helps you decide what you want to be a part of!
I do want to echo Calvin, Lamoni, and Marilyn’s blog posts by reminding you all that it is ok to say no and that it is important to maintain a proper work-life balance. You do not have to be a part of multiple or any organizations for that matter! I urge you to invest time in things that matter to you. For the first three semesters of graduate school, I only committed my time to schoolwork and my job as a gym receptionist. It wasn’t until the Student Ambassador position presented itself at the end of my Spring semester that I found myself getting more involved in the Chan community outside of class. Whether your meaningful occupations fall within or outside our program, find one or two activities or organizations that you are passionate about. Try your best not to overcommit yourself and do not feel like you have to rush into a decision. If you are unsure about an opportunity I can promise you that a new one will be just around the corner! With that being said…here are students’ insight on their student organizations.
- OTs for OuTreach: “I chose to get involved with OTs for OuTreach because I wanted to be able to connect with other people in the program that aligned with my queer identity and be able to talk about our shared experiences throughout the program together. I was really searching for a sense of community and also a way I could get involved with the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles through community services/volunteer opportunities. I have always been involved in some way with queer organizations in high school and in undergrad so having a queer org in graduate school was essential for me to find community at the start of a new chapter in my life.” — Gabe Cravens; President of OTs for OuTreach
- Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD): “My COTAD team knows about the importance of representation. Many people do not apply to programs like ours because they don’t see anyone like them. And a lot of people don’t know about occupational therapy because it’s mainly a white, female, heterosexual, middle-class profession. So, establishing a COTAD chapter at USC felt really important (I think every OT program should have a chapter). Along with those points, the OS seminar has really emphasized cultural values and how that shapes people’s occupations. COTAD can bring more insight into those views by advocating for diversity. Taking on the role of chapter president made me nervous because of the time commitment but so many people have reached out saying that they want to get more involved, they’ve pitched in ideas on what our chapter should do, helped plan events. It truly ends up being a team effort. Because of that, Its a lot less overwhelming than I thought it would be. And we’ve only been established for a few months. We’re coming off the ground (which is the hardest part) so I can’t wait until the future when everything is rolling.” — Lamoni Lucas; COTAD Chair
- USC Occupational Therapy and Science Council (OTSC): “Being a part of OTSC has taught me how important it is to listen to the student body’s values and what they truly want from a governing student council, being the social media chair has taught me how important connection is, especially during this global pandemic in which we are all undergoing remote learning and our connections are no longer in person. We have been able to create a strong virtual bond regardless of external factors we have no control over, and that is why I decided to join OTSC, to connect and create the best graduate experience possible for all students!” — Samantha Coelho; OTSC Social Media Representative
- Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE): “I was interested in PTE because it was different from other organizations. PTE has a major focus on scholarship and research opportunities. As a research assistant, I have learned more about all of the cool things OS and OT research labs are working on, so I wanted to get involved in an organization that focused on conversations surrounding these topics. As a PTE member, I can utilize the division’s expansive resources to learn from a variety of Chan faulty and staff. Although we aren’t following the regular events we usually put on due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are taking more time to implement interdisciplinary programming with students in other health disciplines. We have developed an OT and PT forum to talk about case studies and build treatment plans together, and we are also adapting events to work with other PTE chapters. This organization takes its own spin on promoting scholarship and fostering opportunities to work in transdisciplinary teams.” — Renee Reinberg; Co-President of PTE
- Integrative Health Association (IHA): “Getting involved with the integrative health association stemmed from my background in energy healing and yoga. I deeply believe that we all deserve to find a type of healing that works best for ourselves and our clients. Immersing myself with like-minded classmates who also want to learn about integrative health topics has been such a blessing during my time at USC.” — Jenna Freeman; IHA Chair
- USC Student-Run Clinic (SRC): “Before coming into OT school, I worked in an interdisciplinary clinic for children who’ve experienced trauma. I shadowed an OT and observed how she worked alongside a team of health professionals to tackle very complex situations. When I came into USC, I was very excited to be a part of the SRC, where different disciplines could also come together to work on healthcare cases for vulnerable populations. Being in SRC challenged my assumptions of other health professions and brought me more understanding of the unique role that each healthcare member contributes to the team. This experience also helped me feel more comfortable advocating for the importance of OT, both with clients and with other health professionals, as a means to serve complex populations more effectively as a team.” — Katherine Tao; JWCH Clinic Site Coordinator
- The Chan Community Commission (CCC): “Joining CCC was kind of serendipitous because my friend Sarah Morris and I wanted to create a peer mentorship program for incoming students during summer. We reached out to Dr. Rafeedie with the idea and were added to the taskforce that ended up evolving into the CCC! I have definitely enjoyed working together with such wonderful passionate people to make CCC a reality and share ideas and bring them to fruition.” — Kayla Jahari; Co-Leader of the Peer Mentorship Circles in CCC
- The Chan Community Commission (CCC) Continued:“For me, being a member of the Chan Community Commission (CCC) this summer has been a wellspring of hope and positive energy in the midst of the most tumultuous socio-political period of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the CCC team to create opportunities for Chan students and faculty to build community and practice wellness together. I am looking forward to continuing to strengthen our OT community this fall as part of the OTSC Philanthropy Committee!”
— Adam Strizich; CCC Health & Wellness Sub-Committee Lead
**As Adam has mentioned the CCC will no longer continue under this title in the Fall, so please click here to learn more about the future of CCC and how they are uniting with OTSC and Global Initiatives.
When a Planner’s Plan Doesn’t go to Plan >
July 21, 2020
You never know where you are going to end up. This was a comment I heard from a lot of USC faculty and staff during my first summer in the Master’s program. I would chuckle and dismiss these comments because I have always known what setting I wanted to work in as an occupational therapist (OT). When I have a plan I rarely sway from it. After deciding to pursue a career as an OT in acute care during my junior year of high school, I did everything I could to fulfill this dream of mine.
Upon entering into my first immersion, mental health, I had already convinced myself that this was not the field I was going to work in. As I attended more classes, participated in group discussions, and immersed myself in an eye-opening fieldwork placement, I soon came to realize that my plan to pursue a career in acute care may not be my goal after all. In this fieldwork setting I listened to my clients’ stories and worked with them to overcome the mental health barriers they faced to become better mothers. This experience made me realize that my love for working with clients to improve both mental and physical health in order to engage in meaningful occupations can be applied in a variety of settings. For the first time in a while, I was confused about where I was going to end up, and that made me feel uneasy.
It was not until I was introduced to my faculty mentor, Kimberly Perring Lenington, that I came to terms with the fact that my confusion was a good thing and not something to be afraid of. I instantly admired Dr. Lenington for achieving my original goal of working in the acute care setting directly after graduating from USC. I remember asking Dr. Lenington if this was her goal all along and recall her explaining that this was not her plan. She fell into this setting and loves it. I was shocked. I didn’t have to plan my entire career from high school in order to be successful in my field of choice?
While learning more about Dr. Lenington I discovered a niche specialty I was never aware of. Dr. Lenington also treats individuals with various pelvic health diagnoses including incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction. After diving deeper into this pelvic health specialty and learning more about OT’s role in sexual health in my OT 534 Health Promotion and Wellness course, I became fascinated by the opportunity to work with women to help them holistically. In this setting, I could tackle the mental and physical barriers to achieving pelvic health in order to help women participate in meaningful occupations. Let’s just say I was immediately hooked!
Although I am still passionate about the possibility of working in an acute care setting, I have come to the understanding that I must allow myself to keep an open mind. Without doing so I would have never discovered the pelvic health specialty that I am now extremely excited about. It is ok to be confused about where you want to be once you graduate. This confusion is truly a gift. Allowing yourself to keep an open mind, in turn, widens the realm of possibilities. So to those who are planners like me, know that it is all right to redo your plan. Keep your options open…you never know what opportunities could be coming your way!
Why I Decided to Run a Half Marathon >
July 9, 2020
Making time for something other than work during graduate school can seem like a daunting task. Your days are filled with classes, exams, projects, essays, and more. I quickly found myself stuck in an unhealthy routine of going to class all day, driving directly to work, eating late at night, and staying up late to finish assignments and readings. After transitioning to studying and working from home, I found myself not only justifying my lack of self-care engagement to myself but also my extremely caring and somewhat concerned roommates. Although I had gained more time because I no longer had to commute, I continued to convince myself that wasting time on non-school or work-related endeavors was lazy and not worthwhile. After a few weeks of using this mentality, I gradually noticed my productivity declining and my energy depleting. As occupational therapists, we are supposed to help our clients engage in adequate self-care in order to live a more balanced, healthy, and productive lifestyle. I, therefore, knew deep down that it was time to make a change! I needed to enjoy my daily occupations and find ways to feel accomplished and energized once again, so I decided to train for a half marathon.
This was a practical decision for me, but it was not an easy one. To say it bluntly, I do not like running. I know what you might be wondering…why would you voluntarily decide to run a half marathon then Savi? Great question! I needed to change my tiring routine and add in an occupation that would increase my energy and productivity. As Dr. Laura Cox and Dr. Kelcie Kadowaki taught me in our OT 534: Health Promotion and Wellness course this semester, physical activity can promote psychological wellbeing, elevate cognitive functioning, and enhance self-esteem. In hopes of improving my overall wellbeing, I decided to listen to my professors’ advice and embark on a journey that I wasn’t initially enthusiastic about.
I created a strict training schedule and I sought out the advice of my friends who had already run a few half marathons. If I’m being completely honest, the first four runs were tough. I was out of shape and I was still in the mindset that training was taking time away from my studying. By the end of the second week, I had become so used to integrating the runs into my schedule that I would immediately stand up after class to go put on my running gear. My runs became easier and they allowed me more time to step away from my computer, breathe some fresh air, and listen to good music. Every time I came back home I felt as though I had more energy to engage in schoolwork and even socialize with my roommates during dinner. Checking the run off of my to-do list gave me a sense of accomplishment and increased my motivation to tackle the next item on my list. I found myself counting down the minutes before I could go on my run in order to increase my self-esteem and drive.
Many of you reading this currently work or want to work in the healthcare field and are, therefore, laughing at this epiphany of mine. You may be saying to yourself…well of course you are feeling this way! Exercise has proven to have many physiological and psychological health benefits. My response is that you are right! Although I knew the benefits all along, I had trouble finding a way to integrate it into my hectic lifestyle. I soon came to realize, though, that by adding this time for self-care, I was even more productive than before. I felt more confident in my ability to succeed academically, and I was more excited to engage in all my other occupations. So to those who need to hear it: Self-care is important and should not be left out of your schedule due to time constraints. The time you spend working on yourself allows you to tackle any obstacle in your way with more confidence and enthusiasm, so find the occupation that reminds you how strong, hard-working, and successful you truly are. Take the leap and “run that half-marathon” because I promise that you won’t regret it. I’ll meet you at the finish line!