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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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The Giving T(e)ree(sa) >

by Teresa

Classes Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

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Heyyy, besties! So the moment we enter Q4 on October 1, I start thinking about giving season because not to brag, buuut… I take a lot of pride in that (I believe) I give fantastic gifts. Whether big or small, I always try to make sure my gifts show people I was really listening to them when they shared with me that they’ve been wanting “X” or are really into “Y.” My top love languages are “quality time” and “physical touch” so you can imagine how much ya’ girl struggled throughout the pandemic, I’m not going to lie. But “gifts” became a welcome… well, gift.

In OT 405: “Foundations of Occupation” last summer with Dr. Halle, we learned that occupational therapy is rooted in the Arts and Crafts Movement but that our OT-founding queen pointed out that “handiwork alone was insufficient” (Slagle, 1930, p. 271). Then in the 1961 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture, Dr. Mary Reilly shared the famous quote, “[Wo]Man through the use of [her] hands as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of [her] own health” (Reilly, 1963, p. 2). I know, I know — what is this, another lecture? But these things really stuck with me because it gave a definition to the calmness and serenity I had felt my entire life when crafting.

Over the past year, one of my favorite occupations has quickly become making things with my Cricut and I just feel the need to clear the air because whenever I say this, people are like “...🦗???” Okay, NO — it’s a machine that can make intricate cuts on paper, cardstock, vinyl, etc. and allows you to make your own personalized crafts.

It just so happens that in OT 405 last summer, I was placed in the same group with Alyssa Matlosz, who’d become my fellow student ambassador and more importantly, one of my closest friends in the program. She was the first facilitator for our group and in relation to her week’s topic of Progressive Era Influences on the founding of occupational therapy, she ended with “I’m just like my country — I’m young, scrappy, and hungry — and I’m not throwin’ away my shot” and I thought… Did we just become best friends?

So it only made sense that on her birthday this year, after a year’s worth of iconic Zoom moments…

Screenshot of Alyssa and her two stuffed animal koalas on Zoom from last year during remote learning. They are each wearing a birthday party hat

I truly do not even know how to begin to explain this, so please take it for what it is

...That I’d circle back to OT 405 and our shared love of “Hamilton: An American Musical” — a nod to the foundations of our friendship.

Screenshot of Teresa's design on the Cricut Design Space app, which includes the silhouette of a koala hanging onto a tree branch, the logo for Hamilton which is the silhouette of Alexander Hamilton pointing toward the sky as he stands atop a star, Alyssa's name in cursive font, and the words 'My Shot,' with the letters O.T. larger to signify occupational therapy

The designs I created on the Cricut Design Space app

Teresa selected the gold glittered vinyl she wanted to use, applied it to the green cutting mat, and inserted it into her mint-colored Cricut.

I selected the vinyl material I wanted to use, I arranged it to the cutting mat, I arranged it into the Cricut. (I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating!)

Two images of the weeding process following the cut. In the image on the left side, Teresa is using a sharp tool to extract the cut of the koala by removing the excess vinyl. In the image on the right side, all four designs have been weeded and are ready to transfer onto a surface.

Left: This process is called “weeding,” where you extract the cut by removing the excess vinyl. Right: The finished vinyl cuts ready to be transferred onto the surface I choose using transfer tape!

Two images of the final products after Teresa applied the vinyl cuts onto glassware. In the image on the left side, a shot glass reads 'My ShOT,' which is superimposed on top of the Hamilton logo. In the image on the right side, a wine glass reads 'Alyssa,' with the silhouette of a koala hanging onto a tree branch at the bottom of the glass.

Left: Honestly, I’m pretty proud of this. Please, no one ever throw away their (sh)OT. Right: Lights are overrated, there should be a koala at the end of every tunnel.

I made these gifts during a week that, truthfully, I did not have time for. In between assignments, exams, deadlines, and applications, I was feeling overwhelmed and to be completely honest, I couldn’t remember the last time I had done something unrelated to school. So instead, I took a break and powered up the old ‘Cut. Something I really enjoy about the therapeutic process of crafting is that not too long ago, you just had a concept you were brainstorming in your head and now it’s a tangible, real thing you brought to life. I’m not just talking about physical items you create with your hands, either. You can “craft” anything — an essay you wrote last week that you’re really proud of, a flyer you made online to promote an event, a photo you captured to add to your carefully curated Instagram post, a blog you’re writing about what everyone initially thought was your love for insects. You took an abstract idea and introduced it into the world and if your mind can do that, think of all the things you’re going to do in the future. What a wonderful gift for this world to look forward to — the promise and hope of the products of your creativity and ingenuity that are yet to come.

There is also something beautiful to be said about an item you make with your hands. I spent hours on this gift, but each moment was such a mindful experience. How could you not say crafting falls under OT? From the fine motor skills it takes to handle tools and delicate material, to the executive functioning required to sequence tasks, to the visuoperceptive skills needed to locate and work with everything, to the social connectedness you feel in making the activity personalized… the list goes on and on. And then being able to give the end product to another person and in doing so, indirectly saying, “I made this for you because I care about you. But in making it, I was able to sit down and take time away from my stress, so even though I care about you… I care about me, too.”

Is there any gift greater than that?

I have the honor to be…
Your obedient servant,
T dot Pham


Reilly, M. (1963). The Eleanor Clarke Slagle: Occupational Therapy Can Be One of the Great Ideas of 20th Century Medicine. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 30(1), 5–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/000841746303000102

Slagle, E. C. (1930). Address to graduates. Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation, 9, 271–276.

A Turning Point of My Life: From PKUHSC to USC >

by Global Initiatives Team

Classes Fieldwork International What are OS/OT?

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By Chen Gong, OTD

Editors Michelle Plevack and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

What made you interested in occupational therapy?

My story with occupational therapy began in 2018 when I was an intern therapist in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at The Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. As a beginner in OT, I attached importance to function-oriented treatment. However, my instructor encouraged me that I should pay more attention to the patient’s real life. Once, on a whim, I used a guitar to engage a patient with dementia in a music activity. The patient was relieved from the tiredness and boredom of previous therapy sessions. I could see tears in her eyes that this activity was meaningful to her. This incident has completely changed my opinion about OT, and let me really understand the meaning of occupation. Later, because of my love for OT, I came to the dual-degree OT program between Peking University Health Science Center (PKUHSC) and USC to continue my studies as an OTD student.

Why did you choose to continue your education with the OTD?

During my two years at PKUHSC, I gained a more systematic understanding of OT theoretical knowledge and gradually found the current situation of OT promotion in China. In many general hospitals, OTs have not found their own optimal practice area. OTs are unable to establish their professional identity and carry out meaningful acts of therapy. I deeply feel the inadequacy of my own ability. I look forward to further improving my professional level and leadership, exploring the OT market, and leading the development of OT in China in the future. I believe that studying at USC Chan will help me to achieve my goals.

Master’s degree ceremony: Peking University, Beijing, China, Summer 2021

Master’s degree ceremony: Peking University, Beijing, China, Summer 2021

How has the transition from MSc in PKUHSC to OTD been?

China and the United States have very different cultural backgrounds. This ranges from the perspective of OT education, the way of communication between people, the atmosphere of class and work, and the pace of life here are all different from before. It has basically been like learning how to grow up and live again. Fortunately, I quickly adapted to the lifestyle and study context here. For the first semester, I am working with Dr. Emily Sopkin and Dr. Shawn Roll separately for pedagogy and research. Now I can actively act as a mentee.

Chen’s First photo with USC Chan Division, Fall 2021

Chen’s First photo with USC Chan Division, Fall 2021

Describe your experience of OT school at PKUHSC vs USC.

Studying OT in PKUHSC for two years was really a very good experience. We completed the Master’s courses required by USC, and the way of teaching at PKUHSC was similar to USC Chan’s classes. In addition to the courses, we all completed a certain research project and published a paper in Chinese core journals. Through this, I have special appreciation for my mentor, Professor Ninghua Wang and her support for my research work. I also really appreciate my instructors Dr. Jane Liu, Dr. Liguo Qian, Dr. Hui Wang, Dr. Lily Xu and Dr. Buwen Yao, who were all students of USC Chan, and their efforts to localize these OT courses. Studying OT at USC is exciting. I can feel leadership everywhere. This immersion allowed me to think about how to develop my leadership. The Chan Division has its own unique experience in pedagogy, research, and clinical practice. I am sure I can learn something different from what I learned in PKUHSC, especially in clinical practice.

Unforgettable lunch with Dr. Emily Sopkin, Fall 2021

Unforgettable lunch with Dr. Emily Sopkin, Fall 2021

What do you think about your OTD residency so far?

It’s great! My residency for the first semester is mainly about pedagogy and research.

For my pedagogy residency I am a teaching assistant for OT 440: Kinesiology, which was also my favorite class when I was a Master’s student at PKUHSC. I enjoy this job. I developed a good mentoring relationship with Dr. Sopkin. I try to be creative by sharing knowledge related to the course with my students to help them learn from different perspectives.

For research, I’m working in the Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance (MSOP) laboratory. Now I am gradually getting involved in existing research in the lab, which makes me feel fulfilled. As Dr. Roll said, “I don’t think it’s that important for you to learn a particular skill. It’s more important to immerse yourself in the research environment and see how research works.” I couldn’t agree more.

What kind of OT do you want to be in the future? Your plans/goals after OTD graduation? Or how will you promote OT services in China?

Actually, I want to be an active OT, who is purposeful, has great leadership skills and knows how to promote OT effectively. I also hope that I will be good at several clinical skills, which will help me establish my professional identity.

I plan to work in the OT department of a general hospital, mainly engaged in the occupational therapy of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders of the upper limbs and hands, and also undertake part of the teaching work, e.g. combining what I learned here with China’s clinical context and then trying to establish a practical framework of occupation-based hand therapy education. As for research, I will try to design and lead research projects and apply for national funding.

Perspectives of a Post-Professional MA to OTD Student: Amy Yeu >

by Global Initiatives Team

Classes Externships International

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Su-Min (Amy) Yeu, OTD

By Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s student

In collaboration with Maggie Chen and Prutha Satpute
Global Initiatives OTDs

Editors Alison Chang, Vanessa Elshamy, and Brittany Inouye
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

First photo Amy took at USC — OTD, Fall 2021

First photo Amy took at USC — OTD, Fall 2021

Global Initiatives OTD Maggie Chen had the opportunity to interview international student, Su-Min (Amy) Yeu. Michelle Plevack wrote this blog with the purpose of sharing Amy’s perspectives of her transition from USC’s Post-Professional Master’s Program to the Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) Program.

What are some of the factors that influenced your decision to continue your education with the OTD?

Amy: I considered professional, personal, and program aspects. Professionally, I thought about my future career and my goals. As an international student, I thought about what I was interested in but could not learn in my hometown. For example, I know that OT in the United States focuses on health promotion, an area I am interested in. I also thought about the timeline and pathway that I am going to take in the future. For example, when am I going to do the OTD and how long is the program going to be?

Personally, I hope to return to Taiwan. I also thought: if I am not going to do the OTD, then what am I going to do? Am I going to work in the U.S. or am I going back to Taiwan? I also thought about the difference if I did not have the degree: is it only because I want to earn another credential, or is there anything else that is important to me? Another thing I considered was employment, of course. Like many students, I have concerns about paying tuition and looked into residencies that might offer a scholarship or stipend for me. As far as personal goals, it was important for me to travel abroad and to gain new experiences in the U.S.

Considering programs, I was interested in non-traditional tracks that focus on health and wellness and international relationships. I know at USC they have clinical, research, administration, and pedagogy tracks. I ended up being placed with the Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity (KCLC — clinical track) at USC which I am very grateful for, and I know at USC, I can choose to have a subspecialty — in research, for example — that could contribute to my career goals.

Commencement: Kaohsiung Medical University; Kaohsiung, Taiwan — Senior, 2018

Commencement: Kaohsiung Medical University; Kaohsiung, Taiwan — Senior, 2018

What goals have you set for yourself during your OTD? Why is the OTD beneficial to your future goals and career?

Amy: I want to network and build relationships within the USC community and improve my clinical skills by utilizing my therapeutic use of self, motivational interviewing, and evidence-based knowledge. With these skills, I can not only provide services appropriately, efficiently, and holistically to all students, but also appropriately refer students to other services. As I know these services are not currently popular in Taiwan, I hope to show the efficacy of the services at KCLC by conveying the unique roles and skills of occupational therapy and academic coaching services in universities. My future goal is to improve the quality of life of university students in Taiwan, particularly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, by implementing and developing novel ideas into on campus services. I believe having a doctorate level of education at international conferences will allow me to effectively advocate for essential services and pioneer the roles of OTs working in universities.

How has the transition from Post-Professional MA to OTD been?

Amy: This transition looks different depending on what track you are taking. For my clinical track, I spend most of my time in my residency at 20 or 40 hours a week. Compared to being an Post-Professional MA student, your role changes as an OTD student, as you are ‘in the driver’s seat’ where you need to be self-directed, proactive, and create your own structure to support your goals. However, because I am more settled into my role after the MA program, I feel less anxious and confused, and even excited about my coursework. Consequently, compared to being an MA student, there are fewer social opportunities with peers due to the nature of the coursework for the OTD program.

What has been the best and hardest part of the OTD so far?

Amy: The best part is my residency — I feel like I am seeing the endless possibilities of occupational therapy. There have been so many opportunities during the process of integrating my knowledge, experiences, and passions in a way where I am ‘learning by doing’. I get to wake up excitedly, not only because of schoolwork, but also because I am pursuing my dreams while collaborating with people who share the same goals, values, and beliefs. Some difficult aspects of the OTD for me as an international student are the language and cultural barriers, particularly while sharing thoughts. I am still figuring out how to provide services and express my perspectives with the KCLC team in an effective and efficient manner. Due to the cultural differences between myself, clients, and peers, I am also not always familiar with a place or experience they might reference to. Finally, learning to be more flexible due to the uncertainties of the pandemic, such as adjusting to hybrid services, has been a challenging transition as well.

How have you been balancing leisure and personal time with OTD responsibilities?

Amy: I try to be patient and kind to myself. Luckily, I work in a residency that promotes the importance of work-life balance and recommends us to not bring work home. I also try to focus on self-care activities, setting up short breaks, making time for myself, journaling, having snacks, listening to music, catching up with family, and socializing with friends on weekends.

What advice would you give to students about the OTD?

Amy: For those indecisive about the OTD, I would recommend connecting with professors, residents, and other peers who are interested in discussing the OTD. In my experience as a MA student, it can be hard to decide one month into the program if the OTD is right for you. And even though I am very satisfied with my residency, I regret not applying to even more sites! Remember that post-graduation, you do not need to stick to whatever you do for your OTD. If you are planning on doing the OTD, consider what you want to get out of this program. You won’t regret it! Keep dreaming big! Jot down your thoughts, journal, and think deeper. Remember there are no restrictions with what you can do with an OT background. Consider being open to roles or positions not necessarily called OT if they relate to your passions.

Amy’s residency: USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity; Los Angeles — OTD, 2021

Amy’s residency: USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity; Los Angeles — OTD, 2021


Dear Zoom, it wasn’t you >

by Silvia

Classes Living in LA

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I’m just going to say it—I miss Zoom University. 

Zoom University and I had a toxic relationship and although it wasn’t my first, it certainly is the only one I miss. Sometimes you really “don’t know what you have till it’s gone.” Don’t get me wrong; I love being on campus, seeing all my beautiful friends, and making real-life connections with my professors, pero like*…it’s hard out here.

Before making the transition back to in-person classes, after over a year of Zoom, I never truly realized or acknowledged how much work it takes to be an occupational being, aka a student. Let’s just consider some of the things that we didn’t have to do when Zoom was part of our lives (or at least my life):

  1. Get ready in the morning (if you still did this, I am proud of you and I admire you)
  2. Prep lunch
  3. Pack bag(s)
  4. Leave the house
  5. Drive to campus
  6. Find parking
  7. Walk to class
  8. Sit in class
  9. Actually pay attention in class (R.I.P mute and camera functions)
  10. Socialize

I’m sorry, but the fact that I can’t get up and walk to my fridge for a quick snack or mute myself/turn my camera off and lay down on my bed for a second is rude. Also, do you know how intense my phobia of getting stuck in LA traffic on a school morning is? Ok never-mind the phobia, have you seen those gas prices? Seriously though, transitioning back to in-person classes has been quite an adjustment that I wasn’t fully prepared for.

As much as I hated being confined to Zoom at home, I had a greater sense of control over my entire school experience and I loved that about our relationship. I didn’t have to worry about traffic, whether or not I would find a parking spot, or being late for that matter. I could monitor the sound level, air temperature, light intensity, number of guests—basically everything that I have absolutely no control over in the underground lecture hall, G 37. G 37 induces sensory overload in my body and exhausts me; it makes me reminisce the good times with Zoom.

I feel guilty for hating Zoom so much when all it did was love me and be there for me through the hard times, aka the pandemic. Yes, it gave me migraines and worsened my vision, but it also let me sleep in, eat during class, lay down between lectures, and spend my money on things other than gas. If I am being honest, it wasn’t Zoom, it was me. I was so upset and stuck on the idea of being “robbed” from my graduate school experience that I didn’t value or appreciate all the good things Zoom had to offer. I thought I was ready to move on—to be 100% back in-person and on campus—but what the heart wants is not always what the body wants or needs. While my heart is happy to finally see and meet my cohort and class in real life instead of a square on a computer screen, my body is tired and needs time to adjust.

I know I am not the only one feeling this way, and I just want you to know that you have permission to miss Zoom too. Listen to your body, allow it to rest and recharge as it adjusts to yet another change.

*Common Spanglish phrase meaning “but like”


What I wish I knew before taking the “Foundations” courses: Part 2 >

by Arianna

Classes Life Hacks

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Hello again! Here is the second part of my last blog. I hope this mini-series gives the Entry-Level MA students some study tips for their next exam. In this blog, I will talk about Neuroscience and Creativity, Craft and Activity Analysis!

Foundations: Neuroscience:
Neuroscience was slightly easier than Kinesiology for me because I have a pretty decent background in Psychology and Cognitive Science. However, we did cover a LOT of information in this class. Nonetheless, Dr. Winder is such a lovely professor to be around so I’m sure you will have a great time learning about the nervous system!

  • Tip #1: Make a study guide ASAP.

Eventually, Dr. Winder will post a study guide for each unit. I suggest downloading that study guide and filling it out as you cover the content in class. This will save you a LOT of time when you are studying, and it will help you focus your attention on the important information. But please don’t disregard the information that is not on the study guide. Everything you learn in this class will come up in your life whether it be on the exam, or with a future client. As my Physiology professor once said, “If you don’t want to study for your own benefit, study for the benefit of your future patients”.

  • Tip #2: Watch YouTube videos about each topic.

Some of the concepts you learn about in this class are hard to understand without the assistance of videos. For example, I watched the same video of neural tube formation probably 6-8 times before I was confident enough to move on. (Here’s the link if you were interested.)
Actually, I think I’ll just link all of my go-to videos!

In my opinion, these topics are difficult to learn about on paper, so I recommend watching some videos to help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of each concept.

  • Tip #3: Study with real-life examples.

You will be learning about many different conditions and disabilities in this class and it can be hard to keep track of each individual disability. I guess this tip is pretty similar to the last tip but I suggest looking up “Living with ______” when you are studying disabilities. Hearing the story from a real person and watching how the disability affects their daily life is a lot more memorable than reading bullet points off a slide.

Foundations: Creativity, Craft and Activity Analysis
I can’t lie, this class was the most fun out of the 4 Foundations courses. However, I might be a little biased because Crafts was the only class I had in person. Towards the end of the semester, we started having in person Crafts a few times a month which made this class stand out from the others. In my opinion, this class is not stressful. In fact, it is the exact opposite! Being able to relax and create things with my hands for three hours once a week allowed me to unwind and forget my worries. Therefore, I don’t have many study tips, but I do have some advice!

  • Tip #1: Fully immerse yourself in the activity.

When I first started this class, I had a hard time letting myself relax and enjoy the moment when we were crafting. As you all probably know, being a full time student can be overwhelming. I did not want to allow myself to relax because I felt guilty for not studying. Although you may feel this way at times, please enjoy yourself and have fun with this unique opportunity to make art in class! During this course, I decided I would put my entire heart into it because I wanted to find a new favorite occupation. I eventually realized how happy I was when I crafted, and decided to pick up nail art as a hobby.

  • Tip #2: Get a head start on your final essay.

I would get a head start on your final essay if possible. When I was in the class, Dr. Dieterle posted the prompt for the final essay a few weeks before it was due. I ended up writing it that weekend because I had 2 other finals on the same day the final essay was due! Hopefully none of you have 3 finals on one day, but you will be thanking yourself for getting a headstart on your work when exams start to pile up.

  • Tip #3 Take notes during guest speaker presentations.

This might be obvious but you should take lots of notes during the guest speaker presentations! I’m not sure if you have to write Guest Speaker Reflections, but if you do, it will be helpful to take ample notes during the presentation so you have plenty of topics to write about in your reflection. As a bonus, these notes might be a source of inspiration for you in your future career!

That was my last tip for the blog. I hope you enjoyed this mini-series and found this advice helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Thank you for tuning in!

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