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Humans of USC Chan Volume 3 ⟩
April 20, 2022, by Seth

Community Diversity What are OS/OT?

Committing to graduate school is a big decision and exploring which ones may be the best fit for you can be an equally arduous experience. I remember when I was looking into occupational therapy programs, I looked at the standard quality and cost components, but as a queer person, I was also looking for a place and a profession that I felt could let me blossom as I transitioned into a new life stage (i.e., adulthood, a professional, and, let’s be honest, a world outside of the closet). I wanted to know if I could drop my hairpins or if I had to censor myself. I wanted to know if I could bring LGBTQIA+ topics into the classroom without being anxious about how they would be received. Would I feel isolated or could I find a community? My community? What are my classmates’ experiences, and what can I learn from them? These questions can be hard to find and directly seeking them out can be intimidating or a moment of self-disclosure that may not feel right yet. After all, it’s not often you see these experiences plastered on a program’s website. So, I took it upon myself to do just that.

I hosted a forum with some LGBTQIA+ students within the Chan Division to talk about how they discovered occupational therapy, their relationship with the profession, and their experiences navigating an occupational therapy program. This is a video curated by a queer person in partnership with queer people. And this one is for the family! We even share some advice for those thinking of applying to a program. If you choose to watch it through YouTube, the video is time-stamped with each topic if you ever want to go back to a specific conversation.

I hope you find this video helpful and that these diverse perspectives give you more insight into what LGBTQIA+ student life is like in the Chan Division! Welcome back to the Humans of USC Chan!


AOTA: 10/10 Would Recommend ⟩
April 9, 2022, by Silvia

Community Getting Involved

Back in February, Dr. Rafeedie sent me an email with the subject “Free AOTA Registration” — which was weird because I never win anything — apparently, I had won a free registration for the AOTA Inspire 2022 Annual Conference & Expo. As I was entertaining the idea of buying a flight ticket to Texas for this conference, Bianca Ojeda and Dr. McNulty did the most to convince me: they told me about the USC Trojan Reception. And although they had me at party — I mean reception — I still had to con$ider other factor$. In her email, Dr. Rafeedie added, “Not sure if you would plan a trip to San Antonio around this . . . but virtual is also an option.”

Planning a trip meant I would spend money on my flight, hotel, and food, which I hadn’t necessarily budgeted for, and because I am working on not making impulsive decisions, I slept on it before accepting. The smart, financial friendly, option would have been to attend the event virtually. Did I do that? No — but listen, the hotel was discounted because I split it with friends, AND the experience was priceless. I should say that the only reason I’ve been able to remain cool, calm, and collected despite the hefty price tag attached to graduate school/USC is because I continuously tell myself that this is an investment I am making. Repeat after me: I am investing in myself and my future. So, truly, in the name of professional development and networking, I decided to book my flight and attend the conference in-person in Texas.

Here’s a little glimpse into the experience:


The conference started on Thursday and went until Sunday. Some friends arrived Wednesday to attend sessions that were happening on the first day of the conference, while others arrived on Thursday night. We downloaded the AOTA app which allowed us to view the different session topics and times, making it easier to create our “AOTA session lineup” (Plevack, 2022). My lineup included “conversations that matter” and “short courses” on topics such as collaboration between OTs and behavior analyst, meeting the mental and behavioral needs of children, moving into mental health practice, and sexuality as a meaningful occupation, to name a few. We also attended the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture as a group. In case you missed it, Dr. Mary Lawlor became the “16th USC-affiliated recipient of the [AOTA Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship] award, and will deliver her Slagle Lecture during the 2023 AOTA conference in Kansas City.”

Girlfriends in front of AOTA backdrop

Friends at AOTA: Silvia Hernandez-Cuellar, Daniela Flores-Madriaga, Michelle Plevack, Monica Martinez

Slagle Lecture award

A proud moment: Dr. Mary Lawlor winning the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship award

AOTA selfie with friends

AOTA day 3, but first #SELFIE


I was taking my first sip of coffee, sitting in an NBCOT session, when I received a text that read: “Hi! Just confirming you’re working the booth this morning . . .” Woops. So yes, I might’ve forgot that I was supposed to be working a shift and arrived 15 minutes late, but everything worked out. I talked to many OT peeps — students, faculty, staff, alumni, fieldwork educators, vendors, the list goes on. I also I put my networking skills to work and felt the power of being part of the #TrojanFamily. Good things await and it is exciting!

Sitting at the USC booth

Me at the USC both; working hard or hardly working?

Trojan Family Reception

I can’t say much because what happens in Texas, stays in Texas. However, I will say that even if you don’t win one of the raffled prizes (remember I said I never win anything), you will still have a night to remember.

A picture with Bianca

Bianca, I, and the view from the balcony of the Trojan Family Reception

A picture of some Latinx students with Dr. Diaz

Una foto con el Dr. Diaz

Students with Dr. Rafeedie

MA2 students with Dr. Rafeedie

If you ask me, I would 10/10 recommend that you attend an AOTA conference.


A Letter to the Future International Students ⟩
April 5, 2022, by Marvyn

Admissions Community International

Hello there!

If you are reading this blog, you are either a current student (whom by no means I coerced to read LOL), you are aspiring to become a student of USC Chan, or you are already on your way to becoming one. Wherever you may be in your life, I encourage you to read on.

Allow me to tell you this: Being a part of the USC Chan community is genuinely a life-changing opportunity. I am not saying this just because I am a student ambassador, but I am genuine when I say that my experience at USC Chan has been so enriching and filled with countless, irreplaceable memories. If you have been following all my blog posts, I have nothing but love for the Post-Professional Master’s program and USC in general. No matter what your professional and/or life goals are, USC Chan is the best place to achieve them. I still cannot believe how lucky I am to belong in such a great community of professionals!

I actually didn’t think I could become a USC Trojan. I was already working as a pediatric occupational therapist back in the Philippines, and I was very happy. I was already touching people’s lives in a way that OTs uniquely do. With that said, I always felt like I needed to grow and expand my horizons. So, when I saw the opportunity to apply for USC in this program, I felt like I was about to battle a behemoth. It was so intimidating. I was asking myself, “Why would the university even consider someone like me to be part of their program? I’m so delusional to think that they would spend time looking at my profile!” The funny thing is, the only reason that motivated me to shoot for the stars, aka making and submitting my application, was because I was stuck in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. I guess you could say that circumstances work for you as long as you give it a shot.

I’ll affirm what you may feel: It is quite daunting to take on such an endeavor as this — being away from your family, being challenged to be on your own, and navigating through your life mostly by yourself. But what I can also say is that in pursuit of your goals in life, everything can be made possible with the exposure you get to people around you at USC Chan. I was so fortunate enough to be given the privilege of meeting such a diverse group of people from all over the world! I never felt like I was alone and I knew that we all have something in common: our passion to become the best occupational therapists we can be. So even if I knew that the road I am taking is very long and difficult, I also know that I have people right by me who can support me in my aspirations.

Breaking out of your comfort zone is definitely what you can expect from this experience. Based on my own experience, I felt like the past year has been such a year of growth for me in a way that’s not just about being an OT. As a dreamer and an aspirer, this past year really pushed my boundaries and shaped (and re-shaped) who I thought I was and who I want to become. I believe that being placed in such an uncomfortable situation can lead to the most growth in your life. Truly, I am a waaay better person than I was before, and I can never trade this evolution for anything.

Now that I’m at the home stretch of my program (ONE MONTH LEFT!), I feel like I need more time. I’m not ready to leave USC Chan yet. It feels like I just got here, and I am still getting used to all the growth I am having under the USC blanket. But that’s the thing, right? Putting yourself in situations that push you out of your comfort zone is a crucial part of the USC experience. Being part of the program is much more than just studying; it is about gaining experiences that will truly change your life. And now that I am almost done with the program, I feel like USC is thrusting me toward another set of challenges and opportunities for growth. I guess I’m liking the feeling of discomfort after all!

Alas, I am writing all this because I just want to tell you all how excited I am for you to experience what I have had during my time here at USC Chan and much more. It sounds bittersweet to think that I am about to graduate and that all of you will fall in love with USC Chan in your own unique way. I will forever be grateful to USC for giving me this chance of a lifetime, and I truly look forward to seeing what the future holds for not only myself but for you as well. You are truly in for a ride of your life.


March 26, 2022, by Teresa

Community Diversity First-Gen

That’s it. That’s the post.

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on all the women who’ve helped shape me into the woman I am today while I learn how to use my voice for all the women to come. Here are some of them:

From left to right: Daniela, Michelle, Miranda, myself, Maggie, Denisse, Emily, China, Lizzo

From left to right: Daniela, Michelle, Miranda, myself, Maggie, Denisse, Emily, China, Lizzo

Over 75% of occupational therapists in America are women and I can’t wait to become one of them. To enter a profession filled with such intelligent, warm, compassionate, and beautiful individuals such as the ones pictured alongside me here always reassures me that I followed the right path. Both in and out of the classroom, I learn so much from their strength, resilience, and experiences. With all of us being at Chan at the same time and learning from our professors who are some of the most powerful women I’ve encountered in this profession, we are constantly challenged to grow into our power as well.

Top row from left to right: Michelle, Yuka, Courtney, Ann, Connie; Bottom row from left to right: Joan, myself, Kristine

Top row from left to right: Michelle, Yuka, Courtney, Ann, Connie
Bottom row from left to right: Joan, myself, Kristine

From middle school to undergrad, I’ve found lifelong friends along the way and I am so proud of the women we’ve become and are on our way to becoming! It’s extremely empowering to see my friends achieving their goals and doing the things we talked about growing up. I love hearing their stories about their respective fields — marketing, medicine, accounting, nursing, business, social work — and only hope they feel the same whenever I talk about OT. At this point, I’m pretty sure they could give you a pretty good definition of what occupation is 😉 Whether it be moving across the country to start a new job, going to graduate school, or buying a home, I love to see my favorite women succeed. It motivates me to work toward my dreams as well, so that we can all celebrate our wins together. #WomenPostingWs

Me, my sister, Kim (USC Price MHA ’16), and our nieces manifesting Fight On ✌️ for me at my graduation from UCLA in 2018

Me, my sister, Kim (USC Price MHA ’16), and our nieces manifesting Fight On ✌️ for me at my graduation from UCLA in 2018

Last but not least, there’s all the women in my family who have played a crucial role in who I am. Coming from a family of refugees and immigrants, obtaining degrees from all these fancy universities sometimes feels . . . snobby, even though it’s the very reason they came here – better opportunities for those who came after, for me. I think about this a lot and even more so once I became an aunt to two beautiful girls. While the strength, resilience, and sacrifices of my grandma, mom, aunts, and sisters have shaped who I am, my nieces help shape the woman I want to become.

When taken together, I am reminded of the complexities of being a woman, the many roles and expectations it comes with (both good and bad), and how this experience becomes further convoluted by things out of one’s control, including gender identity, being BIPOC, and the imposition of traditional gender roles. When I think about my own intersectionality, it is in relation to a new skill — learning how to use my voice to take up space. Growing up, I was told to become the docile, hardworking, obedient Vietnamese girl I was meant to be. As the youngest daughter, my thoughts often came last and my opinions were seldom considered as a serious contributor to the conversation. So as I grew into womanhood, being told that my voice mattered felt unnatural sometimes. It can still be difficult to organize my thoughts and convey them as a seamlessly delivered statement, without anticipating being silenced. I still haven’t figured out the surefire way to rectify this, but I do know how empowering it is when I use my voice and have folks right there alongside me, listening and lifting. I’d like to leave you with a poem I admire; it is my hope you use it to uplift the voices of all the women in your life, this month and every month until the end of time.


Hear me as a woman.
Have me as your sister.
On purpled battlefield breaking day,
So I might say our victory is just beginning,
See me as change,
Say I am movement,
That I am the year
And I am the era
Of the women.

“Won’t You Be My Sister?”
by Amanda Gorman


Flashback To My First Year ⟩
July 24, 2020, by Calvin

Beginnings and Endings Community What are OS/OT?

I remember walking onto the Health Sciences Campus on my first day and being really nervous about how I was going to meet new people. I remember I was almost late because I underestimated traffic, but I ended up making it even though I was dripping in panic sweat haha . . . I remember the insane amount of times when we would all introduce ourselves because there were just so many people to meet! I remember taking classes in the G-37 Auditorium, a.k.a. the frozen tundra in the CHP building, where I could always rely on the A.C. to be blasting. I remember how accomplished we all felt when we finished up our first summer semester. I remember starting my first immersion in mental health, engaging in my first Level I Fieldwork, and just spending good times with friends in the program! I remember it all!

Okay, Calvin, we get it; you remember stuff! What’s your point? Well, in just one year, I was able to experience and learn so much about the profession, myself, others, and beyond. However, I would have never guessed that we would all be where we are right now. It’s been a relatively challenging past few months with everything going on, but reflecting on the past year has really helped me stay motivated. These memories remind me why I’m here, and I’d like to take you all on a trip down memory lane to share some with you!

Family at White Coat Ceremony

My parents and I at the USC Chan 2019 White Coat Ceremony.

The ones who make every impossible in my life, possible: my parents. They’ve always supported me in every endeavor and I’m forever grateful for them! Big love to my #1 fans!

Cohort B Collage

Top: Us acting natural! | Bottom: Us reaching towards Dr. Celso Delgado Jr. because these were our last few weeks with him in the mental health immersion 😢.

The best cohort, Cohort B(EST)!!! Sorry, I don’t make the rules ¯\_( ˘ ˘̯)_/¯.Huge shoutout to this phenomenal group of individuals! They are truly some of the most inspiring, funny, genuine, and authentic people I’ve ever met!

BrOTs! Male OT Students!

Just some BrOT Master’s students ~chilling out~ in the G-37 Auditorium! Photo credits: Christopher Chu MA ‘21.

All I can say is that I love this picture and this group of people LOL! By the way, you can actually see more of the division, virtually, thanks to the USC SMART-VR Virtual Reality Tour App that was co-created by Dr. Sook-Lei Liew!

OTAC Annual Conference 2019

USC Chan students and alumni at the 43rd Annual OTAC Conference in Pasadena, CA.

This was taken at the 2019 Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Annual Conference. This was my first OT conference ever and it was such a great time connecting with others, attending a variety of presentations, and just being surrounded by so many OT leaders!

Global Initiatives

Top: Global Initiatives Thanksgiving Dinner with BS-MA students, MA-1 students, MA-2 students, OTD students, and faculty. | Bottom: A virtual Zoom meeting between the USC Chan community and students from Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.

The Global Initiatives Team has always been so welcoming and they’ve provided multiple opportunities to learn and have dialogue about a variety of international topics. I’m incredibly thankful to Global Initiatives for fostering such a vibrant community and for making my first year experience an unforgettable one!

OT Friends c/o 2021

Spending some good time with my OT classmates outside of class 😊!

I hope that this gave you all a good glimpse into what my first year in the program was like. Life is very different right now, but that shouldn’t stop us from making new and lasting memories!

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