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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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9 Perfect Strangers: A Cohort’s Connection ⟩
December 21, 2021, by Seth

Classes Community

Here at USC, we often talk a lot about the Trojan Family, but when you arrive on campus as a first-year that sentiment can feel intangible. But the truth is, for me, I found my family before my first semester had started, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Traditionally, fall move-in day takes place on the Wednesday before the first day of classes and is followed by six weeks of welcome week programming. During this time many students rekindle friendships with people they met at orientation, attend Visions and Voices events, or just settle into the place they will be calling home for the next couple of years. In the case of the Class of ‘21 and ‘22 BS-MA OT students, we attended the USC Chan Division’s First-Year Welcome Dinner.

I may not remember all of the details from that dinner, but some things have stuck with me over the years. 1) I chose a completely hairless action shot of me swimming to showcase my favourite occupation as my grand debut 2) Back and forth O-H!, I-O!-ing with Dr. Samia Rafeedie and Dr. Shawn Roll whenever any of us brought up our experiences in Ohio and 3) the first spark of connection I felt when meeting my cohort for the first time.

Ten bachelor's to master's students huddled together at a welcome dinner for a picture

The Class of ’21 and ’22 taking their first picture together at the USC Chan Division’s First-Year Welcome Dinner

Over time that connection has grown thanks to the design of the BS-OT program. Despite the program having a built-in buddy system, it didn’t feel forced. As an undergraduate OT student, you’re granted a lot of freedom to explore what college has to offer, while also knowing you have Chan to come back to. The course sequence is laid out in a way that slowly scaffolds your knowledge of OT. This is done not only through the complexity of the content but also through the number of classes you’re taking. This all culminates when you’re fully immersed in the graduate program. But this also means that you can scaffold the cohort experience too (More details about the progressive program in a blog coming soon so say tuned)! Some OT courses allow you to select the date and time so you may see some folks one semester and the others the next (like OT250 and OT251), while there are other courses that most of the cohort will take at the same time (often anatomy and physiology). As time goes on, you’ll also start coordinating all of these together and commuting between campuses and before you know it, you’re no longer classmates, but full-on friends! From these bus rides to hiking, and rollerskating, and museum trips together with Dr. Amber Bennett, you’ll develop a support system as you head into the graduate program together. For me, this is when these friends became family.

Six bachelor’s to master's students wearing roller-skates at a neon roller rink

One of Dr. Bennett’s famous BS-OT outings, skaters gonna skate! 😎

Suddenly you go from the OT foundation courses that were just your cohort to the full grandeur of the 145 other OT graduate students, you’re navigating graduate-level courses full-time, commuting to the health science campus, and trying to grapple with the occupational transition. It can feel like a lot to tackle all at once, but find solace in the fact that there are anywhere from nine to fourteen other BS-OT students who are going through the same thing, not to mention the BS-OT students a year ahead of you! When I have a question I turn to my cohort first in the GroupMe we’ve had since that first welcome dinner. When discussing challenging course content, we debrief together on the shuttle. And when we want to have fun and catch up before finals, we head to brunch! Every step of the way, we’ve been on this journey together and come so far. From a welcome dinner to a COVID-19 graduation to our white coat ceremony reunion and our upcoming master’s ceremony, I couldn’t have asked for better people to be at my side. As I look towards the future, I know that no matter where our professional paths take us that together we will #FightOn forever. ✌️

Right Picture: Eight Bachelor’s to Master’s students at their graduation; Left: Nine Bachelor’s to Master’s students at their white coat ceremony

My cohort celebrating our accomplishments together, one more to go! (Yes, I am photoshopped into the COVID-19 Graduation picture)


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!


Dr. Martinez Coming Soon ⟩
May 13, 2019, by Melissa

Beginnings and Endings Community Getting Involved

Goodbyes are never easy, and the last couple of weeks have been a constant reminder of that. With all the chaos that comes with the end of the year — finals, comps, graduation — I haven’t had much time to think about the fact that graduation marks the end of a very important chapter in my life. Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, I feel some sadness that it’s all over, but also excited for what’s to come. I’m walking away with a deep appreciation for the friendships I have made, the opportunities I was given, and the experiences that have helped to shape the clinician that I will be someday soon.

It was always my dream to be a part of the USC Chan family, and I can easily say that the last couple of years have surpassed my expectations. It truly feels like it was just yesterday that I was anxiously starting the summer session with my new classmates, so it’s hard to believe that this part of my journey is nearing its end. I will be forever grateful to everyone in the division, who truly go above and beyond to ensure that we have a great experience in the program.

I had dreamed of becoming a Student Ambassador since I first got exposed to the position at an information session many years ago, so looking back on this past year fills me with overwhelming pride and emotion. I have sincerely enjoyed meeting and corresponding with so many incredible students from all over the world, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share my passion for our program with others. I’m also thankful for the incredible Ambassador and Admissions teams that I had the honor of working with, for they made the last year fun and unforgettable.

Like I said before, goodbyes are never easy, but I find solace in the fact that I’ll still be at USC for a bit longer pursuing my OTD in Clinical Research with Dr. Sharon Cermak. So for now, it’s not a goodbye but instead an “I’ll see you soon.”

Melissa at graduation



My Encounter with Cookies and Kinship at CHP ⟩
January 16, 2018, by Erika


Every day, hundreds of USC faculty, staff, OT students, PT students, and Pharmacy students, wander the halls, offices, and patios of the Center for the Health Professions (CHP) building. It’s the hub where we, as OT students, spend most of our time in the program. It houses our classrooms, labs, auditoriums, outdoor patios, and other spaces that facilitate our learning.

We have one particular room at CHP that most students unofficially call “the microwave room.” Between 12-12:20pm, you will find 8 or so microwaves buzzing as hungry OT and PT students nuke their lunches. There are also communal tables in this room where you could eat your lunch, study, or catch up with friends. This is where I had a beautiful unexpected encounter with Sharon*.

I was about to take a bite of my green beans and meatless ground beef stir fry (don’t be hatin’ on my veg game) leftovers when I hear a voice: “That smells AMAZING!” I look over and I see a sweet woman with the gentlest smile munching on her apple. I thank her and humbly tell her that it tastes as good as it smells and we get to talking. I find out she works in a research office on the 2nd floor of the building. Somehow, we arrive on the topic of cookies and she asks me if I like them.


She asks me what kind.

“Chocolate chip.”

She asks me if I like nuts.

“No way.”

She says I remind her of her son who likes his cookies just the way I do and asks if I’ll be on campus on Friday.


Without hesitation, she says she’s going to bake me a batch and bring them on Friday. My eyes get huge and my heart warm. I tell her that I have a big batch of my green beans and meatless ground beef dish and that if she’s open to it, I’ll bring her a lil lunch in exchange. She says that would be amazing.

Friday rolls around and I walk up to her office in CHP. She’s delighted to see me and we do our lil exchange. The cookies look perfect in every way - moist, chewy, made with love. I ask her if I can taste one now and she says of course! I take a bite and immediate let out a “Hoooooly that’s good.” She smiles sweetly at me and says, “I like you. How do I keep you in my pocket all day?”

This beautiful encounter left me with such gratitude and joy. Knowing that humans like Sharon exist who choose to connect with others not just out of politeness but out of genuine curiosity and kinship inspires me to implement these qualities in my practice as an OT.

Sharon’s kindness reminds me of a book I read over the winter break called “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” by Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the world. He speaks about our deep interconnectedness as humans despite our varying backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities, etc., and that once we realize that we share in kinship with strangers and loved ones alike, we can start to truly love. Here is a powerful interview with Greg Boyle if you are interested in learning more:

Priest Responds To Gang Members’ ‘Lethal Absence Of Hope’ With Jobs, And Love

As I left Sharon’s office, I told her I’d be back to return her tupperware.

In true Sharon fashion with her perpetually giving heart, she yelled back at me, “Not unless you want it refilled!”

*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.

Jessica P.

Signing Off for the Summer ⟩
August 19, 2017, by Jessica P.

Community Getting Involved

This summer working as a student ambassador has been one of my most memorable experiences at USC so far. From giving tours to prospective students to going to Meet USC events to speak to high school students, I have been busy spreading OT love everywhere.

I am even more confident now than I was three months ago that I am pursuing the perfect profession for me. The past few months I have learned more about the diversity within OT and all of the opportunities we have as occupational therapy students. Now when someone asks me, “What is OT?” — I always have an answer, and I could probably go on talking about OT for hours.

Next Monday I start the master’s portion of my academic career, beginning with the mental health practice immersion. I can’t wait to push myself even further to begin shaping myself as the occupational therapist I know USC will help me become. Being apart of the OT family at USC has opened doors to so many things and I know it will continue to do so for a lifetime.

I hope that everyone has a great fall semester and fight on!!

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