AHTO: An Introductory Retrospective ⟩
April 27, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Carly Martinez MA ’23
Editors Abraham Ramirez and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
When I received my acceptance email to USC, I — like many others before me — wondered how I was going to do it. I knew that I would need a support system to keep me going. My family and I were not communicating, so I was scared. I felt alone.
Partway through the fall semester of my first year, I learned about a new organization through Global Initiatives aimed at the Spanish-speaking community — Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional, or “AHTO.” I was thrilled, and looked forward to being around people who spoke Spanish, which was reminiscent of my late grandmother who helped raise me.
However, I was concerned that I might not be “Mexican enough” to participate, despite speaking Spanish. ‘Was that enough?’ ‘Was my Spanish good enough?’
I anxiously brought this up during an early interaction with AHTO. When I shared my concern, this sentiment was echoed by other members who also questioned their identities due to imposed cultural markers, which can feel a lot like gatekeeping. I learned that, like me, they too were in this in-between place, where we were left asking ourselves where we belong and if we were enough.
I recently told a friend that the reason why microaggressions are so insidious, is that they’re often so small that they can make you question whether you are overreacting to a situation or if it even took place the way you remember. This has been my experience as a member of a minoritized group — the feeling that I am living through a continuous microaggression, and left wondering if I am making things up or should be happy with the way things are. Or, are there legitimate reasons to be unhappy and should I ask for more? It’s a bit like being in a toxic relationship, and it can mess with your head, particularly when it weighs on you alongside class assignments.
As I began compiling stories of my fellow students’ experiences, the triumphs and challenges overheard at AHTO meetings at socials and at conferences, I began to see connections that had not been previously apparent to me. That’s not only amongst Latine* students at Chan, but other minoritized students as well. Conversations have taken place that require action and advocacy. They still are, and they probably always will, leaving a need to ask for more on an ongoing basis.
This is why I am glad organizations like AHTO exist. They serve as places where I and others can verbalize our experiences and share them with others, allowing the space to process them in a way that leads to validation and support. My hope for AHTO is that it will continue to provide a platform for students to demand change from the university and express their needs in a way that will continue to elicit change, not only for the Latine population, but everyone who feels like they need to make themselves seen, heard and understood.
I hope AHTO will serve as a model for, and collaborator with students seeking empowerment and resources. It is important for us to realize our power, particularly when we work together, because it is only when we feel acknowledgement and action on the part of the division that we will be able to create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based). Isn’t that OK to want?
*I prefer to use Latine over Latinx or Latin@ because it works in both Spanish and English and is more inclusive. Latinx does not work in Spanish, so it is not the preferred term by some Spanish-speakers; instead it is looked down upon by many people living in the US and Latin America as a forced idea contrived by non-Latine, white folks. Please see this comic for more information and explanation.
The USC U don’t C ⟩
April 21, 2022, by Silvia
No todo es color de rosa. Like my friend Rolly says, “There is a USC that you don’t see.”
Holistic admissions? I love it. I am all in for decreasing barriers and increasing access for students to enter spaces of higher education. Do you know the percentage of Latinx individuals in higher education? There is not many of us, but that is changing. We are changing it.
As the new director of admissions, Dr. Anvarizadeh and her team pushed for a holistic process that would view applicants as whole individuals—considering their core values, thoughts about equity, diversity, and inclusion, etc. — and not just as a set of test scores or GPAs. Let me tell you why this has been a game changer, but more importantly, why the work can not stop only with holistic admissions.
In 2018, I graduated from Cal Poly SLO with my first collegiate degree. The time that I had to rejoice in that feeling of being the first in my family to graduate college was short lived as my dad would be losing his job shortly after. I was quickly reminded of my role and my identity as a Mexican daughter, the eldest child in a family of eight. My educational and career goals were put on pause because as I was raised, in my Mexican culture, family comes before and is above everything. Naturally embracing that role, I texted my brothers to figure out how we were going to pull through, like we always do.
For the next year or so, I worked Monday-Sunday and gave my dad more than half of my paycheck. When I began considering the possibility of furthering my education and applying to graduate school, I felt guilty. I felt selfish. How could I be thinking about myself and what I wanted when my dad was still not 100% back on his feet? It is ironic because even the decision of going back to school was based on helping my parents. I needed this degree to be able to get a job in my field of interest and so that I could earn more money to give back to my family. That is how collectivist cultures like mine work.
The thought of resuming my role and identity as a student was great, but with what money and what time? What money was I able to save for grad school? What money did I have to spare to take the GRE more than once or to spend on study materials, for that matter? What time did I have to sit for a 4-hour exam more than once? I didn’t. Talk about the barriers that USC Chan’s holistic admissions addressed for me. In my application video I stated the occupations that got me through the difficult time my family faced: work and prayer.
That is my story, but I write this blog to highlight the fact that there are stories behind the BIPOC students being admitted into the program that you do not see. Holistic admissions have opened the door for us to be able to step into higher spaces, but to quote my friend Miriam De La Torre, “don’t invite us into the room if there is not a seat at the table open for us.” You see the faces and numbers that represent diversity but are ignorant to the adversity attached to them. If the work is not to be performative, we cannot continue to casually disregard that the “E” in the new JEDI curriculum stands for equity vs. equality. You can’t allow us into the room to watch us stand. Students need to be supported beyond admission.
Se tenía que decir y se dijo.
All this to say that many of us BIPOC student and allies are here to keep the momentum going to make sure we continue to do the work past holistic admissions. Like Dr. Anvarizadeh said at COTAD’s “Springing into Action” virtual event, we cannot do this in silo — we have to lock arms to see it through. I hope y’all are ready for what is to come as we continue to collaborate, work together, and build community.
Humans of USC Chan Volume 3 ⟩
April 20, 2022, by Seth
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!
Ramadan Mubarak ⟩
April 13, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Vanessa ElShamy, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student
Editors Michelle Plevack and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In short, this is the month where Muslims believe that the Qur’an (our holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Most people know that Muslims fast during this month (no food or drink from sunrise to sunset, and yes, not even water), however, it goes much deeper than that. Muslims do not just fast from food and drink, we also fast from poor habits such as bad mouthing others and seek stronger spirituality and connection to God (Allah), pray heavily, read the Qur’an more often, and participate in profound self-reflection. Additionally, we are obligated to give to charity (zakat) and perform good deeds as often as possible — selfishness has no place in Ramadan. While individuals may approach Ramadan slightly differently around the world, it is understood that the main objective is not to make ourselves suffer, but to become more conscious of our beliefs and look inward to pursue true self-improvement. When you strip your life of worldly pleasures, you are only left with yourself. It may seem intense to some, but I truly feel that it cleanses my heart.
Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so it starts on a different date every year. This year it began on April 2nd and will continue until May 2nd. This is the first year that I am observing Ramadan on my own, out of my parents’ house. It is also the first year in a long time that I am fasting during classes and exams, which I will admit, I am not exactly looking forward to. As beautiful and transformative as Ramadan is, it is not easy, and it is not supposed to be. We are 3 days into this year’s fast and so far I am surprised by how capable I have been without my morning coffee. I have not had any headaches from lack of caffeine thus far, and for this I say “Alhamdulillah” (“thank God” or “praise be to God”). While I have been a bit sad because I miss my family and our Ramadan traditions — feeding each other dates before Iftar (the meal that ends the day’s fast), drinking decaf coffee and eating baklava together after dinner, and more — I feel optimistic about what the month will bring me. As humans, we will make mistakes — they are a part of life. I know this to be true but I usually do not give myself the same grace I give others when I make mistakes. Ramadan reminds me time and time again that we are worth forgiving when we make mistakes, as long as we take responsibility for them and commit to doing better. Shame and guilt are powerful forces, but forgiveness is always stronger. Due to this, I have left Ramadan every year with a heightened sense of self-worth and a clearer picture of life’s purpose.
Participating in Ramadan is a meaningful occupation to me. During the month, fasting becomes an activity of daily living. When looking at the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF), Ramadan encompasses client factors such as personal values, beliefs, and spirituality. While these factors may not be important to all, they are vital to people like me who shape their everyday lives off of certain spiritual sentiments. As the OTPF states, spirituality is “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred” (AOTA, 2020). I honestly cannot imagine my life without Islam or Ramadan. Every time I waver from the spiritual path, I find myself being pulled back in. Every time I get annoyed that I “have” to fast and pray, I remind myself how beneficial it is for my spirit and mind. I think it is beautiful that so many people feel similarly about different religions and other forms of worship — this was a little glimpse into mine.
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:
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.
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
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