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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Getting Involved


OT Dance Party >

by Alyssa

Classes Getting Involved

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I’ve been teaching Zumba at the USC Village Gym since Fall 2018. As an extrovert who struggles to prioritize exercising, it has been a win-win. I am obligated to get myself to the gym and energized from both the exercise and the social time. Especially with how challenging graduate classes can be, it is a much needed reset to my week every Tuesday.

So, what does this have to do with OT?

This week in OT 534 Health Promotion & Wellness we had a “wellness workshop” day where students got to facilitate and attend different occupation-based activity groups to promote personal wellness. When we got the sign-ups to facilitate a group, I signed up right away. Bringing Zumba to OT school!

My fellow students submitted their preferences and were assigned to different workshops to attend during class time (some of the other options were cookie baking, songwriting, and vision boarding 😮).

Given that dancing in classrooms filled with tables and chairs would not be ideal, we had to improvise for the space. We were out facing the elements on the lawn (muddy uneven grass, an unexpectedly hot November day) with a small speaker and a lot of funny looks from people walking by. But still, I had a blast, and based on all the laughing at/with me & each other, I think the participants did too. It was such a fun chance to share one of my favorite occupations with my friends, especially those who have never done it before. Dr. Cox stopped by during the workshop and thought I was putting up a “fight on ✌️” while dancing… truthfully I was just indicating that the move should be done twice, but hey — two birds one stone.

OT students dancing on the lawn

2nd year Entry-Level MA students participating in the Zumba workshop. Photo by Silvia Hernandez Cuellar

Even though I did not get to participate in the other activities, I loved how Wellness Workshop day highlighted how seemingly random skills could be an asset for OT’s role in health promotion. What other career path has a place for backgrounds in dance and martial arts and songwriting and cooking and crafting? I mean, OTD Resident John J. Lee even facilitated a Squid Games competition. Opportunities for wellness are everywhere — you never know what skills your colleagues will bring to the table!


Better Late Than Never: The MA ’22 White Coat Ceremony >

by Alyssa

Getting Involved

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The White Coat Ceremony for the entry-level-MA class of 2022 felt like a long time coming. With everything moving to Zoom, many of us were concerned that our ceremony scheduled for August 2020 would also end up in the virtual void. Luckily, my class voted to postpone the ceremony instead.

Speaking honestly, I had not been looking forward to the white coat ceremony. You can’t look forward to something you didn’t know about. So at first, missing the experience did not feel like a big deal. Upon learning more about the meaning behind the ceremony as the uncertainty loomed, I felt more and more disappointed. The White Coat Ceremony is a tradition to induct and welcome occupational therapy students into the profession — what a sad thing to miss out on.

We were sent our white coats in the mail. Since we could not try on samples in person, the division had a few students from the class of 2021 virtually show us their different sizes of coats so we could make our best guesses for our sizes (as you can imagine, the accuracy of our guesses were mixed). Opening the white coat package felt like it should have been a big moment, but honestly, it felt kind of empty. I wished I was receiving it with my classmates, most of whom I had only ever seen shoulders-up in a Zoom screen box.

The limbo of if/when the ceremony was going to happen felt endless. A whole year later, in July 2021, we received the save-the-date email — it was finally happening! On a very warm late August day, under a huge tent on the lawn outside of CHP, the excitement was palpable. Dr. Rafeedie stepped on the stage 5 minutes before the ceremony even started to set up water bottles and everyone started cheering. After a hard year of online/hybrid classes and fieldwork, the class of 2022 got our in-person ceremony surrounded by our friends, family, and faculty. My voice felt croaky afterward from cheering my friends on.

I can’t speak for the rest of my class, but I think the ceremony would have felt really different if we did it at the beginning of the program. Doing it in the middle of the program was an opportunity to look back, look ahead, and look around at all of the friends and colleagues I have come to appreciate so much over the last year. It was definitely worth the wait.

5 M.A. OT Students at the White Coat Ceremony

MA ‘22 friends left to right: Elizabeth “Lizzo” Bowers, Maggie Young, Alyssa Matlosz, Mariamme Ibrahim, Daniela Flores

3 M.A. OT Students at the White Coat Ceremony

With my fellow Chan student ambassador friends Silvia Hernandez Cuellar and Teresa Pham


Lessons from Smash Mouth: My Time at SSO >

by Seth

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“The years start coming and they don’t stop coming”

It’s like they, “they” being notorious rock band Smash Mouth in their hit single “Allstar”, always say, “the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.” For example, take my time at the Chan Division. I entered USC’s BS-MA program five years ago and in the blink of an eye, I’m almost at the finish line. If we’re being honest, it’s actually 31 weeks away from the finish line, but really, who’s counting? 31 weeks to go doesn’t just mean graduation, it also means the future (AKA: the time to get my life together by and FAST)! As my next life stage looms in the distance, I did the one thing anyone else in my position would do: I stressed about it for a couple days until the universe sent me a sign (well, an Instagram DM).

“You’ll never know if you don’t go”

As it turned out, a mentor who knew I was looking for my next big break decided to pass along the information for an upcoming event, the Society for the Study of Occupation’s (SSO) “Occupation and Gender” virtual conference. For those of you who don’t know, I was an LGBTQ+ studies minor in undergrad. When I wasn’t doing OT, I was doing gender studies. Even when I’m doing OT now, I’m usually doing gender studies at the same time. With the future looming, I was starting to realize that I wanted to explore the socio-cultural aspects of OT more explicitly in the future and with that being said, this conference was made for me. When I needed it most, it simply appeared in front of me on a silver platter! Talk about serendipitous timing, right? Now that I knew it was out there, it was time to get to work, after all, “you’ll never know if you don’t go!”

“I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed”

Later that week, I emailed the Chan Student Leadership Awards Committee to make a case for my attendance (including, but not limited to, bringing and sharing the information back to my fellow OTs for OuTreach members) and I secured the funding. From there, I just had to wait two weeks until the conference went live. What that really meant, however, is that I had a whole two weeks to think about how nervous and unprepared I was! This was going to be my first conference, my first foray into the world of OT outside of my five-year ivory tower residency (albeit a conference is basically within that tower’s property) and with each passing day I was worried that I wasn’t going to belong. Remember when I said the conference was made for me? Yeah, you can forget about that! All I could think about was how “I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed!”

“You’ll never shine if you don’t glow”

Fast forward to the day of the conference and not much had changed except for the fact that I was now very aware that I was just a student amidst the leaders of contemporary occupational science. The conference was laid out so that I could asynchronously review poster sessions (AKA things I could prepare myself for beforehand) throughout the week and then tune in live for synchronous paper presentations and their joint discussion sessions (AKA being thrown in the deep end). I started off breezing through the poster sessions and then tuning in to the theme speaker to build some confidence. From there, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and joined the conference mixer, got thrown into a breakout room, and became a face others would recognize throughout the conference. Objectively that was a good thing, but subjectively it meant I couldn’t get by turning my camera off and staying on mute. You win some, you lose some. Regardless my day was off!

I scheduled myself for eight sessions that day and halfway through disaster struck. Someone directly asked me if I had any thoughts on the topic at hand. I shook my head, laughed a bit, and typed in the chat, “I’m just a wallflower at the moment!” and the conversation carried on as if nothing had happened. But, spoiler alert, I actually understood what they were talking about and at times even thought before them what to say! It was almost as if the past five years weren’t just for fun. After I finally caught on that I could be a competent conference attendee, I decided it was time for that wallflower to bloom. I missed my opportunity, but I wasn’t going to miss it again. “You’ll never shine if you don’t glow” right, Smash Mouth?

“So much to do, so much to see”

With renewed vigour, I was on a mission to be heard! There was “so much to do, so much to see” and I was no longer content to watch it go by. During the next session, I shared a some insights on incorporating gender theories into occupational therapy curricula. I followed that up by asking four whole questions in a session on the environmental impacts on gender identity (and, I might add, stayed after the session to talk with the authors). The cherry on top of the day was when I gave a suggestion for additional research that the author actually wrote down!

“Hey now, you’re an all-star”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but I will say that I carried that energy with me until the end of the conference. Although I am taking everything I learned from the conference back into the classroom and future practice, the most valuable thing that I took from that weekend was that I belonged in that space. It was the first time I ventured into the world of occupational therapy unsupervised and it showed me that I was ready for whatever is in store for me 31 weeks from now. Although we all live different lives with different experiences, know that you’re also ready for what is to come 31 weeks from now. You are prepared, you belong, and if you ever doubt it just remember, “Hey now, you’re an all-star.”


Thnks fr the Mmrs (aka. Thanks for the Memories) >

by Savi

Getting Involved

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Coming into this program, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if I truly had what it took to succeed and I thought that I would be lucky to just make it through to graduation. Little did I know that I would embark on a very unique and enlightening journey of being an ambassador for the Chan division.

I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of seven representatives for our division and I truly could not be more thankful. I have had the most incredible opportunity to organize and speak at over 20 events, correspond with and get to know over 40 prospective and incoming students, and write around 20 blogs for incoming, current, and prospective students to read for years to come. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share my passion for OT and our program with hundreds of people around the world, and I am incredibly thankful for my OUTSTANDING ambassador team and admissions team for all of their support and for everything they have taught me. It truly has been an honor working with and learning from all of you. This job has brought me so much joy and although I am so sad it is coming to an end, I am extremely excited to see all the amazing things the incoming ambassador team will do throughout the next year.

I have made wonderful friends and connections and have learned extremely valuable skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my career. I have been inspired by those around me (read my blog about all these wonderful people) and have gained invaluable leadership skills through both this ambassador position and my coursework.

Reflecting on these two years I realized that time really does fly by…and that I am definitely not ready to leave the Chan family just yet! I will, therefore, be staying another year at USC to pursue the advanced clinical track of occupational therapy doctorate, completing my residency at California Rehabilitation Institute and Cedars-Sinai. Thankfully, that means I get to delay my goodbye from this Chan family for one more year.

Thank you all so much for reading my blogs this past year and thank you to Kimberly Kho for giving me the opportunity and platform to spread OT knowledge and love around the world. I am forever grateful. Fight on!!


Finding your A-teams >

by Savi

Classes Getting Involved Life Hacks

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When you get to graduate school, you will quickly realize that you cannot succeed alone. You will gravitate towards and lean on all types of people throughout your two years and you will form long-lasting friendships. As graduation soon approaches, I have had to face the fact that I will no longer be blessed with the opportunity to work with all these wonderful people on a daily basis. I have formed a variety of different teams depending on the class, club, job, or activity I’m in and I wanted to thank all the people who have helped me succeed as a student, friend, classmate, and practitioner. Below I have included some pictures of my various teams. This is most definitely NOT a comprehensive list, because there are so many more wonderful people who have helped me along the way that are not pictured below. To those who are not pictured…you know who you are…I appreciate you all!

  1. To those who got me through my first summer semester: I truly do not know how I would have made it through without ya’ll. Whether you were a friendly face to me on the first day (shout out to Lamoni for being the kindest to me when we were seated next to each other on the first day of class), a late-night study partner in Currie Hall, or a lab partner who tolerated me asking too many questions and talking everything out loud, you made the transition into graduate school a little less stressful.
  2. To the MANY group project teams: Thank you for helping me expand my creativity. Time and time again I found myself researching topics I would have never come up with on my own. Whether that was focusing on the effectiveness of the sequential oral sensory approach with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in OT 518 Quantitative Reasoning, or developing a wellness program for undergraduate college students in OT 537 Occupation for Community, I got the opportunity to surround myself by people with varying interests and skillsets which allowed me to grow as a practitioner.
  3. My cohort: Shoutout to cohort B for being the best cohort I could EVER ask for. Your knowledge about and passion for OT inspired me daily and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to hang out with all day every day.
  4. My roommates: These people have seen it all! Shoutout to these gals for dealing with me at my best and my worst, for always being a shoulder to lean on, and for listening to all my crazy rants. I appreciate you both for making the little parts of life fun, for being my “OT practice patients” during this pandemic, and for supporting me always. I couldn’t have done these two years without you!
  5. To my ambassador team: You all are my rocks. Thank you for having faith in my capabilities, for always stepping up to the plate, and for helping me out when you can see that I am stressed. You all always know the right thing to do and say, and it has been an honor working with and learning from all of you.
  6. To the adventure buddies: Thank you for taking my mind off the craziness that is graduate school and helping me re-focus on my energy on meaningful occupations. You are the silent heroes in my life. Thank you for supporting me both inside and outside of the classroom. You are able to read me like a book by this point and understand when I need to take a break and just enjoy the outdoors. You are the ones to text me a funny joke when you know I am having a hard workday or to organize an event when it is time to celebrate even the smallest success. Thank you for pushing me outside of my comfort zone, surrounding me with love and celebration, and for being there through the tough times.
  7. To my family…my lifelong team: There are not enough thank you’s to show how grateful I am for you three. To my sister, life mentor, and OT guide, I do not know where I would be without your wisdom and guidance. You always know the right thing to say and do and I will forever be thankful for you. Mom and Dad – you are my biggest support system. Without out you none of this success would have been possible. You are my biggest cheerleaders and I know that you two are what motivate me to push harder every day.

Ambassador Savi and friends

My friends and I taking a break from school and relaxing on the beach.

Savi and friends in quantitative reasoning competition

My friends and I winning a fun and friendly competition in preparation for a quantitative reasoning exam.

Savi and friends hiking

My adventure buddies out on a hike.

Savi's quantitative reasoning group

My quantitative reasoning team posing in front of our poster on the effectiveness of the sequential oral sensory approach.

Savi's family

My lovely mom, dad, and sister <3.

Savi and roommates

Me and my roommates at our white coat ceremony.

Cohort B class of 2021

Cohort B posing with Professor Delgado after completing our first semester in Mental Health.

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