Major Mondays: Occupational Therapy 

Major: The Bachelor’s to Doctorate (BS-OTD) in Occupational Therapy major is housed in the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. This major is open to incoming freshmen pursuing a career in occupational therapy. This accelerated program allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree and doctorate degree in occupational therapy in just 6 years.   

Overview: Occupational therapy is a health profession aimed at enabling people to live life to its fullest. Defined by Seth Mitchell (he/him), a current USC Occupational Therapy major, “Occupational therapy focuses on the individual as a whole in order to reflect upon how lifestyle and lived experiences might affect quality of life. Occupational therapists hear from you, about what you do, how you do it and why – in order to empower the continuation of these meaningful activities no matter the circumstances.” Overall, occupational therapists help people to perform, modify, or adapt their skills and activities in order to lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

Current Student Perspective: The Occupational Therapy major is unique at USC as the program focuses on small cohort style learning. Seth notes the benefits of being in a small cohort of fellow Occupational Therapy majors “[as]a built-in support system, a built-in community. It is nice to know someone else is doing the same thing as you.”   

When speaking to Seth, he noted a common misconception is the difference between Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT). “The main different is that OT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform activities of daily living, and PT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform a movement of the human body.” As Seth puts it, “PT will teach you how to walk, OT will teach you how to dance.” 

Students in this program are interested in focusing on the individual as a whole and affects the overall quality of life. Seth notes, “Occupational therapy is not just about fixing body structures, but looking at someone as a person. OT is one of the few fields that has a holistic view of medicine. It is client centered, person centered, and humanity focused.” 

Notable Research: Currently, USC OT faculty, students and professionals in the field are conducting research related to oral care for children. In the Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children study, 184 ethnically diverse children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are examined to investigate the efficacy of a sensory adapted dental environment, compared to a regular dental environment. One of the projected outcomes of this study is to “be able to decrease children’s physiological anxiety, distress behavior, perception of pain, and sensory discomfort during a dental cleaning.”  

Ruth Zemke PhD, OTR, FAOTA, a current professor at USC, is noted as one of the founding leaders in occupational sciences and noted as a staple in efficacy practices in OT. Noteworthy, Zemke is a co-Principal Investigator on the USC Well Elderly Project, utilizing her interest in applying concepts of occupational science to occupational therapy practice.  

Anna-Jean Ayres, Ph.D., OTR, is a former USC faculty member and a founder of the specialty area of occupational therapy, Sensory Integration (SI). Sensory Integration is based on over 50 years of theory and research originated at USC. Dr. Ayres developed a theoretical framework and clinical approach for identifying children who have a variety of developmental and learning difficulties. USC Chan students can take elective courses which provide a comprehensive overview of sensory integration theory, or can take continuing education courses through the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education Certificate Program. 

Want to Learn More? 
As occupational therapy is a wide ranging and ever-growing field, there are many ways you can find out more about what it’s like to study OT at USC! 

USC Chan has a great blog written by current USC OT students. Check out a day in the life of a USC Chan student via their Occupational Therapy Student Blog.  

Prospective students can take the USC Chan quiz, What Kind of OT Would You Be? Also, non-OTD students can even minor in Occupational Sciences!  

For students interested in listening to student stories and well as staff/faculty experiences in the field, check out the USC Chan Instagram and YouTube page.  

To get in contact with USC OT Student Ambassadors like Seth, visit the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Student Ambassador website.  

Written by Jamie Black, Assistant Director

Those Who Serve-Veterans at USC

Each year, the University of Southern California admits student veterans from all branches of the military to our incoming freshman and transfer classes. In order to best accommodate their transition to and success here on campus, the school and its campus partners provide a number of different resources to address the academic, financial, social, and professional needs of this important population of USC students. 

Departmental Supports 
Since 2014, the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) has worked to support student veterans in all endeavors of college life ranging from outreach and admission all the way to graduation and job seeking. The center is a collaboration between multiple student affairs and administrative divisions and serves the nearly 1,200 veterans who enroll in USC classes each semester. The VRC provides students with a variety of benefits: 

  • Study space with access to computers
  • Opportunities to socialize with fellow student veterans
  • Information about on-campus services
  • Check ins with veterans certifying officers
  • Special programs, such as the advisement luncheons offered at the beginning of the semester 
  • Professional advisement (resumes, cover letters, networking and interviews) and a job recruitment fair
  • Other perks like catered luncheons and complimentary tickets for sporting events! 

Across campus, USC staff members in various academic and student affairs departments serve as direct contact points for student veterans to address any specific questions or requests that they may have as they navigate their educational journey. This includes the Career Center, the Office of Religious Life, Disability Services and Programs, the Counseling Center, and so on. Additionally, each of the admission counselors in the USC Office of Admission can answer general questions about the application and transfer credit processes. Admission counselors are assigned to applicants based on the post-secondary institution they enrolled in pre- or post-military service. 

Clubs & Organizations 
To help student veterans make connections and build their social and professional networks both during and beyond their time at USC, there are multiple student and alumni associations to join. The USC Veterans Association is a student organization composed of undergraduate and graduate students and keep members informed of various opportunities and resources. On their active Facebook page, students can find out about upcoming social events and workshops, job openings and research opportunities, and apply for leadership positions within the group. The Marshall Military Veterans Association is a group for student veterans pursuing their MBA at the Marshall School of Business. In an effort to provide ongoing supports for student veterans as they transition to USC, the USC Student Veterans Support Network was created to help current and former students, staff and faculty connect with students. Lastly, the USC Alumni Veterans Network is open to all USC alumni who are veterans and are interested in staying involved with the Trojan Family long after graduation. 

Financial Benefits 
In addition to their GI benefits, student veterans have access to the same scholarships and financial aid resources utilized by all USC students. USC’s Office of Financial Aid and the Veterans Certification Office work with military veterans to help them understand their educational benefits and provide assistance with financial aid and other funding. Check out this video that explains this process more in-depth.  

USC is proud to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is open to post-9/11 GI Bill recipients and covers up to one-half of tuition and mandatory fees that are matched dollar for dollar by the VA. The Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans was established in 1986 by William J. Schoen, a former U.S. Marine and USC alumnus (’60, MBA ’63), to provide additional funding for student veterans at USC. This scholarship is available to new and continuing students in the Marshall School of Business and the Viterbi School of Engineering who have served a minimum of three years of continuous, full-time, active duty in the previous ten years. 

Research & Practice 
With desire to meet the needs of our student veterans on campus, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) is also committed to being at the forefront of research, education, and outreach for all veterans and their families. The CIR conducts a wide range of research projects, provides training seminars to behavioral health providers and clinicians, and works with community partners to address the issues that face today’s veterans and military families. 

The University of Southern California is dedicated to assist Veterans, service members, and their qualified family members. By utilizing the resources above, USC hopes to support all Veteran students and their success here at USC. 

Written by Jamie Black, Assistant Director of Admission

Student Highlight: Brad Streicher, Transitioning Into the “Real World”

This month’s student blog comes courtesy of Brad Streicher, a recent graduate of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. In addition to majoring in Broadcast and Digital Journalism and minoring in Cinematic Arts at USC, Brad worked as a tour guide for the Office of Admission and a reporter, anchor and executive producer for Annenberg Media. He also held internships at media outlets around the country, including CNBC, NBC Los Angeles and Business Insider. After graduating this past spring, Brad moved to Charleston, South Carolina to work as a reporter for CBS affiliate Live 5 News. In his blog, Brad highlights his transition from USC student to USC graduate and how he has utilized the resources and connections from his undergraduate experience to find and succeed in his current job.

Attending USC was always the dream. When I was young, I would constantly ask my mom how I would know which college I wanted to attend. She would confidently reply, “You’ll just know. Right when you walk on campus, you’ll just know. Wait and see.”

As always, mom was right.

Walking onto USC’s campus was like stepping into a movie. The buildings were beautiful, the academics were admirable and you could practically smell success in the air. It’s no secret—USC is pretty awesome.

That’s why as soon as I was admitted to USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism to study broadcast and digital journalism, I was already dreading graduation. The thought of leaving the perfect place? Unbearable. The thought of adulthood? Terrifying.

To my surprise at the time, I noticed that uncertainty and fear had all but evaporated when I was walking across the graduation stage.

Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. USC offered great resources for me to take advantage of, which ultimately helped me prepare for tackling the “real world.” I consider the time I spent in the Media Center as the most fundamental and developmental aspect of my education. The Media Center offered me a real-life learning lab. It gave me the chance to work day-to-day doing exactly what I do at my job today.

I also held several internships during my time at USC, all of which contributed to shaping me into the journalist I am today. I worked for all sorts of media companies—everything from local news to investigative journalism to digital video production to network news. Each internship exposed me to a new aspect of the media industry, which ultimately shaped me into a well-rounded journalist. The importance of that well-roundedness was inspired by the lessons I learned at Annenberg, both through my classes and through my faculty advisors in the Media Center.

Safe to say, USC offers everything students need to propel themselves into the “real world.”

And propelled I was. All the way across the country, in fact. Shortly after graduation, I packed up my things and moved to Charleston, SC for a job as a television news reporter. My time at USC had ended, but my journey was really just beginning.

Getting the job was tough—the job market is difficult and the TV industry is competitive. For me, the job hunt meant constantly updating a spreadsheet with job openings around the country, studying successful reporter reels and reaching out to news directors to express my interest personally. I also took time to contact Annenberg alumni, who helped prepare me for the job hunt. Several alumni critiqued my work, made suggestions to my portfolio website and offered advice on which television markets I should target during my search.

Though the search was difficult, I did not doubt I would be employed. My confidence was largely thanks to USC Annenberg’s incredible resources. I had fantastic career counselors who offered invaluable advice. I had an alumni network so strong it surprised me every time I tapped into it. I had faculty who were unbelievably helpful at mentoring me through the job search. But most importantly, I had my friends to give me all the support I could have ever asked for. None of those resources would have existed if it weren’t for USC.

After a difficult job search, I prepared to tackle an even greater challenge with beginning my career. For me, everything was new. I was moving to a new place to start a new career with new people I didn’t know. I anticipated struggle, but remained confident I was up to the task. As a Trojan, overcoming challenges to achieve success is in our DNA.

What shocked me was how quickly, and how easily, I made the transition. Professionally, I was well prepared. Of course, there were—and still are—learning curves. But I am astounded every day at how well Annenberg equipped me for the real world. The work I did in the Media Center and the instruction I received from professors was immediately applicable to my day-to-day job duties. I still have so much to learn and so many ways to grow, and I’m so thankful I have such incredible and talented coworkers to help me along the way. But I am immensely thankful to USC. Because of my Annenberg education, I didn’t have to get my feet wet. I walked into Charleston knee-deep in water.

USC also prepared me to personally tackle the transition to post-grad life. Moving to a state where I knew no one was a difficult decision—it was certainly one I was not ready to make before college. But USC’s education provided me with a broad, globalized awareness of the world around me. Studying with people from so many different backgrounds and cultures helped me realize there is so much more to the world than the California life I grew up in. Because of the friendships I made and the connections I formed at USC, I now have a network of people that stretches literally across the world. This school provided me not only with the confidence to conquer a new environment, but the security to know my Trojan family is never out of reach.

I would be lying if I said transitioning from college to the real world is a breeze. But for many people, that transition can be overwhelming. That’s a struggle I don’t see often—at least not from my USC friends. This school prepared us for the real world. It seems as if we spent four years not studying for tests, but going through real world boot camp. Thanks for that, USC.

As you think ahead toward graduation, you probably share the same feeling I had for most of my time as a student. But I can assure you there’s nothing you need to worry about. USC is both handing you and teaching you how to use every tool you need in order to achieve long-term success.

Look confidently to the future, never forget the school that shaped who you are, cherish the family you’re forever part of and never stop fighting on.