University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Meet Our Trojan Family

Cindy Culp, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown:  Redding, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

The professor in my first Psych class in my undergrad program mentioned Occupational Therapy.  She spoke about a foster child she was taking care of that had Sensory Integration issues.  This piqued my interest and I began researching the field.  Ultimately, it was that spark that led me to a new career!

What area of practice are you interested in?

At this point, I’m interested in all of them!  I am interested in mental health and working with veterans.  My Level II Fieldwork for Summer 2014 is at a VA Hospital in Houston, Texas in-patient psychiatric unit.  I also am interested in phys dis and am waiting until the Fall 2014 immersion to form an opinion about pediatrics.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I have held many jobs.  The main two careers I had as an adult were as a paralegal and then owning a real estate appraisal company.  I had never worked in healthcare until I began looking for volunteer hours for my OT program application.  I have also been a lifeguard, church secretary, cowgirl, human resources rep and substitute teacher.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love the arts and sing in a local church choir.  I also enjoy hiking, and have found some great Meetup groups in LA that sponsor free concerts and hiking events.  I also try to take advantage of as many events as possible through the USC Visions and Voices program.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

It’s hard to pinpoint just one!  There have been so many great moments formed through the connections made within our class.  One of our classmates hosted a Bollywood Movie Night at her home.  We had a huge potluck, watched a hilarious Bollywood movie and danced Bollywood style.  It was great!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Not much on my side of the fridge.  I think there are some supplements from Rainbow Acres Natural foods, a couple of bottles of water, 2 sticks of butter, 2 eggs left in a carton, a package of sliced swiss cheese, some coconut milk…and that’s about it.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

Griffindor – because they’re my favorite : )  They are smart, kind and tenacious.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Definitely to fly.  I have always loved to fly and have had dreams since childhood about being able to fly.  I guess I’ve always enjoyed watching birds ride the wind and I would love to be able to do the same thing.  Swimming in a deep pool underwater can give me the same sensation – without the falling part!

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I am the proud grandmother of four. I went skydiving in 2011. I hate shellfish with a passion!

Priscilla Gee, MAII ‘14

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Fountain Valley, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

A combination of things brought me to occupational therapy… research in biochemistry & molecular biology, teaching preschool at church, teaching jewelry, and working with international students. I found that I liked aspects of every field I was involved in, but I didn’t want to pursue any of them as a career (ex: I loved doing research in the lab and learning about science, but I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career because it lacked interpersonal interaction). After a couple suggestions from friends and family to look into occupational therapy as a career, I began volunteering in hand rehabilitation and outpatient pediatrics and before I knew it, I was sold!

What area of practice are you interested in?

Early intervention pediatrics

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Crocheting, knitting, crafting, trying new foods, reading my Bible, spending time with friends, singing, and spending time in nature.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Eggs, leftovers, string cheese, half and half, and salami.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

It would be the ability to find really yummy and cheap food!

Stacy Weingarten, MAII ‘14

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Agoura Hills, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I have always been interested in working with people and working in the healthcare field, but I never had any idea that occupational therapy existed. When a friend told me that his mom was an occupational therapist, I immediately began to look into OT and knew that I found the perfect career for me! I continuously find myself having conversations with my classmates about how lucky we are to be in a career that we absolutely love.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I have enjoyed fieldwork in all the different areas of OT, but I am mostly interested in wellness and primary care.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love doing anything where I am outdoors! I enjoy hiking, going to the beach, running, yoga, being with my friends and family, and traveling.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

One of my favorite memories was attending the 2013 AOTA conference in San Diego. It was such a wonderful combination of learning from the leaders in occupational therapy while also having a great time with my classmates and professors.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Soy milk, lots of fruits and veggies, tons of leftovers, and hopefully some chocolate.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?

Beyonce. She is an extremely hard worker who inspires women to achieve their goals and to be leaders. She manages to be incredibly successful in her career while still donating her time to doing charitable work. Also, she and I share an interest in working on childhood obesity.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

My family has a therapy dog named Maggie. I once ate 5 hot dogs in 10 minutes. At age 23, I got my tongue badly stuck to a popsicle at Disneyland.

Kirsten Peterson, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown:  Sunnyvale, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I was a music and psychology major in college, and I was interested in the therapeutic effects of music.  I’d originally planned to study cognitive psychology and do research on music cognition, but I decided that I wanted to do something that tangibly impacted people’s daily lives.  My dad read about occupational therapy as a profession in U.S. News and passed it along, and I quickly discovered it offered a great combination of my interests.  I guess in two words, “my dad”.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

After getting my bachelor’s degree, I spent some time working as a receptionist for a small but successful tech company in the Silicon Valley.  I got a glimpse of the corporate world, as well as the perks and drawbacks of working in the heart of the tech industry.  I miss the free lunches, but I am happier where I am now!

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

I absolutely love my Level I fieldwork this semester.  My clinical instructor is an occupational therapist working in a short-term inpatient acute hospital, and she’s both a great teacher and a helpful projection of where I’ll hopefully be in ten years.  Through her therapeutic use of self, she connects with patients in ways that some of the other health professionals don’t seem to be doing.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Hummus!  Also coconut water, kale, and salsa.  Ideally also something more filling.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I have always really wanted to fly.  When you’re a kid they tell you, “You can do anything if you practice enough,” so I would run around my backyard, waving my arms to practice flying.  Once, when I caught some air jumping off my couch, I decided that I’d reached a new level of flight.

Justin Waring-Crane, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: South Bend, Indiana

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Yoga, busting my AMAAAZING dance moves, cooking, thrifting!

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.

Teaching Amy Irvin how to twerk during class break.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Sesame sticks, Trader Joe’s sauvignon blanc, leftover curried potato salad.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?

Jennifer Lawrence. J-law I hope you see this!

Erica Wright, MAII ‘14

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Cabin John, Maryland

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I can trace my initial interest in OT to an article I read in the April 1992 issue of National Geographic for Kids Magazine (I still have the issue). The article highlighted a charity that trained monkeys to help adults who were wheelchair bound live a more independent and engaged life. One member of the team that helped train the monkeys were these people called “occupational therapists”. I researched what else occupational therapists do and have been hooked ever since.

What area of practice are you interested in?

Primarily pediatrics (the younger the better) but I am also interested in adult rehab in a hospital setting.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Playing and coaching soccer, playing squash, dancing in empty elevators, people watching at the beach, watching movie trailers and anything sporty that gets me outside.

What Hogwarts house would you be in and why?

I took a tour of the Warner Brothers studio when I was in high school and I got to try the real sorting hat on. It put me in Slytherin. I cried.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I met President Clinton at a bowling birthday party. I coached David Beckham’s son. I went to high school with the Marriotts.

Rebecca Cunningham, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Newbury Park, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

My initial interest was sparked from witnessing the progress my cousin, who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s, was making by working with his occupational therapist. I knew then that any career that could have that kind of impact on a person’s life was something I had to be a part of.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I received my degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego in 2008, and stayed on as the lab manager of the Developmental Cognitive and Social Neuroscience Lab until I came to USC. I ran multiple projects during my time there that involved both behavioral and Event Related Potential (ERP) testing. These projects included memory studies with 8 and 9 month olds, social referencing with 18 month olds, and help-seeking behavior with 2 and 3 year olds.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Camping, reading, pilates, and cross-stitching.

If we opened your fridge what would we see?

Greek yogurt, banana bread, extreme moose tracks ice cream, and all sorts of leftovers.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I learned to hula during college. I had ACL reconstruction surgery when I was 17. I am originally from Tennessee.

Donna Benji Meir, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown:  Los Angeles, California

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I wanted a job where I could make a great difference in the lives of others while fulfilling my own passions as well.  I did not want to sit behind a desk all day, and aimed to find a career where I could put my “people skills” to good use.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I went through several career changes prior to finding my passion for occupational therapy.  Immediately after college, I contemplated going to law school, but I eventually got involved with diplomacy and international relations and held positions both in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel and then the Consulate General of Israel’s office in Los Angeles.  I also worked in the corporate world for three years in a real estate and finance company, and simultaneously started a small business with my husband.  However, none of these fields afforded me the opportunity to help others, and ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled.  After some quick research, I fell in love with occupational therapists and the work they do!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I absolutely love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients in the kitchen.  I rarely go by recipes, and instead love to create my own concoctions.  I like to think of my food as healthy, creative, and delicious!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Kale, celery, eggs, Arizona green tea, and the refill-size Heinz ketchup.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I have had the chicken pox twice. I am allergic to grass and therefore cannot sit on it. I can wiggle my ears.

Lydia Cheung, MAII ‘15

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Hong Kong

What brought you to occupational therapy?

One of my close friends got into a car accident and suffered third-degree burns to more than half of his body. I visited him several times during his stay at the ICU, and l learned that occupational therapist is part of his treatment team, but I had no idea what occupational therapy was. At that time, I had deferred my admission to a graduate program in Clinical Psychology because I was not certain whether that was the right career path for me. Then I thought to myself, “Why not explore other career option?” so I did some research online about OT, and volunteered at pediatric clinics. I realized OT was the right fit for me!

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I was an undergraduate research assistant in a Clinical Psychology lab, Developmental Psychology lab and Health Psychology Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’ve also worked as an account manager at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company and a campaign manager at a marketing firm.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

Cooking, shopping, eating, watching movies while sipping on wine, hiking, running and playing poker.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Plain greek yogurt, orange juice, carrot juice, berries, avocados, chicken breasts and wine.

What are two truths and a lie about yourself?

I am the first college graduate in my family. I have to eat something every two hours; if not, I would get dizzy. I am half Japanese and half Chinese.

Alex Nishi, MAII ‘14

Two-Year Master's

Hometown: Issaquah, Washington

What brought you to occupational therapy?

I first encountered OT as a Special Education teacher. An OT came into my classroom every week, and she made therapy look so fun! After seeing the positive impact that occupational therapy had on my students, I decided to pursue it further.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I’m interested in school-based practice and pediatric mental/behavioral health, particularly in low-income communities. I would love to eventually be in a position where I could incorporate mental health practice into school-based occupational therapy.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.

I got my BA in Psychology at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. While in Spokane, I ran a mentoring program for at-risk elementary students in the area. After undergrad, I joined Teach For America and worked as a Special Education teacher in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve also spent time as a camp counselor, a tutor, a nanny, a waitress, a track coach, and an ice-cream scooper. I love that OT allows me to incorporate all of my experiences in such a diverse field!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

I love the outdoors! Rock climbing, hiking, and ultimate frisbee are some of my favorite occupations currently. I’m also excited to explore all of the unique experiences that Los Angeles has to offer, and I always love a good book.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

Lots of vegetables and fruits! I got a juicer for my birthday, so I’ve been experimenting with different concoctions.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

The power to be instantly fluent in any language. I’m currently working on a few, but it’s pretty slow-going. 

Page 1 of 3 pages  1 2 3 > 

U.S. News Ranks USC #1 Program in the Nation

USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
Google Maps  Google Maps

Phone: (323) 442-2850 · Toll free: (866) 385-4250
Fax: (323) 442-1540
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Request program information  Request program information

The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914, acoteonline.org

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.® www.nbcot.org

Social

YouTube
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
LinkedIn

RSS feed Subscribe

USC OS/OT News
USC OS/OT Student Blog
USC OS/OT Vacancies
External OS/OT Jobs

Tools

Make text bigger
Make text smaller

Site map