Alicia Mendoza (Photo/Angela Lally)

For as long as she can remember, Alicia Mendoza has admired the work of Christian missionaries. In occupational therapy she found a career with similar attributes: provision of needed services, expertise for developing community programs and individualized focus on helping people transcend their circumstances, whatever and wherever they may be.

While at USC, the Northern California native has worked with Mary Lawlor, ScD, professor of occupational therapy at the USC Chan Division, on research projects and manuscript writing; has taught students as a classroom assistant; and has served as the division’s co-chair of the USC Student-Run Clinic. But the biggest lesson, she said, is fueled by her faith.

“I think I’ve learned how to be with people,” said Mendoza, who will receive her master’s degree in occupational therapy May 12 during the 75th annual commencement ceremony of the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

“Jesus spent time with people in their hard places, and it can be painful to just be with people when they’re suffering. But as occupational therapists, sometimes that’s the most powerful thing we can do.”

— Mike McNulty