The NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy is pleased to name Taylor Kordich (MS ’21) and Jenny Lai (MS ’21) as this year’s recipients of the Frieda J. Behlen Occupational Therapy Scholarship. The award, named to honor the memory of our department’s generous founder and former chair, Frieda J. Behlen, recognizes high-achieving MS and MS/OTD students with a demonstrated commitment to contributing to the NYU OT community.
We connected with Taylor and Jenny to learn more about their current studies, professional goals, and what this accomplishment means to them.
Which parts of your NYU OT studies are most exciting to you?
Taylor: An exciting part of my studies was attending the “Global Context” course in Tel Aviv, Israel. I was able to gain a greater sense of how other countries approach disability in the areas of accessibility, social stigma, accessing information, and technology. Immersing myself in Israeli culture showed me how vital cultural competence is when communicating with clients.
I am also working alongside Professor Tracy Chippendale and seven fellow classmates to conduct a quantitative research study on fall prevalence, the consequences of falls, and the fall prevention preferences of adults in mid-life. There has been little research done that examines middle-aged adults who experience falls and suffer from physical, psychological, functional, and financial consequences. I am very excited to further explore this research study and hope to reveal the significant impact of falls on this population.
Jenny: One exciting part of my studies at NYU OT is the fieldwork sessions. I am able to apply what I learned clinically in an actual occupational therapy setting and see it play out in front of me. There is always that exhilarating moment of “Ah!” whenever I see an assessment tool that I recognized being used by an occupational therapist and knowing that I know how to use it too. Fieldwork allows me to witness the difference occupational therapists are making every day and serves as a reminder that I will also be making a difference someday.
I am also working on a qualitative descriptive study with Assistant Professor Janet Njelesani and two other occupational therapy students to explore teachers’ responses to school violence against students with disabilities in Zambia. I am very excited to be part of this research because I am getting a chance to see another country’s perspective on disability and how teachers, who are often important role models, address school violence.
What are your professional goals as an aspiring OT?
Taylor: When I become a licensed therapist, my initial goal is to work with older adults and children in a Veterans Affairs, assisted living, and/or hospital-based setting. My goal is to explore the field, understand more about OT, and develop a more refined interest in the profession before coming back to NYU for my doctorate. I would like to pursue a doctorate to gain further knowledge on a certain topic or population of interest and to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a professor.
Being a professor at NYU would be my ultimate dream because I would love to teach incoming students about this remarkable profession and I value education. Lastly, I would like to sit for my hand therapy certification later on in life.
Jenny: As a future practicing therapist, my goal is to introduce occupational therapy to Asian Americans and especially the Chinese-American population in New York City. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Asian-American women over 65 years old have the highest suicide rate in the country compared to their same-aged peers and Asian-American girls have the highest rates of depressive symptoms when compared to same-aged peers of other ethnicities. Mental health can be addressed by occupational therapists, especially if the patients’ functions have been affected. As a Chinese American, I understand the stigma regarding mental disorders in the Asian community. However, in addition to cultural norms, Asian Americans face healthcare barriers every day.
Due to barriers such as limited English proficiency, many Asian Americans do not get adequate services to address health problems in general. As a future OT, I want to be able to promote occupational therapy to this population because health management is part of our profession’s scope of practice. I want occupational therapists to be a resource the Asian-American community can reach out to and know that there will be translators available every step of the way.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
Taylor: I am beyond humbled to be selected, and I am so grateful to be a part of the NYU OT community. I have learned more about the profession and myself (personally and professionally) than I ever expected to, and I feel that NYU has had a massive influence on this growth. Thank you so much to NYU’s occupational therapy alumni for believing in me and my professional aspirations.
Jenny: Winning this scholarship means a lot to me because it is an honor to be recognized for my academic achievements. One of the questions in the scholarship application asked about my contributions to the NYU OT community. This community is one of giving – I gave to others what I have received and I hope I can continue this tradition for future students. Having been in the NYU OT program for the past two years solidified my path to becoming an occupational therapist, and this scholarship in many ways represents my cumulative effort to get to where I am.
Support the Scholarship
After founding our Department of Occupational Therapy, longtime chair Frieda J. Behlen was known to personally provide financial support to help students complete their studies. NYU OT hopes to further honor her legacy by continuing to increase the size and number of Frieda J. Behlen Occupational Therapy Scholarships awarded with the generous contributions of our alumni community.