Research on SJSU Faculty in Residence Program Published by an Interprofessional Research Team

By Luis Arabit

On March 8, 2023, Dr. Luis Arabit, Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor, and a former Faculty in Residence (FIR) (2018-2020) at University Housing Services at San José State University, together with a team of faculty researchers from the various fields of Occupational Therapy, Biology, Education, Political Science, Mathematics, Psychology,  and Public Administration published a qualitative phenomenological research study entitled “The Impact of Faculty-In-Residence Programs on Faculty Development” ( The research article was published in the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice.

As lead author, Dr. Arabit was thrilled and immensely proud of the team of faculty researchers who worked collaboratively and tirelessly on this project. He stated that “Research such as these showcases the relevance of university-based FIR programs and its impact not just on students but also on faculty development.” The results indicated that faculty participation in FIR programs helped facilitate faculty development in teaching, research and service performance, which in turn created opportunities for student engagement, student sense of belonging and student success. Beyond the positive results, transcending themes of diversity, empathy, networking and organization were uncovered, which enhanced FIR faculty professional development. In addition, the study also found that to achieve overall positive impact of FIR programs, program goals and objectives need to be aligned and agreed upon by university, residential life administrators, and faculty.

The research project received a grant of $12,000 from Project Succeed of SJSU in 2019 with the assistance of the late Dr. Patricia Backer. Congratulations to the collaborative effort of this interprofessional team of researchers!

Celebrating April as OT Month and Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month!

By Katrina Long with contributions from Luis Arabit

While April is celebrated as Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, it is also Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Awareness Month. The Parkinson’s Foundation sponsored a Moving Day Walk, which is a nationwide grassroots campaign that “spotlights PD on a national level and gives the chance to raise awareness and funds in our own community”. Dr. Katrina Long, OT Assistant Professor, organized a team (called “Occupational Therapy Department- SJSU”) to represent the OT profession and the SJSU OT department at this event, held April 15, 2023. The event was a great opportunity to advocate and support the PD community as well as showcase the valuable role OT plays in the lives of people living with PD. The walk raised nearly $700, all going toward  “continuing to improve the quality of care for those living with Parkinson’s disease”. Dr. Long was joined by OT students and faculty both in person and virtually. In addition, Dr. Long was interviewed live on air by CBS News on April 26, where she highlighted Parkinson’s disease month and the role of Occupational Therapy ( Congratulations!

Occupational Therapy Students Out and About in the Community

By: Dr. Luis Arabit

Every spring semester, the Occupational Therapy (OT) department offers an introductory course (OCTH-224- OT in Community I) with a service-learning experiential component that exposes occupational therapy Masters graduate students to the distinct and emerging role and service OT offers in emerging and non-traditional settings in neighboring communities around San Jose.

This spring semester, despite a rocky start to community placements due to the spreading Omicron variant, students were finally provided placements in a variety of community settings, which included the Homeless Garden Project, AACI Moorpark, Boldly Me, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, and AACI Story Road- GLOW Project. These community sites serve individuals, groups and populations that are affected by social determinants of health issues such as homelessness, joblessness, immigrants experiencing trauma, increasing incidence of HIV infection, children experiencing mental health issues, and those experiencing various levels of poverty. The aim of the course is to apply the social model of health to promote participation and engagement in health-promoting occupations and to describe how conditions such as poverty, trauma and disability can create occupational imbalance, restriction, alienation, or deprivation which influences individual and community health and well-being.

As an example, OT students who were placed in the Homeless Garden Project Center developed a proposal that centered on homeless individuals where they designed a program that emphasized on addressing the mental and physical health of participants, assessing  individual abilities, discussing personal goals, values and interests while working on relevant and appropriate vocational skills, that would  help place them at work and job sites that would best suit their abilities and interests. This proposed program by the students exposes and increases student learning about the infinite possibilities for occupational therapy to be of service to individuals and groups who are marginalized in society.

As part of the requirements for this course, the OT students develop a community profile and action plan based on collaborative and participatory needs assessment strategies. They analyze community resources, and identify any need for additional and potential resources of support for possible program development. In the process, they are guided to identify how occupational therapists can assume various roles of consultants and collaborators in emerging community practice areas to promote health, well-being, community development while meeting the occupational needs of the community. As a culminating final assignment, the students reflect on the role of the occupational therapist as a health-promoting advocate and global citizen.

CHHS DEI Profile – Dr. Melisa Kaye

Dr. Melisa Kaye, Occupational TherapyDr. Melisa Kaye – Department of Occupational Therapy 

What is your role in your department/school?

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy

What would you identify as one of the most significant actions you have taken to advance the cause for diversity either in the classroom, your community or your profession? 

I came out. To my colleagues, my clients, and now to my students. I realize that in 2022, an era where we can engage in entire programs of queer study at a university level, this may not seem like a revolutionary act. In the 70s however, coming out was an enormous political and personal decision. I was beaten up, harassed, and ostracized from family and community because I was a lesbian. LGBTQ people were publicly despised and discriminated against and basic freedoms were denied to us. As a new occupational therapist in the 90s, I realized LGBTQ folks were not represented in research or in practice– coming out was terrifying because the professional stakes were so high. I was especially reluctant to come out because I worked with children and was not sure how my client’s families or my colleagues would react.

I have no need or desire to tell everyone in my work world that I am queer, but I do not want to be forced to hide my identity either. As an aspect of holding healthy boundaries, I pragmatically reveal my sexual orientation and identity in the service of teaching and professional practice only. I do not want to proclaim, “I’m queer” to everyone I meet, yet in the context of my life and my job, it is important for me to stand up and assert my right to exist. This in turn means that I stand up for my LGBTQ colleagues, clients and students. By extension, it means that I demand, to the best of my ability, that LGBTQ people have the same protections, safety, opportunity, and justice as het and cis gender folks.

I understand that queer can be a hidden aspect of diversity, whereas race is often immediately evident to others. Being able to choose whether to come out affords me privilege. It also makes me prey to my own internalized homophobia. I understand and respect that privilege, so although being LGBTQ offers me certain insights into DEI work, I would not presume equate my experiences with sexual orientation with race, ethnicity, or other diversities. I think a source of power of the DEI work many of us are currently doing is the unity that builds through mutual respect of our differences and our common aims.

How have you integrated topics of DEI into hiring new faculty and/or admitting students?

Neither hiring nor student admission are included in my responsibilities right now because I am a relatively new faculty member. The area I have worked on and continue to address is honoring and integrating DEI into our curricula. I am committed to increasing the richness of my students’ experiences in my classes and to engendering cultural humility as these students prepare for entry level practice.

Tell us about how you and why you became attentive to DEI topics. What prompted this change in your department/school?  What did the process look like?

I have been steeped in issues surrounding justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion since I was a child. My mother was very active in the civil rights movement, as well as the women’s rights and disability rights movements. She was also deeply involved in worker’s rights and labor unionization. One of my first memories was being with my mom at an anti-war rally in Detroit, MI in the late 60s. We heard Angela Davis and Bobby Seale speak. I was so awed by what little I understood of the messages and also by the energy. Then, the police came in riot gear and started tear gassing the crowd. My mom was in a wheelchair and I climbed onto her lap so she could speed us through the square to get out of the gas. I was terrified and amazed, and I remember talking about it with her for a long, long time– it shaped a lot of the beliefs and perspectives I still hold today.

I, myself, have been politically active since I was a teenager. First in women’s rights and then in AIDS politics, LGBT rights, same sex marriage equality, and now as an ally in Black Lives Matter and DEI organizations. Being an occupational therapist, I am also a disability rights advocate and ally. I was active with ACT-UP and Queer Nation and then worked on the Prop 8 (same sex marriage legislation) campaign. I helped found a neighborhood political action organization in my community in 2016 after the presidential election. In sum, I have not changed who I am, I simply started integrating the work I was already doing in my communities into my roles at SJSU.

What support did you need to make it happen?  Did you draw on existing resources or examples that were helpful in guiding your change?

Perhaps the greatest influence on my decision to start doing DEI work at SJSU came from a process of de-compartmentalizing my life. In 2020 when I joined SJSU as tenure track faculty member, the world felt like it was going up in flames. We had just endured four years of a political regime that publicly sanctioned sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, ableism, and racially driven police brutality. Truth came under attack and became an easily assailable concept. COVID-19 was in full swing and our communities were in lockdown. I decided that for my own wellbeing, as well as that of my SJSU community, I wanted to do my part to be in the solution rather than succumbing to despair amidst all our many injustices and hardships.

As a means of recognizing my students’ experiences, I started by bringing current events to light in my classes. In my position, I am always conscious of not engaging in politics, yet for young adults who may never have experienced widespread injustice, it was vital to give voice to these historic issues. I remember when the spate of anti-Asian violence started and I knew I needed to acknowledge my students’ outrage and fear. I do not believe I can effectively teach if my students are not psychologically and emotionally available to learn, so the decision was driven by necessity.

I wanted to continue my work, so I applied for and was accepted to be an Affinity Mentor for Academic Success (AMAS). For the past year, I have shared my experience and worked with diverse students entering master’s programs at SJSU. I also joined CEED in Fall 2021, and got involved in DEI issues on a college level. Early on, I was introduced to the CEED needs assessment report to the college. The findings indicated that the formation of departmental DEI committees was a key action item. I brought this info back to my department, and our OT DEI committee was founded. Although we are in our infancy, the committee is up and running, which is fantastic. We balanced our membership between faculty/staff and students, and the students bring such vibrance and energy to the table. It’s an honor to be in conversation with colleagues and students, and to be working on these issues for my department, our college, SJSU, and my profession.

Tell us one book, one article, one documentary, or once movie you’ve read or watched that you would like to suggest to others that helped shape your thinking about DEI work. 

Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race was a great book because it gave voice not only to deconstructing the myriad problems facing our country with regard to race, but also to actions that BIPOC people and white allies can take to effect change.

Celebrating Achievements of the OT Faculty in 2021

By: Luis Arabit

Dr. Megan Chang, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Megan Chang, Occupational Therapy

The Occupational Therapy (OT) department has much to celebrate in 2021. In September, Dr. Megan Chang was awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award of the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award of the College of Medicine at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. The award honors an alumnus of the university who has demonstrated significant achievements and outstanding contributions both professionally and in the community. In addition, Dr. Chang is also collaborating with Dr. Areum Jensen from the Department of Kinesiology on an ongoing multidisciplinary research project to understand the effects of exercise on physiological, physical, psychological and behavioral improvements in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Melisa Kaye, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Melisa Kaye, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Melisa Kaye was chosen to be a junior faculty mentor in the Affinity Mentoring for Academic Success throughout 2021-2022 academic year. This program engages students by providing mentoring support for graduate students and for those historically underserved students, especially BIPOC students or members of minority populations (LGBTQIA+ students, female engineers, etc.).

Dr. Gigi Smith, Chair of Occupational Therapy

Dr. Gigi Smith, Chair of Occupational Therapy

This past October, Dr. Gigi Smith, Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Vice President of the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) was awarded the OTAC Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes an OTAC member who has made significant contributions to the field of OT in California and is viewed as a role model and an inspirational example to the community locally or statewide.


Dr. Chiao-Ju Fang, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Chiao-Ju Fang, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Chiao-Ju Fang was awarded the 2021 California Foundation for Occupational Therapy (CFOT) General Research Grant Award for research entitled “The Influence of Social Media Usage on Participation in Daily Activities for Young Adults with Disabilities”. CFOT is a nonprofit public benefit organization that help support students, practitioners, and researchers advance their knowledge and skills, thereby enhancing OT services to the public.

Dr. Katrina Long, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Katrina Long, Occupational Therapy

Dr. Katrina Long was awarded the 2021 American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) and The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) Intervention Research Grant for her study on Pre-Active Parkinson’s Disease: A Randomized Control Trial Pilot Study to improve Self- Management of PA routines in Adults with Early- Stage Parkinson’s Disease.

Congratulations to these Fab Five OTs for their outstanding work and service to the community and the OT profession!

In addition, the OT department is also proud to celebrate the research studies published in 2021 by the following faculty: Dr. Megan Chang, Dr. Melisa Kaye, Dr. Chiao-Ju Fang, Dr. Winifred Schultz-Krohn, and Dr. Deb Bolding. Thank you all for your outstanding contributions to research and evidence-based practice for the occupational therapy profession.