OT Major Creates Video For Scholarly & Creative Works Event

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Drawn to Dominican University of California by its small class sizes and campus beauty, Julia Zasso studies Occupational Therapy yet discovered she has another talent.

Julia created the promotional video for this year's Scholarly and Creative Works Conference. The annual event, which was held virtually on April 21, historically showcases a collection of research presentations, posters, art work, and dance and choral performances by Dominican’s graduating undergraduates, graduate students, and Adult Degree Completion students.

She was recommended for the project by Christina Mayes, Digital Portfolio Specialist and Integrative Coach in the Student Success Center.

“I have worked in the SSC since the second semester of my freshman year, and the need for tutorials and video demonstrations kept emerging,” Julia says. “I have worked my way up from creating tutorials on how to register for classes, to overviews on how to develop Digital Portfolio content, and finally this external project of creating a student-facing promotional video for the SCWC.”

In addition to producing the SCWC video, Julia presented her research project – “Impacts of Assistive Technology Applications in Higher Education for Students With and Without Disabilities, Continued” – with her OT classmates Tamera McNeil, Alma Cortez, Geneen Samaniego, and Melanie Barillas. Laura Greiss Hess OTR/L, PhD is their advisor.

The study aims to further explore the efficacy of personalized assistive technology (AT) support with an occupational lens in supporting students with and without disabilities in integrating AT into their school occupations. At the SCWC, Julia and her classmates will present their preliminary data comparing interventions with varying levels of support from occupational therapy student researchers.


At Granite Bay High School, Julia was originally exploring different career options including Speech Therapy when she was applying for colleges. However, she was encouraged by a friend to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. The friend set Julia up with an opportunity to shadow an OT and, Julia says, “after one full day of shadowing I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”

In addition to studying OT, Julia decided to pursue coursework in psychology because, she says, “I believe that the two go hand-in-hand. At its inception, occupational therapy was a psychosocial practice. Even though OT has shifted into other practice areas as well, there is not a single setting in which the psychological wellbeing of a person is not critical to their occupational existence and well being.”

In her OT coursework, Julia regularly connected with Dr. Karen McCarthy, OTD, OTR/L and assistant professor in the OT department in the School of Health and Natural Sciences. Karen led a pre-OT seminar, two OT psychosocial courses, and a study abroad experience to Ireland.

“She not only opened my eyes to the practice areas and need for OT within mental health settings, but also has supported me in becoming a deeply critical thinker about the world, systems, and institutions around me,” Julia says. “She has helped me view myself as a lifelong learner, and I believe that her impact on my OT education will have a lasting effect on my capacity to be the most autonomous, person-centered, and occupation-centered OT I can be.”

Christina Mayes also had a major influence on Julia in the Student Success Center, through Digital Portfolio development, and beyond. When Christina joined Dr. Bill Phillips as co-organizer of the Scholarly and Creative Works Conference, Christina had confidence in Julia that she could create a video to advance it. Julia has become so adept at it that she also has made a video for a client in one of her Community Practice Labs.


Julia’s journey through Dominican is almost complete. She joined the Torch program as she transitioned into her first year of college. In 2018, she started working in the Student Success Center and that led her to Peer Mentoring and Digital Portfolio development.

“Through both of these roles as well as my position as a student worker, I have felt like I found my place and my voice in the broader campus community,” Julia says. “I have had amazing experiences being able to connect with others and support them in the process of finding their own.”

There are too many highlights at Dominican for Julia to pick just one that stands out, but she will always treasure her global education experience – OT 5230 Critical Perspectives in Mental Health – in Ireland through the Global Education Office. Julia says the course was life-changing “culturally, academically, and personally.”

“I would describe my Dominican Experience as both challenging and incredibly rewarding. I believe that in my time at Dominican, I’ve grown as a student, a person, and a future professional more than I had in my entire life prior,” Julia says. “My biggest takeaways have been learning to believe in myself and not being afraid of change. The more my experience has supported my journey to self-acceptance and personal growth, the more I have realized that I am and always will be growing, learning, and challenging both myself and the world around me, so long as I am intentional in doing so.”

The Dominican Experience

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