Diverse-OT Student Org Highlight: Exploring Social Identity and Moving Towards Action

Occupational therapists aim to enable people of all backgrounds to live life to its fullest by helping to promote health and wellness through the participation of necessary and meaningful every-day occupations. As a program that prides itself on producing quality therapists, we are incredibly proud that our students are dedicated to understanding their roles in social justice and creating change in our community as well as the OT profession.

Diverse-OT in particular “aims to advance the cultural climate within the University of Wisconsin-Occupational Therapy program and the greater UW campus by providing opportunities for discussion and education on diversity and inclusion. [They] strive to create pathways for marginalized students into the program, and to foster a strong community of occupational therapy students who are knowledgeable about the experiences of underrepresented peoples and equipped to address health disparities”.

Diverse-OT held it’s semester kick-off meeting virtually on Tuesday- the meeting centered around a workshop led by Caitlyn LoMonte, Program Director for Social Justice Programs for the Multicultural Student Center. Caitlyn’s workshop focused on understanding our social identities and relationships with privilege, while also considering strategies we can use to create change within our spheres of influence.

Participants spent time reflecting on what identities we hold, how those identities are manifested in our interactions, how they influence how we navigate our lives, and how we can use our understanding of our own identities to help us better engage with peers who have had experiences that may be inherently different from ours.

The group also spent time discussing privilege and how privilege does not necessarily mean that your life is easy, but regardless of that, it is important to understand your privilege and how it changes your experience in different settings, and how it can impact the weight of your words in different social spheres.

The session ended by discussing how we can create sustainable actions and promote social change. Students were asked to reflect on what they will commit to be accountable for in their own lives and to think about how we can make sure we focus the process of becoming a more just society and incorporate those ideals in our daily lives.

The OT program is so happy that we have students who will be unwavering in their commitment to equity and social justice, and we are incredibly excited to see how the profession of OT will evolve as our students enter the professional stage. We would also like to thank Caitlyn LoMonte once again for helping us engage in these important conversations.

For those that are interested, this “Exploring Social Identity and Moving Towards Action” worksheet is what our group used to guide participation in this meeting, and it is available for you to use as well!