Is a 24-Hour Pardee Person
Having lived in Pardee Tower as a freshman at USC, Myka Winder has returned to her old digs as one of the university’s newest resident faculty members.
“I moved back into my old home,” said Winder, who became an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy in fall 2011 and resident faculty at South Area Residential College one year later. “I know what it’s like to live in that little student room with no air conditioning and the communal bathrooms, so I have that connection.”
Winder grew up in Delaware, Georgia and Connecticut before her family moved to Littleton, Colo., near Denver, when she was in third grade. Winder excelled at sports, especially cross country, track and swimming. She also volunteered through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and participated in her high school’s honor society and multicultural alliance.
She spent seven years as a student at USC, where she received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing and neuroscience, master’s degree in occupational therapy, and clinical Occupational Therapy Doctorate degree. Her doctoral work focused on curriculum development and teaching in foundational occupational therapy courses. She’s also worked with children with developmental delays and disabilities.
As a faculty member, Winder divides her time between teaching two to three courses a semester and practicing for 20 hours a week at the Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice where she helps USC students and others.
“I work with college students here on campus doing things like stress management, time management and transitioning to college in one-on-one occupational therapy sessions,” she said. “I’m really passionate about that transition point in student life, and I thought that being a resident faculty member would be a really unique opportunity to be involved in it.”
Winder enjoys interacting with the freshmen in her residential college. She opens her apartment for Sunday board game nights and gatherings, and has been both a guest and a featured speaker at biweekly faculty master dinners, where special guests discuss topics ranging from poetry to neurobiology to occupational therapy.
As a resident faculty member, she’s also brought her OT skills to the table in other ways. She leads time management and stress management seminars and fairs for residents, and writes a monthly column of health and wellness tips, which she posts on the lobby bulletin board.
“I can talk to students about making sure they’re keeping that good balance: getting enough sleep, doing meaningful activities that they enjoy, joining clubs, exercising and exploring L.A.,” she said.
For Winder, these informal conversations are a vital part of her mentorship role.
“When I am around and hanging out in the living room, I like to have the door open and be there for students to talk and interact,” she said. “It’s fun, and my husband Shiloh likes to make friends on the floor, people to play foosball with.”
Winder works closely with Area Director Kristo Gobin and the other Residential Education staff — including the resident coordinator and eight resident assistants (RAs) — to create the best experience possible for the South Area freshmen. She recently collaborated with the RAs to take her residents on a scavenger hunt in Hollywood and on a go kart racing expedition.
“We are so excited to have Myka in the South Area Residential College,” said Gobin. “Her ability to connect with residents is incredible. She constantly walks the halls and goes out of her way to be present.”
Winder is a presence in many other areas of campus life as well. She acts as co-adviser for the USC chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon national occupational therapy honor society. She swims two miles a day at the Lyon Center, and she also trains with a group of ocean swimmers, who swim from the Hermosa to the Manhattan Beach piers on weekends.
“It’s a really great positive for the university to have faculty living amongst students,” she said. “It makes the students feel like they can approach faculty more, because I’m approachable, and I’m a member of the faculty. I’ve introduced myself to all of them as just Myka. They see me, and I always go to the pool and come back with my hair all wet. It’s really breaking that barrier and boundary.”