University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Carlin Daley

Lends Natural Grace to Occupational Therapy

By Cristy Lytal

Carlin DaleyPhoto by Lillian InsalataCarlin Daley

If you’ve danced on stage with Beyoncé and in a music video with P. Diddy, what’s the next rung on your career ladder? For Carlin Daley, it was becoming a USC faculty member.

Carlin is an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy as well as a professional dancer. In addition, she sees patients through Disability Services and Programs (DSP) and the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty (OTF) Practice, a teaching clinic run by the university’s OT faculty.

“I crave variety and different experiences,” she said. “It’s nice to have something on the side that I get to do every once in a while — just random and fun — and I meet really interesting people.”

Daley’s life has never lacked variety. The daughter of an American mother and Costa Rican father who met through the Peace Corps, Daley was born in Costa Rica and raised in Wisconsin. By the time she was 12, she began dancing, and before long, she was spending her summers studying ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop at professional dance studios in Los Angeles.

She studied at Pomona College and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, as well as pursuing a professional dance career in Los Angeles. As a junior, she transferred to USC, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2002. She spent the next year-and-a-half auditioning and performing as a dancer, as well as earning her Pilates teaching certification.

Ever a scholar, Daley returned to USC to earn both her Master of Arts and Doctor of Occupational Therapy degrees. Her doctoral research about workplace wellness evolved into a post-graduation job as the assistant director of wellness initiatives within USC’s Division of Career and Protective Services, where she developed programs to promote healthy eating, exercise and other positive lifestyle changes for campus employees, including those in the Department of Public Safety.

“It really is such a great profession,” she said. ” I went into it because occupations are the things that occupy people’s time, and that’s everything. This is a profession where I can work in so many different settings to help people do whatever’s important to them for their work, their schoolwork, their family or just the creation of a healthier overall routine.”

After almost three years in Career and Protective Services, Daley decided it was time for more variety. She bought a one-way ticket to Santorini, Greece, traveled extensively in Europe for three months, and then returned to Los Angeles and worked for an independent filmmaker.

“I got to work with Julia Roberts and Colin Farrell, which was so random, but really cool for that year,” she said.

During her time away from USC, she also worked with the Occupational Therapy Training Program, an agency serving at-risk, economically disadvantaged youth and families throughout Los Angeles.

In October 2011, she returned to the Trojan Family as a clinical faculty member. Her position is split 50-50 between the OTF Practice and DSP, where she works with students who have registered disabilities.

“We are so fortunate to have Carlin on our staff,” said Eddie Roth, assistant dean and director of DSP and the USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity. “Her work as an occupational therapist with health promotion, lifestyle change, and promotion of better habits and routines has contributed greatly to the success of many of our students.”

Daley’s services aren’t limited to students with a registered disability or diagnosis; she also works with any student who wants to meet personal lifestyle goals such as managing time, improving focus, losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing clutter or optimizing life balance.

Although she’s settled into her role as a USC clinical faculty member, she still becomes what she calls “showy, entertainment, performance Carlin” whenever she puts on her dancing shoes. She takes weekly dance classes at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Hollywood and continues to perform. In addition, she’s a yoga instructor and graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Therapy RX Certificate Program.

Daley is also an avid traveler. Through USC’s OT department, she’s taken two trips to work with physically disabled students in Ghana. She’s served as the maid of honor in a traditional Zambian wedding, and she’s even been on a month-long backpacking safari in the Serengeti, encountering elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes and lions.

“I really have a passion for travel and for different cultures, immersing myself in them and getting to know about traditions,” she said. “I’m just fascinated about how people live their lives. That’s one of the reasons why I love doing what I do — getting to know different people.”