YDA J. SMITH, PhD portrait
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Physical Therapy & Athletic Training
  • Associate Professor (Lecturer), Occupational & Recreational Therapies

Current Courses

Fall 2023

  • OC TH 6020-001
    Culture & Thera Relatng
    Location: HPEB 322 (HPEB 322)

Spring 2023

Professional Organizations

  • Society for the Study of Occupation. 07/01/2019 - present. Position : Member.
  • American Occupational Therapy Association . 03/01/1999 - present. Position : Member.
  • Utah Occupational Therapy Association. 01/15/1996 - present. Position : Member.

Teaching Philosophy

Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) define transformational learning as “dramatic, fundamental change in the way we see ourselves and the world in which we live” (p. 130).  Teaching course content focused on cultural diversity awareness in Seminar I (OC TH 6800) and Culture and Occupation (OC TH 7152) has given me the opportunity to witness the powerful effect teaching can have on student perceptions of themselves and the impact of a deeper understanding of their privileged position in society.  Exploring contemporary sociocultural issues helps them to see that knowledge of cultural variations in communication styles and belief systems enhances their ability to develop more effective therapeutic relationships and more effective treatment plans. Students participating in the Immigration & Resettlement Fieldwork Program experience the same transformational learning through cross-cultural relationships along with reading assignments and weekly group discussions. 

I structure my coursework in cultural diversity awareness with a deliberate order of content.  Students have often commented on the value of beginning this journey by making the effort to better understand themselves.  One cannot effectively understand others without self-reflection on personal values and where these values originate.  Coursework then focuses on other cultures which includes conversations about variations between members of the class.  As the courses progress, more controversial information is introduced including the concept of white privilege.  Guest lecturers from typically marginalized groups provide valuable insights into the different experiences and world views of people living in our own community.  At times these differing perspectives are painful for students to hear.  Students are encouraged to express their opinions about the topics even if they differ from the opinions of others and to make their feelings known.  I make a concerted effort to create a safe space for students to share their thoughts as there is no one right way to view the topics presented. 

Cultural diversity awareness course material is presented in broad terms but then is linked to issues of health equity and how this new knowledge can impact the work of an occupational therapist during individualized treatment as well as in advocacy for populations marginalized by, and perhaps excluded from, our nation’s health care system.  This gives students the opportunity to consider their potential roles as an OT at both micro and macro levels. 

I expect students to come to the classroom and to community fieldwork settings with an intrinsic motivation to learn and participate actively in the learning process.  Independent thought, analysis, and clinical reasoning are required to become a competent and effective occupational therapist and I work toward helping students gain these skills. Students also come to the classroom with valuable knowledge that can be shared with the rest of the class and instructor.  I believe that much of learning comes from exploration, learning from one's own experiences and reflection on these experiences.  Therefore my classroom and lab experiences are structured to include not only the transference of concrete practical information, but engagement in experiential learning and reflection.  I do this through small and large group discussions, hands-on activities within the classroom, community-based assignments and structured reflection assignments.  The continuing education courses I select to attend and journal articles I read provide me with an increased knowledge of contemporary issues related to diversity training that I use to modify my classes and how I go about teaching them. 

When mentoring students in a fieldwork setting I use these same teaching principles but also use a collaborative teaching model (Cohn, Dooley, & Simmons, 2001) where students work in pairs and meet as a group with me regularly.  This provides opportunities to learn from each other and brainstorm solutions to complex problems.  In doing this I often feel I am learning as much from my students as they learn from me.


Cohn, E. S., Dooley, N. R., & Simmons, L. A. (2001). Collaborative learning applied to fieldwork education. In P. Crist & M. Scaffa (Eds.), Education for occupational therapy in healthcare: Strategies for the new millenium (pp. 69-83). Philadelphia, PA: Haworth

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., & Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass