Mitchell Symposium

The Mitchell Symposium in Occupational Science is named in honor and memory of Dr. Marlys Mitchell, the founder of the master’s program in Occupational Therapy at UNC-Chapel Hill, and her husband, Earl, a great supporter of Marlys’ work (and of occupational therapy). Symposium scholars deliver a public lecture and participate in talks, discussions, and meetings with faculty, students, and researchers from throughout Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and the Department of Allied Health Sciences. Initiated in 2011, the symposium has been made possible through generous gifts from friends and alumni of the division.

2018 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar-Virginia Dickie, PhD, OT, FAOTA

QUILTED: Stitching Together Theory and Practice by Studying Occupation

Monday, February 26, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. in Bondurant Hall, room G100Virginia Dickie

A basic understanding of occupation is an essential element for an occupation-based approach to occupational therapy. I have chosen to use my anthropology training in ethnography to study whole occupations, i.e., not only how individuals complete occupations, but how these occupations are part of a much larger situation that includes social, economic, political, and environmental elements. After coming to North Carolina in 2000, I focused my research on contemporary quilt making occupations and collaborated with colleagues Cutchin and Humphry to develop a transactional perspective of occupation, applying John Dewey's work to findings from the range of our research programs. My research is qualitative, and I was fortunate to also collaborate with Grace Baranek's research team in the area of sensory experiences of children and autism. 

View a recording of the 2018 Mitchell Symposium.

2017 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar - Dr. Joy Hammel 

Click here to watch a recording of the 2017 Mitchell Symposium public lecture, "Why can’t rehab be more like that?! Visioning participation-focused assessment and programming from the insider perspective of people with disabilities.”

Dr. Joy Hammel

The 2017 Mitchell Symposium will occur at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 9, 2017 in Bondurant Hall, room G100. A reception will immediately follow. The speaker for this year will be Joy Hammel, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. Hammel is a Professor and Wade Meyer Endowed Chair in Occupational Therapy, and in the PhD programs in Disability Studies and in Rehabilitation Sciences, in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her participatory action research focuses on assessing, documenting, and creating innovative interventions and systems change initiatives related to community living and participation with people with disabilities and disability communities. She is currently Co-PI on the National Institute of Disability & Independent Living Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) center grant, the Americans with Disabilities Act Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA- PARC).

2016 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar - Dr. Staffan Josephsson 
Staffan Josephsson
Dr. Staffan Josephsson

Click here to watch a recording of the 2016 Mitchell Symposium public lecture, "Transactional Perspectives on Occupation: Missed Opportunities for Research and Practice.”

The 2016 Mitchell Symposium will occur at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, in Bondurant Hall, room G100. The speaker for this year will be Staffan Josephsson, PhD, OT, and professor of occupational therapy at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr. Josephsson’s research has focused on activity in relation to creativity, involvement and participation for people with chronic disabilities. His expertise in the narrative tradition of research emphasizes the everyday lived experiences of people. Dr. Josephsson’s contributions to occupational therapy and occupational science are significant, and we are honored to host him for the 2016 Mitchell Symposium. An event honoring donors to the Mitchell Symposium Fund will be held in Chapel Hill as part of the Mitchell Symposium events. The details of this event will be shared when they are available.  

2016 Mitchell Symposium Cover

2015 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar – Dr. Dorothy Holland

Click here to watch a recording of the 2015 Mitchell Symposium public lecture, "Cultural Know-How, Community Capacity and Transformative Agency:  A New Frontier for Occupational Science and Therapy.

Dr. Dorothy Holland
The Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy welcomed Dr. Dorothy Holland, PhD, Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Holland is a socio-cultural anthropologist with a long history of field research in several countries including the US. Currently, Dr. Holland is Director of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Reseach, former chair of the department and past president of the US Society for Psychological Anthropology. A long time student of identity, social movements and activism, she has, in the last decade, begun to con-centrate on “emergent anthropology” with the idea that anthropological research could be meaningfully integrated into communities’ responses to the challenges and opportunities facing them.


Click here to watch a video of the public lecture (shown above). 

Dr. Dorothy Holland and Attendees of the 2015 Mitchell Symposium

2014 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar – Dr. Gelya Frank

Click here to watch a recording of the 2014 Mitchell Symposium public lecture, "Occupational Activism for Global Justice.”

Dr. Gelya Frank, PhD
The Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy welcomed Dr. Gelya Frank, PhD, Professor at the University of Southern California, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, as the 2014 Mitchell Symposium Scholar. Dr. Frank was on campus in March, delivering her public lecture, “Occupational Activism for Global Justice,” on March 4 in Bondurant Hall G100.

As a founding contributor to OS, Dr. Frank’s work bridges OT, OS, and anthropology in projects such as the interdisciplinary NAPA-OT Field School in Guatemala that she has led since 2008. She is author of the award-winning books Venus on Wheels: Two Decades of Dialogue on Disability, Biography, and Being Female in America (University of California Press), Defying the Odds: The Tule River Tribe’s Struggle for Sovereignty in Three Centuries (Yale University Press), and the forthcoming Occupational Reconstructions: Embodiments of Social Justice (Duke University Press).


Click here to watch a video of the public lecture (shown above).

Dr. Gelya Frank with Occupational Science PhD students and faculty.

2013 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar – Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus

Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus, PhD
Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus, PhD, OTR, FAOTA, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology/Occupational Therapy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, visited UNC Chapel Hill in March as the 2013 Mitchell Symposium Scholar.  In addition to classroom visits and individual consultations with faculty members and students, Hasselkus participated in a discussion titled “The Lived Experience of Doing Research” with faculty and PhD students on March 5, and delivered a public lecture titled “Everyday Occupations: The Heart of Research and Practice” on March 6.

During her over 40 years of active participation in the profession, Dr. Hasselkus led the Gerontology Special Interest Section.  As a meticulous scholar, she paved the way for qualitative research to be accepted in occupational therapy literature.  In 2006, Dr. Hasselkus was asked to serve as the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecturer at the AOTA national conference.  She continues share her passion and insights in to the meanings of everyday occupations through her blog  

From left, Occupational Science PhD students Khalilah Johnson and Caroline McCarty; Dr. Virginia Dickie, Professor; Dr. Betty Hasselkus; and PhD students Lauren Holahan, Chetna Sethi, Adrienne Miao, and Valerie Fox.

Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus, PhD, OTR, FAOTA, meets with Occupational Science PhD students in the OS model apartment classroom.

2012 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar – Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman

Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman, PhD
Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman, PhD, OT Reg., was selected as the 2012 Mitchell Symposium Scholar. After presenting a seminar to students and faculty and meeting with individuals and groups throughout the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Dr. Rudman presented a public lecture on February 29 titled “Working Against the ‘Individualizing Of The Social’:  The Critical Potential Of Occupational Science.” 

At the time of the symposium, Rudman was Associate Professor and Faculty Scholar in the School of Occupational Therapy, within the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Chair of the Occupational Science field of the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences program of the University of Western Ontario.  Her research focuses on the relationships between occupation and identity, health, and quality of life.  Within the broader field of occupational science, she is particularly interested in examining how social, political, and cultural factors shape what come to be seen as possible and ideal ways to be (identity) and do (occupation) in the later phases of life.  In addition to serving as the Mitchell Symposium Scholar, she received the top lectureship for a Canadian occupational scientist, The Townsend Polatajko Lectureship, in 2012. In 2013, she was the first Canadian recipient of the top lectureship in Occupational Science awarded in the United States, the Ruth Zemke Lectureship.

Dr. Debbie Rudman met with Occupational Science PhD students on February 29. Front row: Adrienne Miao, Sumita Rege, Mary Dean, Emily Furgang, Kendra Heatwole Shank, Debbie Rudman, and Mackenzi Pergolotti. Back row: Caroline McCarty, Lauren Little, Wendy Healy, Heather Fritz, and Anne Kirby.

Drs. Bruce Carney, Debbie Rudman, and Ruth Humphry after the Mitchell Symposium public lecture.

2011 Mitchell Symposium

Scholar – Dr. Mary Lawlor

Dr. Mary Lawlor, ScDDr. Mary Lawlor, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA, was invited to be the first Mitchell Symposium Scholar in January of 2011. Dr. Lawlor was on campus for two days, meeting with faculty and doctoral students, conducting a workshop on narrative analysis, and delivering a lecture titled “Health Disparities and Cultural Competence: Bridging Clinical Worlds and Life at Home.”  In the lecture, Dr. Lawlor discussed her longitudinal interdisciplinary urban ethnographic project called Boundary Crossings: Re-Situating Cultural Competence.  The emphasis of the talk was bridging home life and institutional worlds, and the theoretical implications for addressing health disparities and facilitating effective collaborations in the moments of health care encounters. 

Dr. Lawlor is known for her work in ethnographic research, interdisciplinary models of service delivery, pediatric occupational therapy, and maternal and child health.  Her research interests include examining the meanings of illness and disability in family life, the social nature of therapeutic experience, and cultural influences on health care and developmental processes.  Dr. Lawlor earned her Sc.D. in Therapeutic Studies from Boston University and is currently a Professor in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California.  She was the Principal Investigator for an interdisciplinary longitudinal ethnographic research project funded by National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, which involved African American children with special health care needs, their families, and the practitioners who serve them.  She has also received grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. 

Dr. Mary Lawlor met with doctoral students during her two days on campus, part of the inaugural Mitchell Symposium. From left, sitting: Mary Lawlor, Rebecca Aldrich, and Mackenzi Pergolotti. Standing: Lauren Little, Emily Furgang, Antoine Bailliard, Ashley Freuler, and Kendra Heatwole Shank.

Dr. Mary Lawlor talks with doctoral students Antoine Bailliard, Lauren Little, Rebecca Aldrich, and Mackenzi Pergolotti.