Virginia Dickie, PhD, OT, FAOTA

Virginia Dickie, PhD, OT, FAOTA, was the honored scholar at the 2018 Mitchell Symposium, an annual event hosted by the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. The symposium was established in 2011 in honor and memory of Marlys Mitchell, PhD, the founder of the master’s program in OT at UNC. Symposium scholars deliver a public lecture and participate in talks, discussions, and meetings with faculty, students, and researchers. The symposium is made possible through generous gifts from friends and alumni of the division.

Dickie’s symposium lecture focused on quilting as an example of theory and practice of occupation. Dickie’s background in anthropology led her to conduct an ethnography on quilting as an occupation. Her research found that occupations are situated among social, economic, political, and environmental elements. During the lecture, she used quilting as an example to illustrate how theory and practice are deeply intertwined in the study of occupation and practice of occupational therapy. Dickie likened the act of quilting to studying occupation.

“We don’t know or understand occupation very well,” Dickie said. “This may be because occupation is so ordinary, something we learn without knowing we’re learning it. Occupations are both
ordinary and extraordinary, mundane and special, easy-to-learn, and incredibly complex.” “It’s a great honor to be asked back to UNC to give this lecture,” Dickie said. “I knew Marlys Mitchell well before I came to North Carolina through her reputation and leadership roles.”

Caroline Harkins McCarty, PhD, OTR/L and postdoctoral research fellow, said Dickie’s integration of quilting and occupation was beautifully illustrated. “It highlighted the ways that learning and community can be created through shared engagement in occupation. I particularly appreciated her examples of ways that basic science can expand our perspectives and challenge our assumptions about how occupations are learned.”