How To Get There
My exposure to the ASHA convention up until this year was limited to the experiences of others: faculty members who discussed their presentations; doctoral students who presented their work at the conference; and tales of bright-eyed graduate students who had attended their first convention. But amidst the busyness of the end of the semester I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing my first ASHA convention experience was going to be.
My journey to the 2014 ASHA Convention started earlier this year, when I saw a post on ASHA’s Facebook page announcing the Student Ethics Essay Contest. Like most other graduate students, I did not have an expendable income to support my conference attendance, so I figured it was worth a shot to enter the contest! I never expected to win and am so honored. It was a rewarding and enriching experience to examine the Code of Ethics in greater detail, and I encourage graduate students to enter the contest in future years.
Why Go as a Graduate Student?
I didn’t really know what to expect of the convention and I wasn’t sure how useful it was going to be for me, but it turned out to be an incredibly valuable experience. As a second year graduate student, I now have the level of knowledge and assuredness of which areas are most interesting to me to allow me the focus necessary to be productive at the convention.
Here are some compelling reasons to attend an ASHA convention as a graduate student:
• Perhaps the most exciting part of the experience was being surrounded by thousands of other people who have the same interests, passions, and who are doing similar work. It was validating and encouraging to be sitting in a room full of students, researchers, and clinicians who have the same questions that I do, and who were there seeking answers, knowledge, and ideas from other clinicians and researchers. There is so much to learn!
• It is a great way to network. For example, while at the convention I had the opportunity to meet a professor from another university whose project I am assisting with from a distance and discuss the next steps of the project.
• Jobs, jobs, jobs! There are so many recruiters in the exhibit hall, from all kinds of settings. It is the best feeling to walk around, peruse the different opportunities and locales, and feel confident that our field is in such a need that we can find work pretty much anywhere!
• It is a great opportunity to gain experience presenting research. Submit a poster and if it is accepted there are always ways to find funding, like through your local NSSLHA Chapter or your graduate program department.
What It’s Like
Once at the convention, I quickly had to accept the fact that it was impossible to see every presentation that I wanted to. So instead I strategized and attended talks that are relevant to my clinical placements and other intriguing topics that I won’t get the chance to learn about in my rotations. Things that stood out:
• The days are long and the presentations are many. I was faced with the choice of attending Short Courses (CEU courses), Sessions, Poster Presentations, and Technical Sessions – all of which co-occur! So having a sense of focus was important.
• The beauty of ASHA is that there are so many presenters that you are bound to find many presentations that you’re interested in. My two greatest areas of interest are voice and bilingual (Spanish/English) speech-language pathology, so that’s primarily where I focused my time, but I also stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a talk about using Passy Muir valves in the pediatric population, as well as a really interesting talk about qualitative research using ethnographic interviewing in the Mexican immigrant population in the US. My favorite talks were the ones that ended in great conversation and a common sharing of ideas and knowledge between clinicians and researchers alike.
• I was impressed with the NSSLHA Experience program, which is geared toward current and prospective graduate students in both speech-language pathology and audiology. Experienced clinicians, current clinical fellows, and leaders in our field presented about the ins and outs of preparing for the PRAXIS exam, how to secure a quality Clinical Fellowship experience, and the important differences between a mentor and supervisor.
I wasn’t ready to leave and I am still thinking about the wonderful people I met, all of the opportunity in store for the future of our field, and the next generation of speech-language pathologists and audiologists. See you next year, in Denver!
Christine Delfino is a second year master’s student in the Speech and Hearing Sciences Department at Arizona State University studying bilingual speech-language pathology. She was the first place winner of the 2014 Student Ethics Essay Award. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.