Why “Why Not?” Is a Worthwhile Attitude

Why Not?

November 8, 2014: eleven days before the ASHA Convention in Orlando, Florida.

After talking with my CSD professors and mentors about convention and exploring the ASHA website, I knew there was nothing more that I wanted than to attend. My chances of being able to go, however, were slim. After all, it was only a little more than a week away and I hadn’t figured out transportation or housing, much less how to pay for the actual convention.

I noticed the “Student Volunteer” link on the ASHA website, and my eyes lit up. At least until I saw the deadline to apply was two months ago. After a twinge of disappointment, I decided to email the volunteer contact anyway—I figured, “Why not?”

When I got a response back asking if I could work on November 18th from 10 am to 7 pm in exchange for complementary attendance, I practically fell out of my chair. I said yes, and after moving several pieces of the logistics puzzle around, my arrangements were set.

Now that I am fortunate enough to have attended my first ASHA convention, I can say with confidence that it was one of the most eye-opening, inspiring experiences I’ve had. Throughout the week, as I walked from session to session, I often found myself shaking my head in pure astonishment that the whole plan actually came together. The “Why Not?” mentality—grounded in drive, openness and ambition—encourages the pursuit of opportunities that seem beyond reach. Committing to this mindset will not only enable you to “shoot for the stars,” but to land among them.

When approaching your aspirations with a “Why Not?” attitude, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Communicate in a professional tone. Whether you are writing an email or interacting in person, be mature in your presentation to show that even as a student, you will be able to fit in seamlessly with experienced professionals.
  • Providing too much information is better than too little. This is the part where you make it easy for them to say yes. Emailing to inquire about a volunteer position? Attach a resume before they ask for one. Tell them why you are the best possible fit. Hold nothing back when pursuing an opportunity.
  • Be persistent. Professionals are busy, so don’t take lack of response personally. If you do not hear from anyone after a few days, send a polite follow-up email to ensure that they saw your previous message. Persist also in setting deadlines for yourself. If you say you will do or send something, then follow through.
  • Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is one of my life mottos after being an avid gymnast for 14 years and I find it applies to almost every challenge I encounter. Asking yourself “Why not?” forces you to get out of your comfort zone and pursue opportunities not easily attainable. The more you put yourself out there, the better you will become at it.

Pursuing opportunities with the “Why Not?” mentality serves me well in attaining my ultimate goal of becoming an SLP, and affords me a variety of experiences, including the writing of this article. After receiving a hand-out to write for the ASHA Leader at the convention, I chuckled at the idea. When I took out the folded piece of paper from my backpack days later, however, I opened up my laptop, started typing, and thought: “Why not?”

 

Robyn Croft is a third year undergraduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at the University of Texas at Austin studying Speech/Language Pathology. She is a Student Clinician at the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute. She can be reached at robyncroft00@gmail.com.

My First ASHA Convention: The Perspective of a Graduate Student

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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 cdelfino@asu.edu.

What Does a Fulbright Specialist Do?

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The Fulbright Specialist Program links U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. Qualified academics receive grants to engage in collaborative two- to six-week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries. International travel costs and a stipend are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating host institutions cover grantee in-country expenses or provide in-kind services.

Communication sciences and disorders professionals are among those who participate in the program. In this post, I (Robert Goldfarb) and my colleague Florence Ling Myers recount our experiences in it.

Florence was a specialist in education and worked at the University of Hong Kong in 2011 for two weeks. She received approval for the five-year placement on the specialist roster. I was a specialist in applied linguistics/TEFL at Universidad Pedigogica Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia for six weeks, with the latter half of the commitment completed online after returning to the United States.

Our experiences were different enough to provide a sense of what a prospective Fulbrighter can expect.

Florence’s experience: Fluency disorders and returning to my roots

My mission in going to HKU was to reinforce the importance of fluency disorders in the family of speech-language pathologies. I gave workshops to students and professionals on cluttering, cluttering/stuttering, and stuttering. I met with academic and clinical faculty and reviewed curricula. Of particular interest was learning the problem-based learning paradigm used by faculty. The pedagogical philosophy is that students need to acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to pose clinical hypotheses based on independent library research and come up with evidence-based therapy approaches for various case studies.

I had the pleasure of co-mentoring a senior thesis in stuttering. The student was bright, responsive and competent. HKU is definitely a high-power university, with great expectations for faculty and graduate students to publish in premier journals.

I also had a personal mission: to return to my roots and give back to my motherland. I escaped to Hong Kong as a refugee from mainland China in 1949 with literally nothing but the reassuring hands of my mother. I took not so much a “slow boat from China,” but a creaky leaky junk under the blackened nocturnal skies from Canton. I now wonder if I had been an illegal child alien. My dad was already in the United States to earn his doctorate in physics from the University of Missouri. Much has changed in Hong Kong since the 1940s, yet there is still this undefinable yet undeniable human spirit—to survive and thrive—among the people there.

Having been in the United States for nearly 60 years, I, too, have changed, though there is still very much a Chinese core in me. Whether or not one is from the East or West, the common bond that motivated me to return to my homeland as a Fulbright Specialist was a passion for cluttering and stuttering, and to instill this passion in the next generation of speech-language pathologists in China.

Robert’s experience: Helping with research methods/professional writing

I committed to teach two intensive graduate courses in research methods and in academic writing to advanced students working on thesis projects. In preparation for the visit, I arranged for my publisher to send some relevant books I had authored, and added others I thought might be useful. In addition, I prepared course packs in English and Spanish (with the help of a graduate student from South America) regarding local idioms. I learned, for example, that people in Colombia expressed something very positive as “the last Coca-Cola in the desert.”

Students also received feedback on their research projects in various stages, from proposals to data collection. Another commitment was a keynote address, called the Foro Fulbright, to local universities and other Fulbright scholars in the country. The students and young faculty were all bright, hard-working and dedicated, but their exposure to research design and international perspectives was provincial. Most students and faculty were open and eager to learn what the global academic community had to offer.

Not all experiences were positive. I was given Thursdays off, because it was known as “riot day,” when vigilantes stormed local universities. Sure enough, on the first Thursday of my visit and the Wednesday of the second week, I was ordered out of the office I shared with colleagues as vigilantes bombed the institution for hours. These events were followed by riot police storming the university. The tear gas they discharged lingered in the air for days.

Finally, on the Sunday before I left for home, I was robbed by a policeman while walking to the supermarket. The executive director of Fulbright Colombia called it a perfect storm of crime and civil unrest, and approved my decision to teach the remainder of my courses online.

Ongoing ties

Our students continue to keep in touch. I have helped several students write master’s theses of which they could be justifiably proud, and the thesis that Florence co-mentored was published the following year in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Working as Fulbright Specialists allowed us to interact with colleagues and students abroad, while serving our country as ambassadors of scholarship. While there were some unwelcome experiences for me, we have many positive memories. We encourage you to apply to be on the roster, but note that you will need a bodyguard in some countries.

 
Robert Goldfarb, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. He is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders, and 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders.

Florence Ling Myers, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. She is an affiliate of ASHA SIG 4.

A Handful of Post-Graduate Retrospection

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With daylight savings time fast approaching, I am reminded that spring is nearly upon us. For the current graduate student, spring often means comps season. It always seems to be the time that never ends, until the next thing you know, it’s three years later and you look back and marvel about the relativity of time.

One of the hardest things about any new endeavor is getting started. Everyone has to start somewhere, and much as we would prefer to think otherwise, the best place to start is at the beginning. Much as I don’t want to admit it, I hated starting at the beginning. But I did it (and I’m glad I did it), and here’s a handful of things I’ve learned so far.

You’re going to make mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and use them for good.

I, like many I suspect, envisioned all sorts of things going smoothly when I first started. This daydream was quickly put to rest as I realized that getting the hang of things takes time.

What’s more, sometimes the only way to really learn something is to make certain mistakes along the way. The key is to realize that you can harness a lot of knowledge from mistakes. Try to think of your clinical fellowship not as a place where you need to be perfect, but a place where it can be safe to make mistakes. Keep an open line of communication with your clinical supervisor, and be realistic about what you feel comfortable doing. Think big, but don’t be afraid about starting small.

Try a little bit of everything. You never know what might end up capturing your attention.

I spent much of graduate school being grossed out by anything related to swallowing. Still, I resigned myself to trying it out because I wanted to have some experience in every aspect of the field. While at first I was wary of what I termed the ick factor, I found that I loved working with the patients. It certainly took some time to acclimate to things I found uncomfortable, but I find myself wanting to do more so I could keep working with those patients.

Think of graduate school not as the last chance to learn everything. Think of it as the place where you’re finally given the tools you need to really learn, both in terms of actual resources as well as the capacity to make sense of them.

Half of what I learned in graduate school didn’t make sense to me until the very end. Even three years out, I’m still marveling at how pieces are slowly starting to fall into place. I find myself frequently poring over text books, reading and re-reading things and making connections for what seems like the very first time.

One thing I cherish about this field, and its practitioners, is a passion for life-long learning. I talk to colleagues about things I see with patients that challenge how I had, up until that moment, thought about things. I debate things with the #SLPeeps on Twitter. I ask questions of doctors and nurses that seem at first unrelated to speech and swallowing, but which ultimately deepen my understanding of what a patient might be experiencing.

Try not to think in cliches. That said, practice makes perfect. (Or rather, perfect-ish.)

I generally shy away from the word ‘perfect’, but find this saying apt in many ways. I started playing the guitar when I was in first grade, and the violin in fourth grade. In undergrad, I did theater for two years. In every creative avenue, I found myself in awe of what others could do, of how amazing their words or their music flowed.

I used to think of those I admired while I practiced. I wanted to be able to simply pick up my instrument, or say my lines, with as much ease and grace as them. “How nice it must be not to have to practice much,” I thought, “and to have such ease of talent.”

But I was wrong on one point. They did have talent, absolutely, but they, like me, had to practice to get there. The best way to get good at something is to do it, over and over and over again, until you become just a little bit better at it each time.

It is a journey. One filled with frustration, joy, and emotion, but one worth taking. I no longer strive for perfection, not because I don’t think it’s possible, but because I never want to stop trying to learn and grow. I always want to keep aiming to get just a little bit better every step of the way.

———–

Phillip Guillory, MS, CCC-SLP, NIC is an SLP and certified sign language interpreter. As an SLP, he specializes in acute care and especially critical care issues. As an interpreter, he specializes in post-secondary settings as well as community and, increasingly, medical settings. Phil can frequently be found on Twitter @ProjectSLP and on his website www.ProjectSLP.com. He is an affiliate of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders and Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia).

Student Focus: Things To Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

Chairs in a classroom

Photo by alamosbasement

By this time next year, I will be one of thousands of graduate school applicants crossing my fingers and hoping to be accepted into the school of my choice. In the here and now, I need to focus on determining which graduate programs I will apply to. A little thought today could go a long way toward helping me make informed decisions in the future. As I narrow my graduate school prospects and begin the application process, I plan to take the following criteria into careful consideration:

Program Focus and Features

Some programs boast a broad education that prepares graduates to work in any setting, while others offer a medical or educational domain focus. One school might feature a clinic with an outstanding reputation in the community, while another might offer opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research. I need to be sure I understand the focus of each program in order to determine whether it would be a good fit for me.

Clinical Facilities

In our field, facilities are a huge concern since so much of our education revolves around clinical labs and service to our communities. I need to think about the populations served by the clinics connected to each program I consider, as well as the condition, quality, and modernity of clinic buildings and equipment.

Location

If I am open to the possibility of relocating for a program, I need to consider moving and living costs as part of my decision. If were to relocate for a program under the assumption that I would come home when finished, I also need to consider the possibility that moving after grad school could mean turning down job opportunities and leaving newfound friends.

Cost

It would be nice if comparing the cost of various programs were as simple as comparing the price of tuition, but it is not. While some programs seem, at first glance, to be far more expensive than others, I need to consider opportunities for scholarships, grants, and assistantships. A program whose cost seems prohibitive to me now could turn out to be the most affordable program for me if I am lucky enough to be offered funding.

Surrounding Community

I need to be sure I’ll be happy spending at least three years living in the community my graduate school is a part of. Would I be comfortable moving to a city that is a different size than my own? Will I be able to find the comfort foods I am accustomed to in my new city? Will I fit in well with the general lifestyle?

I would like to encourage readers to comment and discuss additional criteria important in making graduate school choices. May we all find the perfect program and enjoy success in our future endeavors!

Jane Lapham is a student in the California State University, Dominguez Hills Post-Baccalaureate Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Language and Linguistics from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and looks forward to entering graduate school in the Fall of 2012.