Alumni Spotlight | October 2016
KU major: Social Welfare, Class of 2015
Current occupation: Medical Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Student at the University of Washington
Mentor while at KU: Dr. Holly Storkel
Q: Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:
A: The study I participated in was a summer 2014 snapshot from a five-year project of Dr. Holly Storkel's that uses interactive book reading as a word learning treatment for Kindergarten children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). The goal was to determine how many exposures children with SLI need to learn a word, as they may need 2-3 times more exposure to learn a word compared to typically developing children. Meanwhile, the data gained could be useful for improving word learning by children with SLI. My research experience included administering language screenings at local schools for recruitment, providing interactive book reading treatment to kindergarten children with SLI, data entry, procedural and definition reliability scoring, and writing a research paper. Since I was a part of the McNair Scholars Program, I orally presented my research at their annual symposium as well as a national McNair conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I also participated in the University of Kansas Undergraduate Research Poster Session during Summer 2014.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: The most important thing I learned while doing undergraduate research was the research process and its complexity. I had limited knowledge of the IRB, treatment intensities, and analysis. It was my first research experience and it was hands-on, allowing me to provide interactive book reading treatment to kindergarten children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Prior to my involvement with the study, I also had limited knowledge of this treatment and population. I've learned so much about the strengths and challenges of individuals with SLI as well as the usefulness of interactive book reading. This information gathered from my direct experience with participants and the literature review continues to inform and guide my clinical practice.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative work?
A: Absolutely do it! Now is a great time to explore your interests and to gain a better understanding of the research process. I made a lot of supportive, encouraging, and motivating connections with faculty, staff, and doctoral students. If you even have a slight inkling that you may want to go to graduate school, this would be a great way to test the waters and know if it is your passion!
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: Considering I'm in graduate school and currently working on a master's thesis, I would have to say that my undergraduate research has prepared me for my current studies as well as given me the critical thinking skills, patience, and knowledge of the research process needed to succeed in my program. In addition, my field is driven by evidence-based practice. Having an understanding of how to begin searching for relevant articles, evaluating the validity and reliability of findings, and knowing how research applies to clinical settings has been beneficial as an aspiring speech-language pathologist.
Q: Many undergraduates are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: My advice is to follow your interests, whether that's going to graduate school, working immediately after graduation, or taking personal time (e.g. traveling or self-care). Do not feel pressured to go to graduate school the following year if you feel like you'll get burned out or need more time. With that being said, I decided to go to graduate school immediately after graduating and that was the best decision for me! Consider all your goals and obstacles while making a decision that is best for YOU.