Student Interviews

Interview with Kassidy Blough, 2022 MSHF scholarship recipient

I was introduced to the amazing field of speech-language pathology at a very young age. At 12 years old, I began volunteering at "Camp McYack," which is a camp for children who use augmentative and alternative communication devices. We spend this time utilizing communication opportunities and modeling social language through camp like activities including campfire songs, fishing, and jumping in the bounce house. This camp was started by my aunt, Kary Swiontek, who is also an SLP and who I like to call my lifelong supervisor. Through this experience, I knew that this field was right for me, and I was very excited to help all people gain and use their voices through several different modalities. 
After graduation I would love to continue to give back to my community and work within the Jackson, Michigan area. Working with children has been a passion of mine from a young age and I would love to continuing doing so. My goal is to not only provide speech and language therapy but educate and advocate for all people to have their communication needs met.  
I am beyond thankful and honored to have received the 2022 Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Scholarship award. This scholarship means a great deal to me, and I am very excited to graduate and begin my work within this field. Thank you so much to the MSHF board, Michigan State University, my clinical supervisors, and my amazing family for all the wonderful support.

Interview with Lauren Denti, the 2021 MSHF Scholarship Recipient:

Honduran Hearing Screening (December 30th, 2014- January 7th, 2015): 
In December of 2014, I joined a mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras organized by my church. I was in my junior year of my undergraduate degree, studying speech language pathology at the University of Toledo. At that time, I was studying under an audiologist who specialized in the early identification and intervention of children with hearing loss. I knew I would be applying to graduate schools for audiology programs and felt called to add my own strengths to the mission trip. After speaking with my supervisor, attending multiple meetings with the church, and contacting the orphanage, it was agreed that we could screen the 80 children who resided at the orphanage for hearing loss. We were able to have equipment and supplies including two portable audiometers, many toiletries, and toys donated by the church, University of Toledo National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association, and the speech language pathology program. Over our week in Honduras, we were able to screen 70 of the children. A graduate student from the program at UT was also in attendance to assist in screening the children. The ages ranged from 3 to 18 years old. It was quite a challenge to find a quiet place to conduct the hearing screenings. I recall sitting in a closet, bathroom, and office during the week: any quiet place we could find.  

After our trip was completed, we collected data from the screenings and published two articles on the hearing status of children in developing nations. This opportunity furthered my realization that I wanted to become an audiologist and focus on bridging the gap of hearing healthcare access to children.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude towards Dr. Lori Pakulski, my mentor at the University of Toledo. Without her support and guidance, I would not have had the opportunity to administer the hearing screenings in Honduras. I would like to thank Samantha Paek, a speech language pathology graduate student at the time, for her efforts in administering the hearing screenings and assistance in planning the trip. I would also like to thank Lauren Moor, the Campus Ministry Associate at Corpus Christi University Parish. Her assistance in contacting the orphanage and arranging the hearing screening program as well as navigating, directing, and translating for the students was integral to our successful trip. Lastly, I would like to thank the University of Toledo's Speech Language Pathology program for their donations and support.  

What Lauren wrote to the MSHF board upon receipt of her scholarship award:
Thank you so much for selecting me as the MSHF scholarship recipient this year! As you know graduate school can be quite a financial burden. I plan to put this award toward my student debt. I am honored to receive this scholarship and look forward to my approaching career as an audiologist.

More student interviews from 2018:

Corie Ruiter, M.A., recent Graduate from Michigan State University

I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended Grand Valley State University for my undergraduate degree in Allied Health Sciences with an emphasis in Speech-Language Pathology and a minor in Spanish. I found a passion for the field of speech-language pathology because it combines evidence-based science with individual driven therapy. I recently graduated from Michigan State University's master's program and am looking forward to beginning my professional career. I am so grateful for MSHA and the MSHF Scholarship Board, and honored to accept this award.

Ally Whitman, M.A., recent Graduate from Central Michigan University

I grew up in the very small town of Perrinton, Michigan. During high school I was unsure of which path I would take. I knew that I liked working with people, but nothing stood out as something I could truly see myself enjoying for the rest of my life. Graduation was quickly approaching, and I became anxious that there wasn't a set path for my future (the Type A personality in me kicking into overdrive). I began looking into various fields in which I could combine my love for people, communication, and science. Once I heard of speech language pathology, I was hooked. It intrigued me, and I began to shadow more speech pathologists in various settings. It wasn't long after I began shadowing and learning more about the field that I decided to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I was going to do this for the rest of my life. I completed my undergraduate degree(Communication Disorders) and graduate degree (Speech-Language Pathology) at CMU, and was also able to obtain an ASL minor during my time there as well. I've fallen in love with almost every area of our field, but none more than working with neuro-rehabilitation. I will complete my clinical fellowship at Practical Rehabilitation Services, specializing in cognitive communication and continue to grow into the clinician I want to be.  ?

Interviews with 2017 MSHF Scholarship Recipients:

Cory Marchesi,  B.A., Graduate Student in Speech-Language Pathology at Central Michigan University

What led you into this field of study?  Was it a personal interest, personal connection or history, or was it an undergraduate class that led you to choose this field?
  I originally started college on scholarship as a dancer but changed my focus after taking a few ASL classes at my local community college and viewing the documentary A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism (Aka The Sunshine Boy). This documentary changed my life. Already being a lover of self expression through movement of dance, I decided I needed to go into a career to help others learn to communicate and express their needs and wants. Since beginning my first UG class I fell more and more in love with the profession and have met so many incredible leaders and passionate members of the field.

What are influences in your life that pointed you toward this profession?
 I am from metro Detroit and attended Wayne State for my BA degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I enjoy working with teenagers and adults and hope to one day have my own holistic facility that can incorporate music, dance, and art therapies with speech. I will begin my second year in the grad program at CMU this summer. As hard as it has been to get to this point, I always carry a motto that my uncle shared with me before passing, he said 'life isn't worth living unless you help others', and I continue to work hard so that one day I can make a difference in someone's life. 

Gabriella Gilfoy
I grew up in Marquette, Michigan, and despite my mother being a speech language pathologist, I did not know it would be my chosen career path until I began my undergraduate coursework in Ohio. Through a combination of classes and clinical internships, I fell in love with the profession and have become fully immersed in the incredible diversity of setting, population, and clinical approach it affords. Throughout my graduate-level externships at Michigan State University, I have particularly enjoyed how I am able to utilize dynamic problem solving, interpersonal skills, and creativity to work toward goals in treatment and create meaningful relationships with clients and families. It is immensely rewarding when individuals I have worked with have shared how activities in therapy have made life better. I feel so lucky to be in a field where that is possible, and I am never bored! Now that I have completed my Master’s degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, I hope to eventually return to my hometown in the Upper Peninsula to practice; ideally working with children in a school or outpatient treatment setting. Pictured here, left: l-r: Diane Gilfoy and Gabriella Gilfoy.

Caleb Wilson

I am from Jackson, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University where I obtained my Bachelor's  Degree of Science in Psychology. From here I went right into my Master's  program at Michigan State University in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. The diversity this field offers is unlike any other. I have found a passion for working with individuals across the lifespan. The education I have received at MSU has equipped me to begin a career where I have the opportunity to spread a positive light into people's lives at their most vulnerable time.

Group Photo, 2017 MSHF Scholarship Recipients:  l-r: Kimberly Brief, Christine Forest, Caleb Wilson, Garbriella Gilfoy, Katie Stevenson, Justin Gripentrog, Cory Marchesi, Jordan McCarthy, Lindsay Bitterman, and Heather Balog, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, MSHF President.  In front: l-r: Elise Drager and Kelsey Hines.

Christine Forrest

I am from Lake Orion, Michigan. During my years at my undergraduate university, I was not sure what I wanted to pursue for my career. I decided to pursue Speech-Language Pathology at Wayne State University after I researched nursing, counseling and teaching - as I realized I could combine all three professions into one! I am excited to go into the public schools to work as a speech-language pathologist. I want to work in an elementary school and help make a difference in the lives of children. I hope to always make speech and language sessions fun and productive, and have treatment sessions that students look forward to attending each week. I want to thank MSHA and the scholarship board for the foundation award this year. It will be extremely helpful to use towards supplies for my speech room.
(Pictured left, l-r: Christine Forest and Kimberly Brief)

Jordan McCarthy
I grew up in Alma, Michigan. I decided to become a Speech-Language Pathologist because I enjoy helping others and thought it would be a rewarding profession. I have had many wonderful experiences since deciding to study speech-language pathology. I completed my undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University (CMU) with a minor in American Sign Language. I also attended graduate school at CMU. Before completing my program, I decided I want to work with children. I taught dance classes throughout my graduate program in a dance studio and in special education classrooms. This experience solidified my interest in working with kids! I recently accepted a speech-language pathology position in the schools with the Gratiot-Isabella RESD.

Katie Lynn Stevenson

I am Katie Stevenson, a 2nd year Doctor of Audiology Graduate Student at Wayne State University. I was born and raised in Michigan and currently reside in the Downriver area. Audiology has been something that has been close to my heart for most of my life. Exposed through personal experiences with my father’s hearing loss, my interests in audiology trace back to my early childhood. As a result, empathy and compassion for individuals with hearing impairment were instilled in me at an early age. Due to my father’s significant hearing loss, our communication with him was primarily possible through written notes. This changed when he underwent cochlear implant (CI) surgery in 2004. Since he received his CI, we have been able to communicate verbally as though his hearing were normal. My father’s successful CI surgery fascinated me, and it was then that I knew I would be an audiologist one day. Furthermore, what excites me about the field of Audiology is working with CI's and being able to make a difference in the lives of hearing impaired individuals the same way that I experienced as a young child with my father.  

Kelsey Hines
I grew up in South Lyon, Michigan and have always had a passion for communication. As an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University, I decided to pursue that passion and study communication and public speaking. However, I was unsure of exactly what I wanted to do in the field. When I came across speech-language pathology I was hooked. I loved that I would be able to help others and work in a field that was constantly growing and challenging me to think critically. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to pursue. Currently, I am in my third semester of my graduate program and I also work as a graduate assistant at Grand Valley’s Speech Lab. I aspire to work as a speech-language pathologist in a school setting and help children learn and grow to become effective communicators.
Sara Acton

I decided to become an SLP for two reasons. First, I realized that speech pathology, together with my training in theoretical linguistics, would give me a chance to apply my skills to language work in Indigenous communities in a clinically practical way. I’ve already had the chance to experience this through my on-going thesis research, and it has been exciting and eye-opening! Second, I spent some time volunteering with SLPs at a neuro-rehabilitation clinic 6 years ago. The work that I had the opportunity to observe and take part in there was so compelling. I have loved language my whole life, and being able to see clients reclaim their voices and improve their communication changed the trajectory of my future. I'm so excited that this work has become my work! What a great career!

An Interview with Karen Murawski, M.A., CFY-SLP,  Recent Graduate from Western Michigan University, a 2016 MSHF Scholarship Recipient...and other student reflections about receiving MSHF Scholarship:

  What are your plans after graduate school?
I am searching for a clinical fellowship that focuses on working with children.

  What area of the field would you like to pursue?  What interests you?  What age groups/populations would you like to work with?
What I love about our field is that the sky is the limit when it comes to what direction one wants to take his/her career. At this time, I am interested in working in a setting such as a school or outpatient facility and specializing in pediatric speech and language disorders. I find that I am able to connect with children in a way so as to build a positive and trusting relationship with them. Building rapport is one of my favorite parts of being a therapist. I enjoy the idea of building and sustaining a relationship with clients so as to watch them grow in their communication skills and encouraging them to reach their potential. At this time, I find working in a school is an ideal setting for me. This setting has limitless opportunities to provide functional therapy so children can be successful communicators in tasks they do everyday. In addition, I am interested in working with children with autism, cognitive impairments, and other developmental delays. I am passionate about being someone who opens the door to communication for these individuals because for many of them, this door has never been opened before. Overall, I hope to work in multiple settings with pediatrics so as to become a well-rounded and knowledgeable SLP with an ardent desire to continue learning every day and be a solid resource for children and their families.   

Where are you from?  Grow up?  Influences in your life that pointed you toward this profession?  What are your other interests?
   I am originally from the suburbs of Metro Detroit. In high school, I realized that I had a passion for working with individuals with special needs after volunteering with the Special Olympics multiple times. After some searching and contemplating, I realized that speech-language pathology would be a perfect fit for my skills and desires for a career. I have always loved solving problems, thinking critically, being creative, writing, and taking care of others. All of these are necessary for being an effective speech-language pathologist. In addition, I was drawn to this career due to the variety of work we see in a day. I could be coaching an individual with autism on using a high-technology AAC device  in one session and doing play therapy to expand a little one's expressive language in another. I am an active and creative person and this kind of variety in my work is what I thrive on. Lastly, I knew being an SLP would mean I would love my job because I'd be making a difference in others' lives and my clients would make a difference in my life.
   I am passionate about learning and constantly building my tool kit to become the best possible resource for improving communication in children. I believe if a client is not improving, it is my job to figure out why and what else I can do to help them reach their potential. Also, I am passionate about being an advocate for my clients and their families in addition to working in an interprofessional manner so as to individualize treatment in a way that capitalizes on a client's strengths. I am a big believer in looking at what a child can do as opposed to what they cannot do. When we look at the child as a whole, involve other professionals and family members, and advocate for their needs, a child is that much more likely to reach their communication goals and be more successful in their every day tasks.

What were your impressions of the MSHA Conference?
  I was impressed with the wide variety of options available to SLPs and SLP students at the conference. It demonstrated the variety in our field and provided opportunity for SLPs to either reinforce skills they use every day or maybe learn about a topic that was less familiar. It was exciting to be a part of a community of SLPs eager to learn and improve their practice to better serve the state of Michigan. I look forward to attending future conferences and utilizing it as a resource to continue building my knowledge and skills.

 2016 MSHF Scholarship Recipients' Reflections on the Award

Being a MSHF scholarship recipient is a significant honor. It means that people believe in me and my dreams of helping others as a speech-language pathologist. The scholarship has alleviated a portion of my financial burden which helps me further focus on my studies.
Warm regards, Shelby Garbini, Grand Valley State University

I would like to express my gratitude for your financial support through the MSHF scholarship. I am grateful and excited to have received this scholarship. It is because of your generosity that I was able to pay off the remainder of my tuition balance before I graduated this past semester. I am excited to have recently completed my degree with your help and I am now on to pursue a career as a Speech Language Pathologist. Thank you again for your kindness and support. 
Sincerely, Angela Piccinato, Wayne State University

I am honored and extremely grateful to have been selected for the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Scholarship by the faculty at Wayne State University. The support the MSHF scholarship provided will help get me one step closer to achieving my dream of being an audiologist and having an impact on my future patient’s lives.
Shelby Swafford, Wayne State University

 I am writing to thank you and the Michigan Speech Hearing Foundation for the 2016 MSHF Scholarship. It was an honor to be selected as one of two EMU students for this award. Not only is the generous check a practical help in purchasing textbooks, but selection by my EMU faculty is affirming. I plan to take up the challenge of best services for preschoolers' speech and language development upon completion of graduate school, and the Foundation's gift furthers the realization of that dream. Thank you. 
Annette Shiley, Eastern Michigan University

 I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the MSHF for this prestigious award and generous scholarship. Receiving the award and being recognized with other deserving students was an unexpected and delightful honor. The scholarship funds were deeply appreciated and immediately put to use. Due to the Foundation's benevolence I was able buy all of my books for summer classes, which as many of you know, is a huge deal! Again, I want to deeply thank the MSHF for giving me such great assistance and encouragement as I continue on the path to achieving my dreams.
 Arista May, Eastern Michigan University
Thank you again for the honor of receiving the MSHF scholarship this year. I am thrilled to have had mentors who challenge and guide me as I have pursued the AuD.
 Thomas Beebe, Western Michigan University

An Interview with a Past Recipients

From 2014, Justine Koglin, B.A., Graduate Student at Grand Valley State University

"Being nominated by the faculty with Grand Valley State University's Speech-Language Pathology Master's program to receive a scholarship from MSHA was one of the greatest experiences I have ever been a part of. The scholarship nomination was a complete surprise. This experience helped me to see that I am truly developing my knowledge and skills toward becoming a future clinician. Receiving this scholarship helped me to further develop as a graduate student and financially. I was able to use the scholarship money to purchase materials that I used for therapy and a classroom project. Purchasing these materials helped me begin to creating my own collection of therapy tools. I also used the scholarship money to purchase school supplies that allowed me to stay organized throughout the semester. Additionally, I applied some of the scholarship money toward attending my first MSHA conference this past March in Kalamazoo! I learned a great deal at the conference and cannot wait to go back next year. I am very appreciative to have received this scholarship. The effects of receiving such an honorable scholarship are feelings that I will experience for a lifetime. I am excited for all of the future students who will also experience these feelings of joy, pride, and thankfulness."

From 2015, Caitlin Montague, B.A., Graduate Student at Grand Valley State University

"I am a graduate student at Grand Valley State University studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I am blessed and honored to receive a scholarship from the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. I am learning to be an excellent clinician from my outstanding preceptors, classmates, and professors. My passion for speech-language pathology derives from my love for communication. I believe that people inherently and naturally want to connect with others. We make this connection through any form of communication. We use body language, gestures, and many different forms of shared language. SLPs help to shape and build communication between patients and loved ones. Our career is crucial to human connection.

In the future, I would love to work in a medical setting. I have a particular interest in cognitive communication, dementia, and dysphagia. I have a strong passion for working with elderly patients. I hope to get my PhD in the distant future with a research focus in dementia care and therapy. I am excited and inspired about the many opportunities within our career field and the future of our growing profession. I am extremely grateful for my parents, family, friends, professors, preceptors, classmates, and the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation for helping me along this journey. Thank you!"