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SLP Profile - Laura Dand

Laura will be attending UBC's speech and language pathology program in September.

Tell us about your journey through your degree.

The trajectory of my university degree is a little complicated. I began as a musical theatre student at Capilano University in 2013. When I decided not to complete my degree in musical theatre, I chose to move to Ireland for 6 months to explore and take some elective courses. I had changed my mind so many times that I felt lost on what to do with my life. It was there where I stumbled upon my first linguistics course and knew it was an area I needed to pursue. When I returned to Canada, I enrolled at SFU and began my major in linguistics. In my first linguistics course at SFU, LING 220, the field of speech-language pathology was introduced, and it seemed like the perfect fit. I then began working towards the goal of becoming an SLP, and added a minor in learning and developmental disabilities and certificate in speech sciences to my degree.

Why did you study linguistics?

I had always been interested in arts and languages, which drew me to take my first linguistics course on Celtic languages while in Ireland. However, what keeps me interested in studying linguistics is the balance it demonstrates between arts and sciences. It appears as a subject of the arts from the outset - something I know very well; but I discovered that it also requires the analytical scope often typified by science subjects, which really intrigues me and continues to challenge me in my studies.

How did you find out about SLP as a career option?

Strangely enough, I have family ties to the field of SLP - my aunt is an SLP and my grandfather was a developmental neuropsychologist who had also done work in SLP; but I never thought of being an SLP myself until my first linguistics class at SFU, where I discovered my interest in the analytics of language. The more I learned about the field of SLP, the more I fell in love with it.

What attracted you to SLP?

What attracts me to the field of SLP is how multifaceted it is. I have a keen interest in many issues encompassed in SLP - speech and language disorders, language acquisition, and neurolinguistics to name a few. The idea that I can apply the topics I love in academia to such a social career where I can help others on a daily basis really excites me. Another exciting aspect to the career is how versatile it is - you are able to help others in the school system, hospitals, private clinics … there aren’t many careers where you can move around every day and have each day so different from the last.

What advice would you give to undergraduates who want to write a successful application?

I believe what made my SLP application successful was a mix of academic success, personality, and experience in the field. There is no doubt that grades are important - but they are not everything. To excite a panel of admissions officers reading hundreds of applications, you need to show the whole of your personality, as well as the assets you would provide to the field of SLP. In other words, show that you are not just a list of letter grades and accomplishments. The practical experiences you have had relevant to SLP will likely give shape to your letter of intent. My personal experiences volunteering with SLPs in an elementary school, with aphasia patients in a stroke recovery group, and working as a research assistant in two labs at SFU were paramount. These opportunities were the most beneficial to me not only for creating content in my CV and letter of intent, but for experiencing a portion of the field I will one day be working in every day. The ability to ask your mentors questions, absorb information, and adapt on the spot are skills are only going to help you in becoming the best SLP you can be.

Out of all the linguistics courses at SFU, was there any particular lecture, topic, or professor that left a significant impression on you?

Two professors and lab directors that were of great encouragement and support for me were John Alderete and Henny Yeung. The best professors are the ones who you know from first lecture are truly passionate not only for their course subject, but also for instilling that same passion in others. This quality is evident in the work Dr. Alderete and Dr. Yeung put in to seeing their students succeed. I especially benefited from the effort they put in to nurturing the goals of students wishing to work in a research setting, which is invaluable. The effects of these professors’ support for my learning, SLP endeavors, and wellbeing will not be forgotten.

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