This is part five of an ongoing podcast series about the Speech-Language Pathology program at Salus University.

Thanks for joining us for our podcast series, talking about speech-language pathology graduate school. Join Robert Serianni, MS, CCC-SLP, FNAP, the chair and program director of the department of Speech-Language Pathology at Salus University as he speaks with alumni from the first graduating class of the Speech-Language Pathology program in 2017.

To start us off, the alumni introduced themselves and stated where they're working as well as a favorite memory of their time at Salus:

Emily Swavely
Hi everyone, my name is Emily Swavely. I'm currently working right now in the Chester County area for Owen J. Roberts School District. I'm one of the speech therapists who works at one of the elementary schools.

Bob Serianni
Do you have a favorite memory from your time back at Salus?

Emily Swavely
I certainly do. There were a lot of them, but the one that it comes down to is the day we graduated and you gave us a big speech right before we walked on that stage and you started crying. It was the sweetest thing, and it just showed how much you cared about all of us and how proud you were of us. It meant a lot to us too, because it was a hard two years, but I think we can say we all made you proud by getting through the program for the first year.

Lauren Bevan
My name is Lauren Bevan. I was also in the OG class. I'm currently working for Philadelphia School District. I work also doing early intervention on the side, and prior to COVID, I was also doing acute care and acute rehab, on the side. That's slowed down a little bit with COVID, currently.

Bob Serianni
How about one of your favorite memories from our time at Salus?

Lauren Bevan
I think my favorite thing, probably, is meeting my friends, I still keep in touch very much with the people who I met. But my favorite memory is probably my first ever client that we had in the clinic. He was so cute, but he was wild, and I will never forget the first time he came. He was running up and down the hallways, in and out of the therapy rooms, and everyone was new, so we're all just looking at him like, "Oh my gosh." I still remember him.

Bob Serianni
I always tell the students, "You will never forget those first clients who you see," for better or for worse.

Lauren Bevan
Yeah. I heard that he made a lot of progress though.

Caitlin Raymond
Hi, my name is Caitlin. I work at Nemours DuPont Hospital for Children. I'm in the outpatient section, but I do cover for rehab as well. I also do early intervention on the side. Prior to Nemours, I was at a residential facility for students with developmental disorders and special needs, so that was cool too.

There's a lot of really good memories, but one of my favorites was having ASHA in Philly when we were second years. I felt like it was such a good culmination to our whole thing. We all got to go, we helped work the booth for Salus, and then getting to be able to go and see the speakers and then just experience ASHA as a whole is a completely overwhelming, in the best way possible, event. Getting to do it in our hometown with each other was really cool. I feel like we all learned a lot, but we all learned a lot about each other in the same time.

Bob Serianni
I still joke with a colleague that I bump into every once in a while at these conventions, and she said to me in Philadelphia, she's like, "How did Salus get to run this convention? Because I feel like I see your students everywhere."

Caitlin Raymond
It's because of the shirts I made.

Bob Serianni
It is. We see each other at convention now and she says, "Is Salus running this one too?" I mean, how many years ago was that, and she still jokes with me about seeing you all running around Philadelphia and the convention.

SLP Q&A
Bob Serianni
Thank you for sharing those because they're all fond memories for me as well, because you were my first graduating class ever, and certainly there were a lot of firsts for all of us during that year. Even before you showed up to us, which was complicated in and of itself, you chose Salus. Can you think of a reason, or two, why you decided to finally come to Salus?

Lauren Bevan
Right off the bat, I liked that Salus does an interview. A lot of schools, they don't do interviews, and everything is so heavily based on test scores and things on paper. Paper just doesn't give an all around picture of who somebody is. I really appreciated that, and I felt like it was nice to meet the people, and really connect with them, and they could understand me better, and I was able to get a feel for the program through talking to them. I really, really liked that. 

Emily Swavely
Going off what Lauren said, it's no easy task getting into a graduate program for speech and language. What Lauren said was she liked that there was an interview, and after coming out of a college and applying to 18 schools, Salus was the only one that interviewed me. They got to know me as a person before they saw that application and the test scores. When I was offered the opportunity for Salus, it was the right one for me. When I did do my interview, I just felt like I was surrounded by so many people from admission, to the program, just on the campus, of so many people that wanted us to succeed and wanted to get to know us.

Caitlin Raymond
I picked you because Salus has a huge emphasis on clinical time. We were in the clinic, like week two. I think that that has made us all better therapists, even as Lauren said earlier, she got thrown into a situation with a child with ASD, and we were all new, but she learned hands-on in that moment. I've been several places since I've left Salus, and I've done per diem work, and everywhere that people hear Salus, they say, "Oh, I had a student from there. She was really good, or he was really good." I think it's because we start in the clinic as baby therapists, we start right away. We stay in the clinic, and we stay doing hands-on stuff the entire time we're in school, so when you're learning things in class, it makes sense because you're doing it in tandem, in the clinic hands-on. That was huge for me because I'm a hands-on learner, I am not a good test taker, as you all remember. That was something that was super important to me.

Bob Serianni
For our listeners, the class of 2017 was theoretically planned to be actually class of 2016. But because of some delays in getting paperwork to and from the accrediting body, we admitted an entire class, and then said, "Well, you start next year." We kept all but one student out of the 25 that started. One student left us to start a career in softball. I don't know if she would have done as amazing as you all have done in speech pathology because the path really diverted for her. I think it's even extra amazing that you all connected with us, and then were so patient trying to get that transition from your undergraduate programs into a graduate program.

Let's talk a little bit about the time since graduation. You've all had a couple of jobs, by choice, and have tried different facets of the profession. Where did you start after graduation and then where do you find yourself now, and how has that path been a complement to what you've learned at Salus? 

SLP Class of 2017
Caitlin Raymond
I started off in a residential school for children with special needs. I loved it there because I got a little bit of everything. However, the one thing I didn't get, and that I regret, is that I didn't get any feeding and swallowing in that job choice because they contracted out. That is something that I'm actually currently relearning in my new position now at Nemours DuPont. I'm in the outpatient, but we do feeding and swallowing, and so I'm undergoing a feeding mentorship. The cool part about where I work and what I do is that I get a little bit of everything once again. I've become the AAC specialist at my location, so I get to help train other SLPs on how to use devices, which I think is really cool, but also I'm learning from them how to do feeding and swallowing. I've been a lot of places that I've gotten to do a lot of different things, and I think that's a really cool thing with one single degree, that you have all these different tricks up your sleeve. I think that's really cool.

Lauren Bevan
I like to consider myself a Jack of many trades. When I started at Salus, I was like, "I will never work with adults. I'm only here because I love kids. I want to work with kids." I had my clinical placement in an acute care hospital that had an acute rehab, and I loved it. As I was finishing up my last externship, someone was leaving and they offered me the job. It worked out amazing, I stayed there for a year and a half. I learned so much and I still love acute care and acute rehab, more acute rehab. The hours, I just didn't love, and I did miss kids. Then I made the jump to the school district, the school that I'm at has learning support, life skill support, autistic support, and multiple disabilities, so I get to see a lot. I have a lot of different kids. I get to do a lot with autism, AAC, articulation, pretty much in that type of thing I see at all.

I was in a high school last year, but this year I'm not in a high school, just based on my case load. That's really cool too. Then I also do EI. I like the little guys. I think it's pretty cool that you can see so much progress with them just because the whole basis of early intervention is that they get to school and they don't need it. They don't need services. It really does, the program of that really does work. I like that as well. Sometimes I miss adults, full-time, it's different, but that's why we just keep it on the side.

Bob Serianni
I want all of our listeners to really hone in on, you can get a medical placement as a CF. I know that word on the street is it never happens, but miracles can happen I guess, right?

Lauren Bevan
Living proof.

Bob Serianni
Emily, I know that you spent some time away from the local area. Tell us about your adventures in speech pathology.

Emily Swavely
Upon graduation, I just kind of had this feeling that I wanted to try and live somewhere new. I lived outside the Philadelphia area my whole life, and I thought this is the time to start my career and jump to a new location. That's what I did. I moved to the Atlanta area and I worked for a school district there. Due to the case load, like Lauren had said, I got switched around to four different schools in the three years that I was there. I worked in an elementary school for three years, and then one of the years I was part-time at a middle school.

Also then, in my summers and my part-time, I worked at a private practice. There I got a lot of experience with more medically fragile kids, a lot of social skills. I ran the social skills groups in the summer. Then going back to my placement at the schools, I worked with the autistic support classrooms, but the majority of my students were bilingual, which I will go back to when I was sitting in class, I was like, "I am never going to work with bilingual students. I will never have to do a bilingual assessment." Sure enough, it was probably 90% of the population I worked with in Atlanta was bilingual, but I learned a ton there.

I moved back here this summer, and now I'm working at the school district where I attended as a kid. So far, you can see the cultural differences are just so vast between the two locations, not just culturally, but you see kids progressing at a different level here.

Bob Serianni
It must be really interesting to have that contrast between a more rural Southern school district than a more suburban metropolitan area.

Emily Swavely
I actually didn't pick up on such a difference until recently because so many of my children were bilingual down in Atlanta. You didn't see the progress as fast because they were being exposed to two languages, one at home. I worked mainly with language disorders, where I came back up here and now all of a sudden doing articulation and a lot of stuttering, all of a sudden. I didn't have any stuttering experience, but here, because there aren't several languages spoken in the area I live, you can see kids progressed so much faster now that they're not being exposed to one or more languages.

Bob Serianni
It's really interesting to hear the diverse trajectories, but there seems some common themes that you've been able to move around in your career and you still feel comfortable with your foundational skills, with the ability to take on new roles. Heck, I'm even hearing that maybe learning happens after graduate school still, too? Wow. I'm impressed.

In wrapping up tonight, I really want to impart with our listeners, some of the wisdom that you've garnered from your experiences. If you could give prospective graduate students, maybe not just to Salus, but to anywhere, what would you share with them? What would you want them to think about as they apply for a graduate program?

Caitlin Raymond
I would say, you want to be open to all facets of our field. That's, I think, the most important piece that I would take away, is that you don't want to pinhole yourself, and sort of like what Lauren said earlier, like she thought she only wanted kids. I thought I only wanted special needs, and that was the only thing that I was going to do for the rest of my life. I still have a strong love for special needs, but I know I'm a talented therapist in other facets and I'm still learning, as I just said. I'm learning how to do feeding and swallowing all over again, but it's funny that I come out with things that I'm like, "How did I know that?" And it's like, "I knew that from grad school." It's like in there, and it just keeps coming out. You have that foundation and take it forward, but also be open to all possibilities, don't pinhole yourself. If you get a placement that you're like, "I don't if I want that." Take it, you might love it, you might go in a completely different way.

Also, it's nice to get that experience because then down the line, you can change. You can change your whole world, your whole schedule, to what fits you and your life at that point.

Emily Swavely
My suggestion is that going to grad school, we have this mindset that, "Okay, we're going to go to school, and we're going to get our classes done, and we're going to go to clinic, and we're going to learn this." Then once you get into the career field, I learned very quickly that the learning never stops. If you're going to commit to being a speech language pathologist, know that there is going to be learning your entire career. There is so much research that changes and comes out. Like Caitlin said, there's so many facets, you're moving around to different career locations that you're constantly learning something else. It doesn't stop, so be prepared to always be a student in a sense.

Lauren Bevan
I would say build relationships. If you are applying to graduate school, don't forget that these people will be with you, they will help you, they will guide you. I still reach out to professors I had in graduate school, and friends I had in graduate school, about students who I see now. Every field that you work in, every class you take, it's a team, and make sure to try and be a team player as much as you can, because it will only benefit you.

Bob Serianni
Thank you so much. I do see the spirit of collaboration still existing from your class than others. I really think that's part of the philosophy of Salus, to make sure that the cohort knows that part of their learning is this network building, that you'll travel with a pack that goes through this with you, and in spite of you, and they become really great resources afterwards. I'm so happy to catch up with you tonight. It's been a pleasure seeing you grow and prosper.