Alumni Spotlight: Compassionate Communication | WMU Alumni Skip to main content

Alumni Spotlight: Compassionate Communication

Emily HopeThe moment WMU alumna Emily Hope first visited campus as a high school student, she knew that she would find the resources and support she needed to carve her path as an impactful member of the Bronco community.

In addition to becoming the first woman in her family to graduate from college after receiving her B.S. in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology with a minor in American Sign Language in 2019, she also graduated with a sense of purpose, inspiration, and motivation to continue pursuing what she loved. Now, Emily is pursuing her M.S. in communication disorders at Emerson College while working as a graduate student clinician at the Barry County Intermediate School District. There, she gets to apply the knowledge and experience she gained at WMU by providing critical speech and language services to children in a K-5 environment.

On top of balancing her responsibilities at work and school, Emily made time to tell us more about pursuing her path, the support she gained at WMU, and her aspirations for the future.

What’s your fondest campus memory?

“My favorite memory at WMU would be during finals week at the College of Health and Human Services. The college would bring in a ton of therapy dogs that students could go spend time with before and after their finals or while they were studying!”

How did you land on your field of study at WMU?

“As far as landing on my major, I was the type of young adult who really struggled to know what I wanted to do with my life after high-school and where I saw myself ending up. I had a general idea that I was interested in a medical field, and I had always greatly enjoyed working with individuals with various disabilities. Within my last year of high school, I began working with students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a peer-to-peer support system. Through this peer-to-peer support system, I was introduced to the field of speech-language pathology, as these students each possessed a wide array of communication abilities/disabilities and often received services through a school-based SLP (speech-language pathologist). I toured several colleges in my last year of high school but felt the most “at home” so to speak when touring WMU’s campus. I felt that there was a real sense of community here, and that was an environment I felt I really needed to succeed and be comfortable on my own. When I learned about WMU’s renowned Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology clinic/program, I quickly realized this would be an opportunity I wouldn’t get at any other university, and it felt like a perfect fit.”

What kinds of issues does speech-language pathology address?

“The field of SLP and audiology is extremely vast. I think the most common misconception is that all SLP’s solely work with school-aged children to help them produce sounds like their “r”s. Though this may be the reality for a certain subset of SLP’s, for many of us it’s not! Speech-language pathologists work with individuals from the newborn to the geriatric population, meaning we have the ability to work with individuals from the very beginning to the tail end of their lives. The individuals we serve may have a wide variety of abilities/disabilities, diagnoses, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, etc. SLP’s have the ability to work with individuals who possess a deficit or disorder in communication (expressive or receptive), as well as in feeding and swallowing. A quick (non-exhaustive) list of individuals who may need services from an SLP are those who have had a traumatic brain injury, had a stroke, have a cleft lip/palate, have Autism, have degenerative diseases, who are deaf/hard of hearing, have a stutter, who struggle with feeding/nutrition/swallowing, who are seeking help for accent/voice modification (important for people undergoing gender transition!), and those who use alternative and augmented communication devices (think Steven Hawking). Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings depending on their area of expertise--including hospitals, schools, skilled nursing facilities, specialty centers/clinics, and more.”

How did WMU help support you while finding your career path?

“An area I really feel WMU went above and beyond in, and helped me stand out immensely in the graduate school application process, was that of clinical experiences. Through my undergraduate experience in the speech-language pathology and audiology program, I was provided with a variety of in-person clinical opportunities at the Western Michigan University Unified Clinics. I was able to spend two semesters at WMU working alongside SLP’s and grad students providing services to individuals with fluency disorders (e.g. stuttering), individuals with voice disorders/deficits, and individuals who were English language learners (for both accent modification and therapy for disorders). I really feel that this set me apart from other graduate school applicants, as they were truthfully one-of-a-kind experiences. Additionally, these experiences really helped to solidify my love for the field as well as grow in confidence as a clinician.

Additionally, in-between undergrad and graduate school, I made the decision to take about a year off to re-center, gain more experience, and decide what grad programs I was interested in applying to and potentially attending. During this period of time, I continued to be supported by WMU. A mentor, clinical supervisor, and professor of mine through in WMU college of health and human services, Dr. Heidi Douglass-Vogley, met with me and assisted me in searching for a graduate program that fit my wants and needs, as well as assisting me in the application process and answering any clinical questions I had. Dr. Douglass-Vogley was immensely helpful to me in navigating my future directions as well as helping me feel more confident as a clinician and student.”

What does the future hold for Emily Hope?

“As far as future career aspirations, I’ll have a pretty busy year coming up. I’ll be finishing my master’s degree and graduating from college in December of 2021. After graduating, I’ll be starting up my Clinical fellowship year (CFY), which is similar to a medical student’s residency. I’m hoping to be accepted to a CFY in a medical setting, more specifically, a hospital. As I finish my schooling and begin to practice as an SLP, I aspire to work with individuals of all ages in a medical setting, possibly specializing in neurological aspects of communication, such as working with adults who have had strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or degenerative disorders targeting their communication as well as feeding and swallowing. I also continue to have a strong interest in working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and I hope that I continue to have opportunities to do so. I'm passionate about making speech-language pathology services easily accessible to individuals of various socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities/disabilities, cultures, ages, and educational histories. I am incredibly thankful for the impact WMU has made on initiating my love for the field of speech-language pathology and for creating a community in the Kalamazoo area that I continue to call home today. I hope I am someday able to make an impact on the individuals I serve, just as my WMU peers and professors made on me.”

Stories like Emily’s are a reminder of the legacy that members of the Bronco community leave on the world. Thanks to the compounding support from professors, staff, and donors, WMU students are prepared to pursue fulfilling careers as leaders in their fields. Alumna like Emily don’t just leave WMU with a degree; they bring the skills and compassion they cultivated during their time on campus to their work. In doing so, they make a lasting impact on the communities they serve.