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Alumni Success Stories

Paula Rhyner

Rhyner,Paula

What year (years) did you graduate and which program(s) did you complete?

I earned a master's of arts degree in Speech Pathology in 1977 and my Ph.D. in Speech Pathology in 1984.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?

The biggest challenge for me after finishing each of my degrees was relocating to cities where I had not previously lived, and in which I did not already have family or friends residing. My experiences at KSU and the experiences that I had in establishing myself personally and professionally in different communities helped to shape my career by providing opportunities for me to contribute to each community and to the field of speech-language pathology. I also developed strong lifelong friendships and professional networks that have been important to my growth as a person and a professional. All of these experiences were important to my decision to pursue a career in academia, where I felt that I could further make important differences in the lives of children with speech and language impairments and their families through my research and my role as a university professor in preparing of students majoring in speech-language pathology.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?

My most significant professional accomplishment since graduating is being elected a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association because this honor recognizes contributions that I have made to the field of speech-language pathology at the local, state, and national levels. I am humbled by this award and believe that I share the honor with many people that helped me over the years to become involved and make important differences in speech-language pathology.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?

I am the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the College of Health Sciences and a Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Jen Heiman

Jen HanienWhat degree(s) have you earned? Where are they from?

 I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences in 2007 from Ohio University and a Master of Arts in Speech and Language Pathology in 2009 from Kent State University.

What inspired you to become a speech pathologist/audiologist?

 In High School, I was the Captain of our Varsity volleyball team. Our team was very high energy and our crowds were quite large. Having a noisy crowd meant I needed to be shouting plays and words of encouragement. After many weeks of this, I began to lose my voice, completely. I traveled down to the clinic and had my vocal folds scoped by Dr. Douglas Hicks. Shortly after I was diagnosed with vocal nodules and enrolled in voice therapy. Over the course of 8 weeks, he taught me about the anatomy and physiology of the vocal mechanism during my treatments. I was hooked!

What is your favorite part about being a speech pathologist/audiologist?

My favorite part about being a speech pathologist is helping individuals (adolescent or geriatric) effectively communicate their wants and needs. I remember the first time a young patient of mine signed to his mom, "more", independently. In this day and age, we have so many avenues to navigate and find the most successful means for communication for our patients (i.e.- AAC, sign, voice).

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?

The biggest challenge I faced after graduating from college was choosing the route I wanted to take my career. Being a Speech Language Pathologist we have endless paths to pursue from the very young to those in their golden years. After a year of exclusively working with pediatrics, I changed my path and now work with patients aged 3-101, with an immensely diverse set of needs. I could not be happier.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?

The most significant professional accomplishment I have made since graduating is bringing updated Alternative and Augmentative Communication devices to my patients within my current position. Before my arrival they were using bulky, outdated and unreliable means for communication. It is amazing to see the progress these patients have made in a short period of time and how they have grown to be effective and functional communicators.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?

I am currently completing my fourth year for the Geauga County Educational Service Center. In my current role, I serve itinerant preschoolers, center based preschoolers and junior/senior high schoolers. Additionally, I work PRN for the Weils Rehab Center in my "free time."

Do you have any advice you would like to give to current KSU students?

My advice to current KSU students would be to immerse yourself in all the clinical experiences you can in graduate school. Kent gave me such a gift by allowing me to learn at their Kent Clinic, Hattie Larlham, adult placements and FCLC. I was prepared for every route when I graduated and have continued my love for learning with all populations. We are so lucky to be learning such a wonderfully diverse profession that is constantly changing and evolving!

Brooke Mendenhall

BrookeWhat degree(s) have you earned? Where are they from?

I earned a bachelor of science and a masters of art at Kent State University.

What inspired you to become a speech pathologist/audiologist?

I was inspired to become a speech language pathologist (SLP) through the needs of my daughter. By the time my daughter was three and half years old, I had spent a two years exploring various avenues and methods to establish a communicative link with her. I finally ended up at a consult with a school SLP and within 30 minutes my daughter was communicating with the SLP with sign language. "Who was this amazingly talented woman!? And how can I do what she does?" were my only thoughts. I switched my course study from business management to SLP. My daughter is now fully integrated in 8th grade and on the honor role.

What is your favorite part about being a speech pathologist/audiologist?

Being able to assess and truly understand individual patients' current functional levels, is the most fulfilling aspect of being an SLP. I am able to meet patients at their level and determine treatments, programs, and compensatory strategies to facilitate their rehabilitation goals. Patients, family members, and friends can have a difficult time comprehending changes and deficits in their selves and loved ones. As an SLP, I am able to help bridge the gap for understanding, acceptance, and growth.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?

One of the biggest challenges after graduating was deciding where to work?? Our field offers many settings and specialties and it can be a bit overwhelming. Initially I took a position in the school setting which was enjoyable. During the summer break I took a position in a skilled nursing facility where I found my calling. I was immediately able to incorporate my managerial background. I am currently in my fifth year as a Therapy Program Manager. My biggest challenge is keeping up with the perpetual changes in Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurances and the direct effects these changes have on our field.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?

My most significant professional accomplishment has been developing outstanding therapy teams in skilled nursing facilities and creating environments where therapists, patients, families, and facility staff merge and strive for the best possible rehabilitation outcomes.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?

I am currently employed as an SLP and Therapy Program Manager in a skilled nursing facility in Tallmadge, OH.

Do you have any advice you would like to give to current KSU students?

The faculty at Kent State University are a prime resource with their continued contributions to our field. I encourage students to take full advantage of this invaluable knowledge.