After working in the theater community for several years, Syndey Andrews Salinas knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree in speech-language pathology. She began searching for a program that would help make her grad school application more competitive and prioritized programs that have a strong emphasis on peer relationships.
The UW’s postbaccalaureate program in speech and hearing sciences quickly rose to the top of her list. The program’s reputation and location — “Seattle is my community and where I plan to work after graduate school.” — solidified Sydney’s decision. “Across the board, I knew the UW was the right fit for me.”
Learn how the postbaccalaureate program helped Sydney build a new community and prepare for graduate school.
Tell us about your educational and professional background.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been a professional actor in Seattle and a literary manager for about three years. I have an M.F.A. in acting from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in theater from Greensboro College.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Washington postbaccalaureate program?
I chose to attend the UW for a number of reasons. I knew it had a very good reputation in the field, and it was where I was aiming to go for graduate school. As a Seattle resident, I also wanted to be in-person as much as possible. I felt I would be able to forge stronger relationships with the other students and faculty by being in the same city.
Community is deeply important to me, and Seattle is my community and where I plan to work after graduate school. In my preparation to apply and attend the postbaccalaureate program, I interviewed and created relationships with a number of alumni from the UW.
The speech and hearing sciences alumni are all very passionate, empathetic, patient, knowledgeable and skilled pathologists — traits I’m particularly inspired by. Across the board, I knew the UW was the right fit for me.
Why did you choose to pursue a second bachelor’s degree instead of completing the speech and hearing prerequisite courses for a master’s program?
I wanted to be part of a program and community. I’m coming from a different field where peer relationships are so important, and I wanted to immediately find a way to foster a sense of community on my new path. UW’s program is also so cohesive. I felt like the coursework was very well curated. From the student perspective, it was clear the faculty and staff communicate well and deeply care about the student experience.
Do you think having the bachelor’s in speech and hearing sciences made your graduate program application more competitive?
Yes, I do. I felt extremely prepared, clear in my goals and knew what would be expected of me. The program allowed for me to make strong relationships with faculty and students, which were a great support system in the process of applying — including faculty as a resource for letters of recommendation. I also believe completing the postbaccalaureate program displays my commitment to my choices and provides confidence that I’ll do the same in a graduate program.
Did you gain research or clinical experience during the program?
I gained some research experience in joining Dr. Pace’s Child Language Lab. I found it extremely helpful alongside coursework. With the abundance of research happening at the UW and the passionate faculty leading these projects, it feels like a sea of opportunity to explore the field and one’s personal interests within.
Dr. Pace’s Speech and Language Acquisition class was invaluable for beginning to learn how to search, read, write about and use research. As a person who was very new to research, it really gave me a boost of confidence to know I have some strong foundational tools with which to build on as I continue my education.
In terms of clinical experience, I observed everywhere I could: in-person, virtual, adult, pediatric, private practice and hospital settings. I’ve been part of an Aphasia communication group for two years and was able to be a communication partner through a virtual private practice. I believe being a postbaccalaureate student at the UW helped me get my foot in the door with a number of clinicians to further observe and gain more experience.
Tell us about your experience with the faculty in the program.
I think the faculty are all so skilled, passionate, humble, kind and curious, with high expectations while also allowing the students to be human. Every member of the faculty is ready to meet with you, help you, support you and challenge you. It feels incredible to have found a department where every professor is so communicative, engaged and unified in their teaching. I have nothing but the utmost trust and confidence in my education and support from the Speech & Hearing Sciences faculty.
Being in a class with some faculty is like being in a master’s class for teaching. As a person who has a graduate degree behind me and has taught at the university level before, I’m in awe of the teaching skill and departmental culture here. It makes me want to supervise and follow in their footsteps once I’m on the other side of my education.
Was there a sense of community within your cohort?
Very much. Everyone was so helpful and generous. We had study groups and a Discord channel for regular communication (from class questions to grabbing coffee to funny videos). We often met outside of school to hang out, and a few people have become very good friends. It felt like we were on a team. I hope to stay in touch with much of my cohort as we move forward in our professional paths.
What are some of your biggest takeaways from this program?
Work hard, make mistakes and learn. There’s so much to know, read, learn — no one is ever going to be able to do and know it all. The postbaccalaureate experience is getting that foundational knowledge and figuring out your next steps in the field. The faculty here know that and they tell you that, but you have to put yourself out there. Be wrong and learn why, and apply it the next time. Ask your questions. Someone else has your question, too. One of the best things about this program is how it builds on itself — the classes speak to one another, adding information while reviewing what came before.
How did this program help shape your educational or career goals?
This program directly impacted my next steps, as I have returned to the UW for my Master of Science in Medical Speech-Language Pathology. It really solidified my interest in the field. It revealed to me what personal skills I bring as a clinician and what skills I need to work on and hone as I move forward.
Would you recommend this program to others?
A thousand times yes. I can’t recommend this program enough. From faculty to departmental culture to course organization and quality of education: the Speech & Hearing Sciences department and postbaccalaureate program are exceptional. I couldn’t be prouder to be an alumna and I’m so grateful for every ounce of my educational experience here.