Spotlight Alumni: Dalia Benitez
Passionate about languages, Dalia Benitez got her undergraduate degree in linguistics and German and taught English for several years in Vietnam. As she contemplated her next career move, she found herself drawn to a field that would combine her interest in language with that of health.
“I've always been interested in health care, and speech-language pathology is that bridge between language education and health care,” said Dalia.
Dalia looked into graduate programs in speech-language pathology, but competition for admission to these programs was fierce. She realized that she had to take some prerequisite classes in speech-language pathology to make herself a competitive candidate. During her search, she found the Postbaccalaureate Bachelor of Science in Speech & Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington. Learn how this program gave Dalia the strong foundation she needed to get into a master’s program and on track to a new career.
Why did you choose the UW’s postbaccalaureate program in speech and hearing sciences?
The UW has one of the highest ranked speech-language pathology schools in the country. Another thing I loved about the program was that the faculty represented a variety of specializations and the UW Speech & Hearing Clinic served a diverse range of clientele. The field of speech-language pathology can be highly specialized, and so it was very convenient to be able to observe different facets of speech-language pathology all in one location. The program also provided everything I needed to get into a good grad program after just a year of study. I’m now a student in the UW Master of Science in Medical Speech-Language Pathology, which is a perfect follow-up to the postbac.
What were your classes like?
The classes were rigorous and pragmatic. They were completely focused on developing the skills we’d need to practice speech-language pathology. I really enjoyed the neuroscience portions of our courses because it’s a topic that’s interesting to me and will be relevant to my work with the medical population.
What was you experience with the faculty?
As I mentioned earlier, one of the things I loved about the program is how many different specializations and areas of expertise are represented by the faculty. Most of the faculty are also involved in the community and conduct cutting-edge research in the field. They are also friendly and will make the time to speak with you. In addition to their normal office hours, some faculty members would hold fireside chats or brown bag lunch sessions, which provided an informal opportunity to connect and cover topics outside of class such as: How do you avoid professional burnout? What was your experience working in one particular setting? What is life like after grad school?
You need clinical observation hours to do graduate-level clinical work in speech-language pathology. How did the program facilitate this?
The postbac makes it easy to complete the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s required 25 hours of guided observation. Every Friday, a sign-up sheet goes out so that students could register to observe the types of treatment or assessment sessions that interested them, such as voice therapy, neuro rehabilitation or pediatric language evaluation. The UW Speech & Hearing Clinic is arranged so that each treatment room has an adjacent observation room separated by two-way glass. While a graduate clinician is at work in the treatment room, students and a clinical supervisor are having discussions in the observation room. Sometimes clinical supervisors assign students specific observation tasks, which give students a framework to think critically about what they see and how they can apply it to their future practice.
What other hands-on experience did you gain?
If you’re looking to get into research or learn more about the things that are going on at the cutting edge of speech and language research, this is the right place. I came into this program with zero research experience, and I was able to help out at two labs while in the postbac. I checked-in clients at the Institute for Learning and Brain Science, which has a magnetoencephalography machine, or MEG, which is a brain scanner that accommodates babies. Because I am interested in child language acquisition and bilingualism, I also volunteered at the Language Development and Processing Lab. I transcribed what parents said while they interacted with their babies and then categorized the transcriptions according to the content. I felt like what I was doing was vital to the research process and directly beneficial to the scientific community for understanding typical language development.
What do you see yourself doing after you complete your master’s degree?
I used to think speech-language pathologists were people in schools who worked with children with language disorders, but the postbac introduced me to different work settings that I hadn't considered. I’d like to work in a hospital or a rehabilitation setting to help patients, such as those who’ve suffered traumatic brain injury, with cognitive rehabilitation. Because there are some reciprocity agreements with English-speaking countries like Australia and England, I’d also like to look into that and use my skills to work abroad again.