Spotlight Alumni: Rachel Obstfeld
Can you tell us a bit about your educational and professional background?
I graduated from Tulane University in 2017 with a B.S. in psychology and a coordinate major in cognitive studies. Then in 2018, I received my B.S. from UW through the post-baccalaureate program. I recently began my M.A. program in SLP at the University of Texas at Austin!
Why did you choose to attend the University of Washington postbaccalaureate program?
Once I chose to pursue SLP and began to research post-bac and leveling programs, UW immediately became my top choice. I knew that the education I'd receive at UW would kickstart my career and provide a foundation like no other. I also was thrilled about the idea of moving to Seattle and exploring the Pacific Northwest!
Can you explain why you pursued a second bachelor’s degree instead of just completing the speech and hearing prerequisite courses for a master’s program?
I believed that pursuing a second bachelor's degree would set me apart as a future graduate school applicant. I was drawn to the breadth and structure that this degree offered. Also, I was excited about becoming a member of a true cohort as well as a larger departmental community as opposed to simply taking classes on my own.
Do you think having the bachelor’s in speech and hearing sciences made your graduate program application more competitive?
I know that having a bachelor's AND having that bachelor's be from UW made my application incredibly competitive.
Did you gain research or clinical experience during the program?
Soon after I began classes at UW, I made an effort to meet with many different faculty members, particularly those whose research interests aligned with my own. I decided to join Dr. Baylor's lab during the first summer quarter, and had a wonderful experience as one of her research assistants throughout my time at UW. I was even able to remotely assist with a project for a few months following my completion of the program!.
Can you tell us about your experience with the faculty in the program?
I had a fantastic experience with UW's faculty. As I now embark into graduate school, I feel as though I have a strong, well-rounded, background in the field, and that is all thanks to the faculty and staff at UW. In addition to the academic information I received in my coursework, I was welcomed with open arms to meet with and pick the brains of faculty members (even those with whom I did not have as professors). These meetings led to priceless knowledge about the graduate school application process, specific graduate programs to look into that aligned with my interests, potential SLP specializations and workplace options, and even a shadowing opportunity at Seattle Children’s Hospital! While at UW, I felt amply supported with resources (both within and outside of the UW community) as well as emboldened to ask any SLP-related question as well as offer course and program feedback. Again, this was all thanks to the faculty and staff.
Was there a sense of community within your cohort?
Although it took a bit of time to develop, our cohort definitely shared a strong sense of community! I believe I partook in one or more group study session before nearly every exam I took during my postbac. I made friends at UW who I intend to keep for life! It was wonderful to be in such a community as we all began and navigated the start of our SLP journeys.
What would you say are some of your biggest takeaways from this program?
I felt confident going into graduate school applications for a few main reasons. Firstly, I was proud of my bachelor's degree in the field as well as UW's name on my transcript. Secondly, I felt confident in my letters of recommendation, two of which were from UW faculty members. Next, I was able to highlight my UW research experience, my thorough and unique completed UW coursework (such as the Patient-Provider Communication course & standardized patient experience), and my wide range of shadowing experience both at the UW clinic and in the larger Seattle community (including experiences I secured through UW connections). Lastly, I felt confident in my grasp of and ability to discuss the SLP field as well as my role as a future clinician. I feel that I was successful in my applications largely because of my time at UW.
How did this program help shape your educational or career goals?
Although I am ready to explore many different areas of SLP in graduate school, I am particularly interested in aural habilitation and in neurogenic / acquired communication disorders. These interests were solidified thanks to experiences at UW. Firstly, towards the end of the program, I was lucky enough to shadow Professor Terra Boulse-Archaro in the aural habilitation department at Seattle Children's Hospital. Prior to this experience, I had no idea what SLP work with the Deaf community and use of ASL looked like in practice. During graduate school, I aim to continue improving my ASL skills and perhaps pursue an externship at Texas School for the Deaf (located here in Austin), all while keeping in touch with Terra and using this shadowing experience to help guide my practice. Secondly, although I knew I was interested in working with adults, Dr. Baylor's course on Neurogenic and Acquired Communication Disorders completely enlightened my knowledge of the area and as cheesy as it sounds, lit a fire under me! During my gap year following my postbac, I went on to volunteer extensively at a brain injury rehabilitation and support center, inspired by Dr. Baylor’s course. UW’s program not only provided a strong speech and hearing sciences framework for me, but also deeply aided me to narrow down and further explore my interests!
Would you recommend this program to others?
Yes yes yes!! This program offers an incredibly strong academic framework coupled with unparalleled opportunity for connection with leading members of the field