By Despina Williams Parker
Since 2010, the Department of Communication Disorders has offered non-matriculated students with undergraduate degrees in other fields the foundational courses they need to make career changes possible.
Christine Delfino completed post-baccalaureate Foundations of Communication Disorders coursework in 2013 and is one of the initiative’s success stories.
Inspired by her undergraduate internships in the arts, Delfino was poised to begin a career in museum education. But a year into her work at a college art museum, Delfino found her career not as meaningful as she’d hoped.
“I realized that my favorite parts of the job were the ones where I got to interact with people face-to-face, and in situations where I felt like I was helping them; however, I felt like I wasn’t making a significant difference. I quickly realized that the art world was not for me,” she said.
Delfino studied Spanish and literature as an undergraduate. She had a keen interest in languages and communication, which had previously taken a backseat as she pursued a career in the arts. At her mother’s suggestion, she researched a career in speech-language pathology and discovered the New Paltz program.
State and federal laws require speech-language pathologists to complete a master’s degree and clinical work before practicing in the field. New Paltz’s post-baccalaureate coursework meets all of the prerequisite requirements for the graduate program in communication disorders at the university, as well as many others throughout the country.
Coursework is offered online through the Blackboard Learning Network, and courses are asynchronous, meaning that students do not need to log in at a particular time.
The online format appealed to Delfino, who continued to work part-time throughout her studies. She completed the coursework in a year and a half, and was pleased with its high quality.
“In general I found the online format to be easily accessible and the quality of the courses to be strong. I think the program is very well structured and organized. The students know the trajectory of their course load within the post-baccalaureate program, and I would say that the quality of the courses is comparable to being in in-person classes,” Delfino said.
Delfino is now in her last year in the master’s program in communication disorders at Arizona State University. Drawing upon her undergraduate studies, Delfino has pursued the bilingual (Spanish/English) track in speech-language pathology.
She recently won first place in the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s 2014 Student Ethics Essay Contest, in which she described the importance of professionalism and ethics in the clinical supervisor/student clinician relationship.
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Associate Dean Stella Turk, who coordinates Foundations of Communication Disorders, said students who earn the certificate have a “very high rate of acceptance” into graduate programs. She attributes this success to the program’s high academic standards — students must receive a B or higher in each course to remain enrolled — and students’ self-discipline and focus in completing the rigorous coursework.
“These students are on a mission; their mission is to get into a graduate program,” Turk said.
Delfino has enjoyed her graduate studies, and particularly her work as a research assistant. She plans to eventually pursue a Ph.D.
Delfino credits her online studies at New Paltz with preparing her for work at the graduate level. “Since my undergraduate degree was completely unrelated to communication disorders, the post-bacc. program provided me with the strong, general foundation that I needed to pursue a master’s degree,” she said.
For more on Foundations in Communication Disorders, click here.