Katrina Fulcher-Rood ’07: EC's experiential learning makes a difference

In high school, Katrina Fulcher-Rood ’07 wasn't certain of the direction she wanted to go. She had aspirations to be in Broadway musicals, but her parents encouraged her to consider "less risky" professions. Her high school had a job shadowing program and Fulcher-Rood's mother suggested she shadow Shawna, a family friend and speech-language pathologist, who provided early intervention services to children in their homes.

As Fulcher-Rood went through the day following Shawna, she kept seeing how the career fit aspects of her own personality. Each session was different, exciting, and very people-oriented. The parents asked Shawna questions and sought her advice, valuing her expertise.

Then, during one of the sessions, a special thing happened. As Fulcher-Rood observed Shawna playing and modeling sounds with a young girl, the girl suddenly stopped and made a sound. For a moment, there was a poignant pause as the girl's parents stopped what they were doing and paid close attention to their daughter.

As they left the young girl's home, Fulcher-Rood learned the reason for the pause. It was the first time the parents heard their daughter vocalize intentionally. After that, Fulcher-Rood never looked back – she knew this was the profession for her.

At Elmira College, she found a program with experiential learning with clinical experiences, small class sizes, and individualized attention from instructors.

Fulcher-Rood is now a speech-language pathologist and associate professor at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Through her students, she sees how this focus on early experiential learning sets Elmira College students apart. According to Fulcher-Rood, those who didn’t get undergraduate clinical experiences like those at Elmira College often question their readiness to begin clinical experiences after four weeks of graduate classes.

"There is a real difference in confidence," she explained. "I think it's because EC students have the hands-on experiences right from the start."

"At EC, I was expected to talk, walk, and dress like a professional. I was doing assessments in my sophomore year. And, because EC is so small, it forces you to ask questions and talk to your professors."

As future generations contemplate their career paths. Fulcher-Rood hopes more students will show interest in communication sciences and disorders and join the ranks of well-prepared Elmira College students.

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