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SLHS from Start to Finish

May 3, 2019

Portrait of Kaitlin Trefethen

Portrait of Kaitlin Trefethen
Photo by Phuong Tran, CLAgency student

Whether a student enters college undecided or with a major in mind, exploring opportunities on campus can prepare them for life after graduation. 

For Kaitlin Trefethen, a fourth-year student studying in the speech-language-hearing sciences department (SLHS), experiences throughout her time in college have given her the background necessary to prepare her for the working world. 

Setting Sights on SLHS

From a young age, Trefethen knew that she wanted to work as a health professional. During her junior year of high school, she was involved with the University’s Scrubs, Gloves, and Microscopes and heard a speech-language pathologist talk about her profession. “After [that talk], I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Trefethen remembers. 

SLHS’s renowned program drew her attention as she made her college decisions. “Of all of the schools that I applied to, this was the best program,” Trefethen says. “Of my acceptance letters, I was most excited about [Minnesota’s].” This early interest in speech pathology grew in her first year at the University as she became involved with the Dean’s First-Year Research and Creative Scholars program. The program invites outstanding first-year students to work directly with faculty on research and creative projects. 

Trefethen worked with Dr. Jayanthi Sasisekaran of the University of Minnesota’s Speech Fluency Lab, which specializes in examining the linguistic and motor processes of individuals who stutter. “[Dr. Sasisekaran] had already gotten all of the data and she had recorded people, and I [listened] to these recordings and indicat[ed] where the individual might have made an error,” Trefethen explains. Working in Dr. Sasisekaran’s lab gave Trefethen a background in research that she has been able to use throughout her college career and gave her insight into the applications of research in the real world. 

At the same time, she attributes her time in Sasisekaran’s lab to opening her eyes to the different applications of speech-language pathology: “I learned a lot about fluency disorders, which wasn’t a topic I was originally interested in, but this experience got me more interested in it... I’m glad that I got that experience when I was so young.” 

From the Lab to the World 

Working with Dr. Sasiskaran’s research solidified Trefethen’s interest in speech pathology. “I got the research side of it, and I decided that I wanted to actually see what speech pathologists do,” she says. Her next step was to volunteer at the PACT Institute in Hopkins, Minnesota. PACT offers services to improve communication for children with developmental disabilities. 

Some of Trefethen’s typical roles include creating projects for the speech-language pathologists to implement during therapy sessions and observing clients during the sessions in order to understand the goals of the pathologists. With her background and experiences in CLA, Trefethen was able to cultivate the skills necessary for her job at PACT. “Before college, I wasn’t a very creative person,” Trefethen says. “CLA provided me with many creative experiences in my courses that helped make me a more creative person.” 

Looking Forward

Trefethen’s time as an undergraduate student might be coming to a close, but her education won’t end when she gets her diploma. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in speech pathology. 

While she moves toward a new chapter in her life, she has advice for incoming students: “Take advantage of everything they offer. Especially in CLA, there’s so much you can do. Just do your research and take advantage of everything they have.” From research at a young age to practical volunteer experiences, Trefethen was able to grow skills that will bring her beyond this final semester into her professional career. She will be attending a masters program at Saint Louis University in the fall. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.