Student Spotlight | Ali Murueta, Liz Cagle, and Michelle Ballou

The SJSU Lurie College of Education provides a range of grants to students to support their academic endeavors to become transformative educators, counselors, therapists, and leaders.  We spoke with Communicative Disorders and Sciences students Alexandra (Ali) Murueta, Liz Cagle, and Michelle Ballou after they attended the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention to learn more about their experiences and how it shaped them going forward.  Give their insights a listen below!

SJSU Lurie College of Education Ali Murueta, Michelle Ballou, Liz Cagle

From left to right: Ali Murueta, Michelle Ballou, and Liz Cagle

“I really encourage any of the students in the CDS program to apply for the ASHA convention sponsorship next year and any other student who is contemplating going for a scholarship or sponsorship just to go for it and take the plunge because it really is life changing.”

Can you introduce yourselves for our listeners?

Liz:  Hi, I’m Liz Cagle and I’m an undergrad and a senior in the Communicative Disorders and Sciences Program here at San Jose State.

Ali:  I’m Ali Murueta and I’m a senior as well.  I’m also in the Communicative Disorders and Sciences Program with a minor in Deaf Education.

Michelle:  I’m Michelle Ballou.  I am a graduate student and I’m also studying speech language pathology here at SJSU.

What is the ASHA Convention?

Ali:  So the ASHA convention is the American Speech Language Hearing Association.  They host an annual conference where audiologists, speech pathologists, and other professionals such as speech and hearing scientists and students will all come together to discuss the latest technology, research, hearing devices and anything else pertaining to our field.  They deliver this information through seminars, hands on labs, and an exploratorium where you get to go visit a bunch of different companies.

Why were you interested in attending?

Ali:  I was personally interested in attending because of the undeniable benefits that you get as a student.  You’re exposed to so much research and stuff that you didn’t expect to hear about, especially topics that you don’t get to talk about in class.  It offered a chance to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom into the real world and you get to see it in action, which is really cool.

Liz:  I was interested in attending the conference because it’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity as a student to just be in the room with so many professionals who are the top in their field.  The scientists that go there, the people that are doing these lectures and panels, they’re the best of the best.  You have the opportunity to learn, see what everyone’s focusing on, and be around people that are like minded.  It’s very inspiring.

Michelle:  Absolutely.  I was also interested in attending the ASHA convention because I’m a bit of a research nerd.  I love learning about different research methods and different ways of discovering new things about our field.  Specifically, I’m really interested in the medical speech language pathology world.  There were so many professionals there, like Liz said, that are just the top of their field that you get to chat with, and actually have conversations about what the research is what they’re doing–and that just had such an impact.  It really is a once in a lifetime – hopefully not once in a lifetime – but such an impactful experience.

What was an experience that you had that will have a lasting impact on you?

Michelle:  One experience I had at the conference that will have such a lasting impact on me, there were specific talks I attended about topics and medical speech language pathology that were really in depth.  For example, I went to a talk on how to help in the rehabilitation of head and neck cancer patients and how to make that experience the best you can.  That piqued my interest in a whole new world.  Then on a broader scale, realizing that there is this community out there of professionals in our field that are very excited and bringing an energy into the field–we’re ready to learn new things, we want to better this practice in every way we can.  That hope and positive energy–I still feel it sometimes.

Liz:  One of the experiences that had a lasting impact on me was networking with people that are in the same boat as us.  We are all part of NSSLHA, our San Jose State chapter of NSSLHA, which is the National Student Speech and Language Hearing Association and we were able to see people from other states and other schools.  There were a few mixers and parties that we were able to go to and talk to people that are as excited about learning and gathering all this information and networking with all these professionals just as much as we were so that was really a cool experience for me to just see how many students were there and on the same path as us.

Ali:  So I have to totally agree with Liz, the most impactful part of that convention is the networking.  It’s not just amongst you and the professionals, but it’s also the exposure that you get to other students out there to share your experiences.  Especially for seniors applying to grad school, you get a lot of insight regarding different universities and opportunities out there.  More importantly, the networking really opens your eyes that the world that we’re walking into is very fast approaching and it’s not as scary or daunting as we may have chalked it up to be.  It’s kind of nice that you get to connect with reality there.

How has attending this symposium shaped you going forward?

Michelle:  So I think moving forward, there were some elements of the convention that we were able to bring back with us.  When we returned to San Jose State, we were able to give a presentation to our peers and share some of the resources that go beyond the convention.  We learned about a lot of great podcasts, a lot of websites, and professional development opportunities that you don’t necessarily have to attend the convention to have access to.  Learning about that as a student, I think those are resources I will continue to use throughout my professional career.

Liz:  Yeah, I agree with that.  There’s an exhibition hall that you go through and they’re filled with vendors, people who are in audiology, speech pathology, and also scientists talking about their research and what not, but you are also going through a section where there are just employers galore.  You’re seeing what’s out there–you’re seeing school districts, you’re seeing medical professionals, companies that are wanting to recruit and talk to you about all the opportunities that are there for you when you’re finished with your degree.  They’re already asking you, “when are you going to graduate?”  It’s a really good insight to what’s available to you outside of school and when you graduate there’s a lot of opportunities for you to have.

Ali:  It’s also a really great chance for introspection because as we’re learning and going through education we’re just absorbing so much.  You are given the chance here to apply it into your own life, see what field is going to work for you, and what route you’re most interested in taking.  A lot of us enter potentially as pediatrics, a speech pathologist, or very determined routes but this really opens your eyes and helps you find your place in the audiology or speech pathology world.

Michelle:  And then just jumping off of that, I think that’s such a great point the number of professionals you get to talk to and you get to pretty much interview these individuals you meet, and say ‘oh my gosh you work in this setting, what does that really like what do you do every day?’  I think having the knowledge that our field is so broad and being able to talk to even more professionals about about that was just totally irreplaceable.

What else would you like to share?

Liz:  I’ve gotten so many emails.  They’re ready to poach on you.  “Here have a pen!”  I have 30 pens haha

Ali:  An experience that wasn’t super expected out of this was how much you work with faculty and learn a lot more about the school system because you’re working with them regarding policies.  You get to be one on one, like we got to get really close with Dr. Wendy Quach, who is a professor here.  We got more affiliated with AS students and the association there and how they run things, so that was interesting as well.  I think the last little tidbit is something that seems a little more obvious than it is, but you get to make friends. You actually get to make friends and meet people.  Liz mentioned she’s already gotten so many emails, and whether those be propaganda or actually reaching out to make a connection, you still realize how small the world is.  That’s really cool that you get to make those connections.  I really encourage any of the students in the CDS program to apply for the ASHA convention sponsorship next year and any other student who is contemplating going for a scholarship or sponsorship just to go for it and take the plunge because it really is life changing.

Connect with Lurie College at to receive more news about academic and student life!  Audio recorded and edited by Brian Cheung Dooley.  “Adventure” provided royalty free by  Interview transcription provided by and edited by Katelyn Zamarron.

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