For graduate students, specifically those pursuing a degree in speech language pathology, there is a club on campus that builds connections as well as a family to grow within the field.
The Graduate Student Speech Language Pathology Club meets the first Tuesday of every month, as the advisers know that graduate students are busy with classes, jobs and internships.
The club was founded in the fall of 2015 by former student Dolores "Lori" Deluca. At first, with graduate students being so busy, Professor Jeanne Avitto was apprehensive to start the club as it would be difficult for the students to meet. But with further consideration, the club was created.
"It's never been about who is not there and how to get who is not there. It's been about who comes," Avitto said.
There was consideration about membership requirements, but that never went through. As long as students come, they want them to get the information they need.
"I have no judgement whether they can come or not because I know our students are working really hard and they're in evening classes," Avitto said.
Avitto's primary job at Kean University is to coordinate the clinical externships for graduate students in the Speech Language Pathology program. She acts as their liaison.
"I think the original founder's point was that if you had friends, you had access to information," Avitto said. "But if you weren't friends with people, you didn't have access and it was more of a way of how do we share the information equally and how do we get more people involved and making people that feel more on the outside, part of the crew."
Dana Lenahan is a second-year graduate student in the Speech Language Pathology program who is projected to graduate in May 2017. She is currently in her final externship and is the president of the Graduate Student Speech Language Pathology Club.
With first-year students feeling overwhelmed and second-year students feeling like they have been in the program forever, the club allows them to open the doors for communication and bridge the gap amongst each other.
"I would say, at this point, its mission would be to foster relationships between professionals and for the working field as we move forward," Lenahan said.
During meetings, volunteer guest speakers come to talk to the speech language pathology students.
"A lot of them are past students, and then a lot of our professors were in the profession in different places and they have connections," Lenahan said.
The topic of each guest speaker's presentations is based on what the students are currently going through in their academic endeavors. Similar to speed dating, a seven-minute speed interviewing event is being planned for the next meeting in March.
For another future meeting, the club is planning to have Deluca speak about her post-graduation experience in her clinical fellowship.
During the group's meeting on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at East Campus, Dr. Grover, who joined the staff last semester, spoke to the students about stress. Pizza was provided and a raffle was drawn for the students in attendance.
"The idea of this talk is not to solve everybody's stress problems, or not to say 'don't be stressed,' things will happen," Grover said, "reality of life is, we'll have bumps on the road."
He went on to explain how much of the stress people face is because they are thinking about the past or the future, instead of focusing their awareness on the present.
He explained the concept of looking at stressful situations with the mindset "that was not my first priority" rather than "I didn't have time."
From this, students should walk away with an understanding of how to view their situation with stress, their reaction and response to a situation and the factors that are taking a toll on them.
As one of the bigger programs within the Nathan Weiss Graduate School of Kean University, it can be difficult to organize schedules, manage the school work load and experience work load and find the information and resources needed to be successful. The club provides an opportunity for students to engage with one another, be more informed and take away valuable lessons from speakers like Dr. Grover.
As the oldest and most respected speech pathology program in New Jersey, students are always meeting Kean University alumni in their experiences. Avitto graduated from Kean University as an undergraduate and graduate student and is currently back teaching.
For students who do not complete an undergraduate program in speech language pathology, there is a pre-professional program that interested students can apply for. For this program, students are required to complete an additional year for core and prerequisite classes, where students in the regular program will usually have it completed in two to two and a half years.
It is very competitive, as there is a high volume of applicants for the program.
Quite possibly the best kept secret on East Campus is the Communication Disorders and Speech Language Pathology public clinic. The clinic offers services for patients from children to adults and students in the program gain experience by working in the clinic.
The Graduate Student Speech Language Pathology Club offers an opportunity for students in the program to generate connections, expand their skills and knowledge and plan for the future together as a community, but more importantly, as a family.