'There are a lot of different jobs available at the end, working with all sorts of people...'
Master’s Student, University of Dundee, Scotland
Wanting a career utilising science to help others, Claire discovered the Speech and Language Pathology degree as a great way to apply her skills towards working with people.
‘I thought that the degree was a great mix of the science and medical fields, while also involving aspects of teaching,’ she says.
UC’s reputation for speech-language therapy motivated her choice of university, and she enrolled with a Noeline Clark Foundation University of Canterbury Scholarship, and a UC Emerging Leaders Scholarship, recognising her leadership potential.
‘Speech language therapy is such an interesting subject to study because there are so many areas we learn about which are very different from each other. For example we learn about swallowing, the voice, and speech and language disorders for people of all ages, from toddlers to older people. The variety is fantastic because there will be something which appeals to you, and it also means there are a lot of different jobs available at the end, working with all sorts of people.’
One of the best parts of her study was the smaller classes and tight-knit Speech-Language community.
‘It made our lectures much more personal and interactive. We all knew each other well, and our class were all very supportive of each other throughout the four years. I have made some great friends and had the opportunity to learn from many different academics, including some visiting from overseas, which has been a great experience.’
Clinical placement work throughout the degree was a highlight from her studies. Claire has worked with the on-campus speech-language clinic, and with local primary schools.
‘For one placement I was at a special education unit at a primary school so I was working with children with autism and developmental delays. I spent the day in the classroom working with the children either in class or in a separate room, and helped them to develop in areas such as literacy or communication with their device.
‘These opportunities were very valuable in learning which parts of speech therapy you like, and getting experience to apply for jobs.’
Throughout her studies, Claire has received a number of scholarship awards recognising her achievements in study, including a Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Award, a UC Senior Scholarship, and funding from outside UC with a Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Award, a Graduate Women Canterbury Inc. Trust Board Scholarship, and a Ministry of Education Speech Language Therapy Scholarship.
She also received a UC Summer Research Scholarship in her third year, which included work with the National Science Challenges investigating literacy in children.
‘I enjoyed the experience and felt it was valuable to see what being part of research is like,’ she says. ‘I would recommend this to anyone who is thinking of starting research, as this will give them an insight as to what that might be like, and enable them to meet academics who are working in different areas of interest to them.’
Beyond study, Claire taught saxophone with the Christchurch School of Music, sang in the UC Chamber Choir Consortia, and played the French Horn with the UC Christchurch Youth Orchestra and in several shows by MUSOC student club.
As such, she also chose to do MUSA 125 summer course in her first year, and took extra Music courses throughout her degree.
‘It was a great experience because the class was very small, only five people, so we got to know each other well and could work together. It was also quite a practical course, learning to use technology to create music, which I really enjoyed. I think learning everything over six weeks is a great way to get really involved with the material, as you can focus on just that one paper, and make the most of the time you have,’ she says.
‘Studying Music alongside the BSLP degree was very enjoyable. I mainly studied music performance papers and these allowed me to continue playing my instruments with a goal to work towards to keep myself motivated to improve. The flexibility of the performance papers worked well for me, as I could organise music lessons with my teachers to fit in with my other papers.’
Combining passions for music and working with children motivated Claire to continue into postgraduate studies, and after graduating she was presented with a William Georgetti Scholarship through Universities NZ to study a Master of Science with the University of Dundee in Scotland.
Claire’s master’s research involves working with children in special education who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
‘This refers to using other means of communication when verbal speech is difficult. This might include using an iPad, an alphabet board you point to, or a camera which tracks your eye movements to select letters. I really enjoyed my placements working with children who use these different forms of communication and so wanted to continue to explore this area further,’ she says.