Meet Your S.T.E.P. Mentees and Mentors
I Answered the Call to Mentor
Claudia Cruz-Fuller, MS/CCC-SLP
Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist, Calhan, CO
Back in November 2013, when I received the message from ASHA asking members to volunteer through the S.T.E.P mentoring program, I thought "what a wonderful opportunity to give back to the field by being a mentor." I immediately signed up, and in early January the information about April Kuiper arrived. When I read April's career and S.T.E.P goals, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was looking to be paired up with a bilingual speech-language pathologist and that her passion was stuttering in bilingual individuals. I happened to be a bilingual clinician with experience in stuttering in bilingual populations. I started the contact via e-mail to tell her how excited I was and provided a little information about myself, my passion for our field, and my desire to be a support to her during her internship in her local area. April replied the next day, also telling me about her life and her experiences as a student. Through e-mail, we agreed to Skype twice a month and to e-mail twice a week to discuss issues in her internship and provide feedback as well. We have been communicating since we met, and it has been enriching for both of us. This has been an incredible experience in the sense that, even though April and I are thousands of miles apart, we share a common profession and the passion to be the best speech-language pathologists that we can be. April's internship has posed several ongoing challenges, which she has bravely faced and continues to do so. In this short time, I have learned that April is an ethical, motivated, inquisitive, creative, and compassionate person who strives to help her students to the best of her abilities. She researches different methods and applies her school knowledge of research-based methods and best practices.
Mentoring...Just What I Needed!
Graduate Student, Grand Rapids, MI
As a returning student with a BA in Spanish, two young daughters, and the desire to pursue an MA in speech-language pathology, my graduate school experience has been atypical. Late in 2013, with less than a year left before finishing my program, I found myself with a desire to meet and form a relationship with at least one practicing SLP who had experiences similar to my own. This led me to research formal mentoring, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that ASHA fostered the Student to Empowered Professional (S.T.E.P.) program. I was fortunate to discover the program just weeks before the application deadline, and after writing my career and S.T.E.P. goals, I waited with excitement to be virtually introduced to my mentor. In January 2014 I received an email from Claudia Cruz-Fuller, a school-based clinician who earned her BS in speech-language pathology in Colombia, South America before earning her MS/CCC-SLP from Northern Arizona University in The United States. This e-mail was the start of regular communication between the two of us. Early on in the relationship, we established our mutual expectations as mentor and mentee. These included two e-mail contacts per week and two video chats per month. Having clearly-defined roles allowed us to quickly establish a rich relationship. As I've navigated my internship and prepared for the Praxis, Claudia has been a consistent source of encouragement, a reality check when needed, and a resource for information relating to my chosen field. I feel confident that as I begin to interview for CF positions, Claudia will guide me with a caring attitude, offering a listening ear as well as sound advice. I'm so grateful for her time and attention, as I am also grateful to ASHA for the attention it pays to training beginning professionals such as myself. Anyone interested in forming or deepening ties within the field of speech-language pathology would be well-advised to consider joining the S.T.E.P. program as either a mentor or mentee.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel…Join S.T.E.P.
National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, Region 9, Regional Councilor
Texas Speech-Language Hearing Association, SLAC Co-Chair
MA Candidate, University of Texas at Austin, expected May 2015
We are taught early in our journey to becoming speech, language, and hearing professionals that it is important not to reinvent the wheel, but take advantage of resources available and techniques already known to work. However, it isn't until you delve further into the field that it can be seen that this adage spans far past learning articulation games and parent education activities used by previous clinicians. SLPs and audiologists alike strive to build a community, an extended family, filled with unwavering support and invaluable advice that eases the transition from student to professional and allows both novice clinicians and researchers to build confidence in themselves while building a network of mentors.
In my two sessions with the ASHA S.T.E.P. program, I've learned just how much I didn't know. For that, I could not be more thankful. My first experience was as an undergraduate senior, where my main concern seemed obvious: getting into grad school. I remember how nervous I was to initiate that first e-mail with my mentor as I hesitated over the "send" button far longer than
normal. Within a day's time, I received a heartwarming response from my new, self-proclaimed "biggest cheerleader." I was given the opportunity to communicate back and forth with someone in a medical setting, which was of interest to me, but who specialized in an area that I had no exposure to. I was being supported by someone who had already successfully reached the milestones I was working toward, who was willing to answer all of my "silly" questions, while providing reassurance of my dedication to the field and offering enlightening information about the scope of practice that would be available to me as an SLP.
My second experience was different, in that I had more clinical exposure as a graduate student, which influenced my questions and goals for the program. I was matched with a mentor working in a rehab hospital, a setting I am extremely interested in, just a few blocks away from my university. This allowed our communication to stem past e-mail and phone calls, and she was gracious enough to allow me to shadow her sessions at the hospital. As my questions transitioned from how to get into graduate school to how to establish myself within my area of interest in the field, I feel fortunate to have two mentors to help me as I work toward my degree.
Essentially, the ASHA S.T.E.P. Program offers students at various stages in their career paths a unique opportunity: to learn how to be a mentee and to identify the skills you value in a mentor. This individualized experience allows for networking with introspection, forcing to you find what it is you truly want to gain from the relationship you are building and ways to go about achieving that. I aspire, one day, to give a future speech, language, and hearing professional the guidance, support, and knowledge that has been passed on to me by my mentors.
The 3 C's of My S.T.E.P. Mentee Experience
Undergrad, CUNY, Queens College
Like many others, the journey which led me to speech-language pathology was not direct and came about a little later in life. My career began as a professional dancer and dance teacher. However, through personal experiences and a desire to help create pathways for communication, I have now found myself on the front step of an awesome and very special responsibility to do good work in this field. Being a part of the S.T.E.P. program put me in contact with a mentor who also feels this deep level of commitment to speech-language pathology. It is a pledge to oneself, the work, fellow students and colleagues, and the people with whom I will one day have the honor of serving. My mentor has made just such a commitment to me, and for that I will be forever grateful and humbled. She has committed herself to consistently being available, answering endless questions, empathizing with my fears, putting me in contact with other leaders in the field, and inspiring me through her words, actions, and example.
I am thankful for the mutual curiosity created between my mentor and me. The curiosity we have created and maintained together has helped to build openness in our dialogue and vulnerability in our sharing. My mentor has gotten to know what is important to me, what my goals, aspirations and needs are, and has even generated questions that have pushed me further into my own discoveries. This practice of curiosity not only has been invaluable in terms of my mentee experience but will be an essential tool I carry into my future as a speech-language pathologist.
I found the collaborative spirit between my mentor and me most unexpected and exciting. To have my mentor engage me in an action oriented, collaborative manner has taken my learning and experience in the S.T.E.P. program in a direction I had not imagined. Above all, the three C's of my mentee experience could not have come about without the willingness of my mentor to extend herself out to me. I hope that I too will one day be able to carry this forward, and do the same for another.
Why I Majored in Speech-Language Pathology
Second Year Masters, University of Maryland, College Park
After I received my bachelors in psychology I moved to Washington, D.C., where I worked for a non-profit doing educational research. One of my projects involved grant monitoring for a national reading initiative, and I traveled to different schools and districts across the country observing classrooms and speaking with teachers and administrators. I realized that I really enjoyed being in the schools and learning about early reading interventions, but had never seen myself as a classroom teacher in front of a roomful of children every day. I realized that each school had an SLP, who was often named by the teachers as someone who provided a lot of additional support on reading instruction. I have two cousins with hearing loss whom I knew had seen an SLP when they were younger, so I called them up right away to hear about their experiences with speech therapy, which were glowing. I decided that this career path included skills from many of the professions I was considering, such as teaching, counseling, and social work/community outreach. I am still very interested in audiology/aural rehab and am very excited to graduate in May!
Tips on What Makes a Good Mentee
Undergrad, Northern Illinois University
Good mentees have a will to learn, ask questions and are patient.
- Having a will to learn automatically positions you to be receptive to the information you are receiving from your mentor. Even if the information may not be relevant or applicable to a current situation, it may resurface as you continue your journey to becoming a professional.
- Do not be apprehensive about asking questions. This can help tailor your learning experience. Whether you have questions about the terms of communication, work/life balance, professional organizations, or getting into/through graduate school, mentors are delighted to share.
- Lastly, be patient. Building a relationship takes time. And if you are communicating with your mentor through e-mail, remember that mentors have both professional and personal business to maintain on top of mentoring, which may cause a lapse between responses to your questions. However, when mentors do respond, their replies are generally thoughtful and provide a wealth of knowledge.
Five Tips to Good Mentoring
Tejwatie Sohan, M.A. CCC-SLP TSSLD
School-based SLP, Westchester, NY
Having participated in ASHA's S.T.E.P. mentoring program (as a menteee and mentor) on five occasions has really given me insight into the necessary components of a successful mentor/mentee relationship. When entering any mentoring relationship, I try to keep these five things in mind:
- Be flexible. The life of a clinician and student is a hectic one. Scheduling a time of the week for communication can be difficult, remain open-minded. Additionally, communication does not have to be limited to e-mails. Mix things up, have a phone or video conversation once in a while.
- Be reliable. Simply put, don't commit to communicating if you are unable to keep up with the responsibility.
- Be forthcoming about experiences and concerns. A large part of the mentoring experience is dependent upon both parties willingness to share.
- Be professional as well as personal. Although the S.T.E.P. mentoring program is meant to address short and long-term professional goals, feel free to share personal experiences as well. We are all more than our careers.
- Don't be a stranger. Just because the formal mentoring relationship has concluded doesn't mean you both shouldn't follow up periodically with each other.
What Mentoring Means to Me
Carey M. Payne III, MCD, CCC-SLP
Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, Elmhurst, Illinois
I chose speech-language pathology as a career because it allowed me (and still does allow me) to explore my interests and exercise my talents in both sciences and the arts. When I started college, my major was chemistry, but I changed it to English and history within a year. I advanced into the curriculum sequence that might have directed me to a career of teaching secondary school English. After my first assignment in general speech class, which led to my being referred to the university speech clinic, I had to finally face the fact that my childhood stuttering might slow the march down any career path I might take. The summer between junior year and senior year was one of the hardest of my life, participating in treatment that looked at not only the disfluent words but also how they made me feel. Very few people had actually asked that question of me before!
Not only did my therapists guide me to address those feelings, but they gave me a venue for managing them. I had to audition for a part in a university theater production! I got it, and putting my psyche into another character each night for a week gave me wonderful insights and practice time to find my own fluency. The end result of the theater run was that I found my career path! Years later—almost 30 years now—I am discovering every day that it is vital for me to share with others in the profession some of what I have learned. If today I am mentoring well, it may be because
- I take the time to establish a dialogue with a mentee that is mutually comfortable and that allows the free flow of ideas between us;
- I want to obtain from the mentee her or his goals for the experience as early as possible and map them against the opportunities available;
- I attempt to involve the on-site mentee in incidental interactions with persons being served almost immediately, whether it is a social conversation while I attend to a short errand or asking the person served to give a brief history of his or her condition and its treatment;
- I strive to have resources that the on-site mentee may use in a clinical encounter with me that gives exposure to current practice patterns with a significant base of evidence;
- I check in with the mentee periodically during the experience, asking, "Is this experience meeting your needs?" and "Are you getting the degree of mentoring you want?"
So, what does mentoring mean to me? I get the opportunity to help buoy up another professional seeking guidance or answers. If I have provided some insights or experiences that the person was truly seeking, the help is its own reward, and the profession moves forward. During the years I have been mentoring—whether university undergraduate and graduate students, clinical fellows, or attendees at Convention programs—I have worked on staffs with former mentees and have collaborated with other former mentees on clinical cases across settings. Their growth and successes are a success for me. To those of our peers in communication sciences and disorders who shrug off invitations to mentor professionals in need, by saying there is insufficient time or resources for their participation, I point out that we are a "people profession." There is no other way to grow the next generation of CSD professionals.
S.T.E.P. mentees and mentors—share your mentoring experience!
Stories could include:
- Why you chose the profession of audiology or speech-language pathology,
- Five tips on what makes a good mentee or mentor,
- What mentoring means to you, or
- Your S.T.E.P. mentee/mentor success story.
Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and include a color photo. We look forward to meeting you!