Dana Gardner, a native of Suwanee, Ga., is working on her master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders and will graduate in 2019.
What made you choose Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development for graduate school?
The ability to have a graduate assistantship made a big difference in the student loans I would have to take and the access to incredible internship opportunities. Atlanta is a huge medical hub and I have had amazing experiences with The Atlanta Children’s Shelter and Shepherd Pathways. I am excited to see my next placements.
Why do you want to become a speech-language pathologist?
I have always been interested in anatomy and how the body works. I have a music and vocalist background and use my voice throughout the day. When I began experiencing voice issues, I investigated the cause and found out more about the field. I have also seen a speech-language pathologist (SLP) make a huge difference in family members’ quality of life and improve their satisfaction with everyday interactions.
What fascinates you about research? What has surprised you about what you’re learning?
I love to see answers to challenging questions and investigating new treatment approaches. Learning and understanding statistics is not as fun. It’s so cool to see what treatments are proven to use and how they improve therapy.
Do you have a favorite place downtown to eat? Study? Hang out?
Yes! Buenos Dias Cafe! It’s incredible food and coffee and I miss it every break.
If your cohort were made into a movie, what movie (or TV show) might it be and why?
Maybe “The Office.” There are so many personalities, and we are all pretty tired most of the time, that we all do weird things, which makes it fun.
Will Jon Snow find out his true identity in “Game of Thrones?”
My fiance will not let me watch this until we are married and can watch it together!
Tell us about your dog.
He is the most precious, old pal. Every night when I come home his entire body wags out of excitement to see me, which can turn any sour day into a happy one.
If you could create your own study abroad trip, where would it be and what would you do?
Anywhere. Culture is fascinating and it is so much fun when you get to treat clients from a culture that is not your own. I want to travel anywhere and everywhere.
How do you explain what you’re learning in school to those who’ve never heard of communication sciences and disorders?
I would say I’m improving someone’s quality of life by improving their communication abilities. It doesn’t matter whether they were born with, or acquired, a syndrome, impairment or disease. Many things can affect someone’s ability to communicate (a person’s basic human right) and I want to be sure everyone has a way to express their basic wants and needs in life.
What tips would you give incoming students to help them be successful?
Calm down. It will be okay. (and I literally wake up and tell myself this every single morning!). Take a deep breath and realize the bigger picture in life. There is a sharp learning curve in the therapy room and so much information to absorb that it can’t be done in two years (even though we all try). Just remember, you will only learn more — like learning any new skill — it takes time to become a great therapist.
What do you like best about the communication sciences and disorders program?
I love the location of the school! And I love that the opportunities the program provides to us is incredible. Not only am I debt free, due to graduate assistantships, I am having a blast living in Atlanta and experiencing the best of the internship opportunities the program offers while still having time to be with family and friends. I am learning, but I’m not ripping my hair out!
Is there something we don’t know about you that you feel would inspire a new student?
When I was younger, it was determined I had reading processing difficulties. My parents advocated for me and got me the help I needed and I am proud to say I graduated from high school with a 4.0 and with honors. I went to an incredible university with the Zell Miller Scholarship and it helped me go on and get a graduate degree. Don’t underestimate the power of advocating for someone and believing in yourself. And shoot for the stars! The only person who can hold you back is yourself.