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Nicole is learning to help others communicate

Nicole Stallard graduated from East Carolina University with an English degree in 2010 and began a career teaching English as a second language. She enjoyed helping other people learn how to communicate, but desired a more dynamic method of instruction.

“When I decided I wanted to transition to something other than education, I wanted it to still involve teaching and involve language,” said Stallard. “I thought speech pathology was a good combination.”

Stallard taught English as a second language in Oleiros, Spain for eight months where she could immerse herself in Spanish and become fluent. Initially, she experienced some difficulties communicating with the native speakers and felt a sense of isolation because of the language barrier. Stallard said the disconnect she experienced is another factor that lead her to pursue a career in speech pathology.

As Stallard makes the transition back into academia, she embraces the fact that this time around college is different and a lot more serious. She said the hands-on approach and the interaction with patients makes the experience much more meaningful.

“Everything revolves around how to help the client and how to be a better clinician and how to serve people well,” said Stallard. She aims to be a great clinician after completing her graduate studies.

Clinicians, she said, deal with a wide-range of patients and that is what makes this career more dynamic than teaching. “I get excited about it.” Stallard continued, “ I’m still learning how to handle different conditions and I love it so far.”

Stallard works at the ECU Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, located on the health sciences campus, where she gives therapy three times per week.

“They come in based on what their needs are and their schedule and then they are placed with a supervisor and then the supervisor is placed with the graduate student,” said Stallard.

Her dream job would be missions work – increasing the quality of care for people in developing nations. By working to train professionals in those countries, individuals who have speech problems would gain better access to therapy and treatments.

Although Stallard was hesitant about going back to school because she would be giving up free time and adhering to the demands of graduate-level studies, she knew her desire for the degree outweighed any reservations.

How are you adjusting to graduate school?

The transition has been good and the professors here are really supportive. The department, I feel, has high quality people, so the transition has been good. They expect a lot of you, but they are also really supportive. It’s been a great transition.

Why did you choose to return to ECU?
While I was trying to decide what school to go to, I met with the director. She graciously met with me for an hour answering a slew of questions; she showed me around the clinic and I got to meet some staff members. I felt the program here was high quality and I got the sense that she really cared about each of the students in the sense that the doctors here really work for the students. I wanted to be a part of that environment and in a program that I felt was excellent.

How do you like working in the clinic?
It’s wonderful. The supervisors here are great; you can see that they really care about all the students and their success. My clinical supervisor just guides you along and has the heart of the teacher. You can tell that everyone here is really for the students. That makes working here really exciting. They are there working with you to become a better clinician.

What is it like to work as a clinician?
You work very closely with your clinic supervisor and they guide you along. You have some [clients] who come in as a child and has a disorder, but has never been diagnosed. Then you could have someone come in who’s been in therapy for years. Really the work is different based on the patients. We work with people with stuttering, cleft palate and aphasia. For each of those, you would work differently.

Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis


"Everything revolves around how to help the client and how to be a better clinician and how to serve people well."

- Nicole Stallard