ASU graduate found his niche in speech and hearing sciences
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.
George Ramos started out at Arizona State University as an aerospace engineering major, but realized it just wasn’t for him.
After a year in engineering, he was looking for a change and found that he could study speech language pathology. This was his first “aha” moment.
“I was looking to switch out of aerospace engineering. I had known about speech pathology as a career, but I had thought that it required going to medical school. It wasn’t until I was talking with a friend of mine that he informed me that wasn’t the case,” Ramos said.
He changed majors shortly thereafter, was satisfied with his choice and did well in classes, but he still had reservations.
“I liked the major well enough and was good at it, but in the back of my mind, I did have one major reservation about staying in the field. That reservation being that I didn’t have any experience with anyone who required speech therapy services. I didn’t have any family members, nor had I grown up with any friends that might have needed them,” he said.
His second “aha” moment came when he did his first clinical training session under a fully-accredited speech language pathologist when he was pursuing a speech language pathologist assistant certification.
“Getting to see firsthand the positive impact speech language pathologists make in their work really solidified that this field is where I want to be. I wasn't just making a product for someone to satisfy an identified need like in engineering, but I was getting to work directly with people who needed help, and I really appreciated that environment more,” he said.
Ramos, from Mesa, Arizona, received the New American University Scholar award for all four years of his undergraduate career. He graduated from ASU in early May with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences from the College of Health Solutions with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. He plans to stay on at ASU to pursue a master’s degree in communication disorders.
We asked Ramos to reflect on his undergraduate experience at ASU. Here’s what he had to say.
Question: What would you consider an interesting moment, story or accomplishment in your ASU career?
Answer: Completing my honors creative project, “A Conversation on Stuttering,” is definitely up there on my list of highlights at ASU. “A Conversation on Stuttering” is a documentary film composed of interviews with people who stutter, clinicians and researchers that shines light on the struggles of having a stutter in a fluent world. Working on this project really opened my eyes to the empathy that is so crucial when working in not only speech pathology, but public health in general. It put me in contact with wonderful people who have inspired me to embody their courage and understanding, and it has absolutely shaped who I am now and who I want to be in the future.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: An experience that changed my perspective was during my clinical methods/treatment of communication disorders class. We were studying fluency disorders (stuttering and cluttering) and I remember learning that a lot of people with disfluencies face ridicule, shame and isolation. This just didn't really make sense to me. I asked myself, "Why are these people having to face so much discrimination because they sound different?" Furthermore, these emotions might be the starting point for behaviors that negatively impact their quality of life — things like avoiding speaking in certain situations or avoiding connecting with people because they're afraid of how their speech will be received and how they'll be looked at as a result. That was actually the inspiration that set me on my path to make a film focusing on the lived experiences of people who stutter and to dispel some of the myths that are perpetuated at the expense of this demographic. I was very grateful to have the professor from that class, Myra Schatzki, clinical associate professor of speech and hearing science in the College of Health Solutions, be the director for the thesis.
Why did you choose ASU?
A: They offered me money and it was close to my home.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was the lesson?
A: The experience that immediately comes to mind was in a class I had about acquired speech/language disorders. My professor for the class, Dr. Corianne Rogalsky, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, inspired me in two ways. The most evident way being how passionate she was about teaching the class. It really made the material more conducive, and class was more enjoyable overall. There was also a moment she took to speak to class about the importance of truly understanding the material and not just studying the information to pass the tests. She stressed how every bit of information we were looking at was essential to making sure that the treatment we might eventually do has a positive impact on the client's quality of life. It wasn't going to be us who would suffer from our lack of understanding, it was most importantly our clients who had the most to lose. This really changed how I viewed my study habits, and ultimately changed me for the better.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Enjoy it. Grades are important, but so is finding people you understand and who understand you in return. Study hard, make connections with the people around you, and revel in every moment you have because time moves ever forward and never back.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The not-so-secret garden is my favorite spot on campus. It is beautiful with all its flowers and plants and seclusion from the rest of the bustling campus. You'll have to find it on your own though, because I'm not giving up my best studying spot.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: This is a tough question because what isn't there to fix on our planet? I would use that money to bolster the world's framework around foster systems. Some of the experiences I have heard about from people I know personally and others who I don’t know have shocked me. These are some of the world's most vulnerable populations and I just don't think there's enough being done to make the systems in place robust enough to ensure their mental and physical safety.