When talking with Sabah Ali ’13, ’15 what becomes immediately apparent is her passion for speech-language pathology (SLP). “I always knew that I wanted to do something in a helping profession and with kids,” shares Ali. She was initially attracted to SLP because of the versatility of the profession. Working with her first client solidified her decision to pursue a career in SLP. Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, associate professor of speech-language pathology, speaks highly of Ali. He shares, “She best represents the highest qualifications and characteristics of speech-language pathologists and the profession.”
Ali, along with co-authors Morgan Dufresne ’15 and Dr. Susca, presented a paper at the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) Annual Convention and Exhibition in Anaheim on April 29, 2016 titled, “Difference in Expressive and Receptive English Vocabulary Test Scores.” When exploring this topic they discovered that the majority of the existing research focused on children. For their study they decided to look at adults ages 18 to 65.
Ali is fascinated by research that looks at the experiences of individuals who are bilingual as she herself speaks multiple languages. In addition to fluently speaking English, she speaks Punjabi and Urdu, as well as several other South East Asian languages. The focus on their research study was vocabulary, an area that Ali can relate to from personal experience. “I always have those ‘tip of tongue’ moments,” said Ali. She explains that Dufresne is monolingual and was able to offer a differing viewpoint. They were able to compare their experiences taking classes as a native speaker compared to an English language learner.
She found that working collaboratively throughout the research process was incredibly valuable in preparing her for her career. “It was a good learning experience,” said Ali. “Working as a SLP you are working with other professionals. You have to learn to delegate work.” She adds that you also need to be flexible as you adapt to the viewpoints of other members of the team.
Dr. Susca had an unique approach to advising. He would take their draft and create three different options. Each option would have revisions, but he wouldn’t tell Ali or Dufresne what he had changed. He then challenged them to pick what they thought was the best version and give reasons defending their choice. Ali described the process as a “true collaborative experience” and one in which they were able to develop their own style as researchers. “He has such a wealth of knowledge and you can tell that he is so passionate about research. He prepared us very well.” She adds, “Without him I don’t think we would have become the critical thinkers we are today.”
Ali describes the experience of presenting at the CSHA convention. “It was so wonderful, it was such an honor to present at the California state convention.” She explains that at first it was a nerve-racking experience to present her research to seasoned professionals, but the overwhelming support of the professional community calmed her nerves.
Ali acknowledges that SLP can be a challenging profession. She believes that despite all of the hard work and energy that is required, the impact that a SLP can make in someone’s life makes it all worthwhile. “If you really want this don’t give up, keep trying,” she encourages. “You need to be passionate. Work with that passion and let that drive you to success.”
Ali is currently working as a speech-language pathologist in Modesto, California at Sylvan Union School District and Valley Mountain Regional Center. Ali is constantly looking for ways to both challenge herself and to become increasingly well-rounded. It is her goal to work with a wide range of ages. “I would eventually like to work in a hospital with adults,” said Ali.
She continues to stay connected to the Pacific alumni community. She notes that several of her supervisors and co-workers are Pacific alumni. One of her friends from her graduating class works for a neighboring school district. They get together for coffee once a month to debrief about the challenges they have faced and to share their success stories.
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold