It was a bomb blast on the other side of the world that inspired Jennifer Elaine-Connsalvi Hodges ’16 to become a speech-language pathologist. Before coming to Pacific Hodges earned a bachelor of arts in child and adolescent development from San Francisco State University in 2008 and worked at the Ronald McDonald House. “While working at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco I met a 1 year old child from Baghdad who had become deaf due to a bomb exploding near his home,” said Hodges. “A non-profit called No More Victims flew him and his father to the United States and sponsored a cochlear implant for him.”
Hodges continues, “They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for a year and a half. I witnessed the SLP working with him day in and day out after the implant. I’ve been blessed in my life to see a variety of beautiful things across the globe, but this experience far exceeds all else. Here was an innocent child of war who lost the ability to hear because of an American bomb drop. I was watching him sit in San Francisco with an American SLP who was completely volunteering her time to help in his rehabilitation. His mother and younger brother were stuck in Jordan for two years due to visa issues. I took the father and son to the airport to pick up their wife and mother two years later after the rehab and cochlear implant. I watched the reunification of a family that had fallen victim to the worst parts of humanity. He was able to speak and hear his mother. The tears just wouldn’t stop from all parties. That experience planted a seed that I just couldn’t shake; I wanted to help people take their God-given right to communicate.”
Hodges revealed her academic challenges when she started college at Rancho Santiago Community College, “I started from the beginning at the local junior college with really low math and English courses and retaught myself basic concepts. I struggled and changed my major a couple times, but I began to learn how I learn and the lights went on.” She found that the key to her academic success was understanding her personal learning style and creating a strategy for studying. She explains, “I needed silence to study, good lighting, repetition, visual, tactile and audio for information input. That took discipline, time, effort and sacrifice. Once I started seeing the results of my efforts I realized it wasn’t that I wasn’t smart, it was that I didn’t prioritize my learning nor did I understand how I learned.”
Being accepted to Pacific’s speech-language pathology (SLP) program was a decisive turning point. She shares, “Earning my way into University of the Pacific was one of the biggest and scariest accomplishments of my life. Little did I know it was just the medicine I needed. […] I felt like an equally contributing member of group work. I also had intriguing conversations with my incredible professors who always took the time to explain a topic or question me further to challenge my understanding. I came out of my Pacific coursework more confident than ever. Whatever obstacles come my way in the future I know not only will my creativity and social skills carry me, but I can also rely on my intellect that Pacific helped me realize.”
Hodges is the recipient of the Janet Nimtz Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to an individual who plans to complete a medical internship. Pursuing her career goals required a significant financial investment. “This scholarship made a significant difference in my attitude about my debt,” said Hodges. Her plans after graduation are to pursue a career in rehabilitation. By making what she has invested in her education mentally easier to handle, it is easier for her to focus on working toward her goals of helping clients regain their communication skills.
Balancing life and the rigors of graduate school is challenging, but Hodges is undeterred and continues to pursue to her passions. In addition to working weekends at a restaurant in San Francisco, she is the president of a non-profit organization called Le Donne d’Italia. She founded Le Donne d’Italia in the North Beach district of San Francisco to promote and preserve Italian culture and Italian female heritage.
When asked if she would recommend SLP as a career Hodges exclaimed, “Do it! Not only will you always have a job that makes you feel like you’re contributing to the world, but you’ll also never get bored. I have yet to find another career that is so versatile.”
By Susan Webster