Ask a college student about bad school dreams and chances are they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.
Dreams of being late for a final exam, forgetting to go to class all semester or realizing after a professor starts talking that you’re in the wrong classroom are common among students, especially during stressful times of the semester.
Typically, the dreamer wakes in a panic, realizes all is well, and goes about their day.
But what happens if one of those bad dreams actually turns out to be real?
If you’re a Blugold like Tracy Bates you embrace the “everything happens for a reason” motto and go with it.
You also discover a major, a passion and a career path that you didn’t know existed before you accidentally signed up for the wrong class as a freshman.
”When I was enrolling in my classes as a freshman I thought I was selecting an intro to sign language course,” says Tracy, a UW-Eau Claire senior from Chippewa Falls who will graduate in December. “But I sat down in my class the first day and saw the instructor write ‘Intro to CSD’ on the board.”
Once she got past that “uh-oh” moment and figured out that CSD stands for communication sciences and disorders, she settled in to see what she’d gotten herself into.
“I was really confused at first,” Tracy says “I double-checked my schedule, and I realized that I messed up. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I’m a very open-minded individual so I decided to stay and see what introduction to CSD was all about.”
By the end of the hour, she was intrigued enough to stick with the class.
“I knew nothing about CSD,” Tracy says. “I had never even heard of someone being a speech-language pathologist prior to this course. But the first day of class was extremely interesting to me and I loved the professor, so I decided to see what it was all about.”
She soon learned that students in the CSD program learn to diagnose and treat a variety of hearing and speech disorders in children, the elderly, or people who have suffered speech or hearing problems because of trauma or other issues.
Professionals in the CSD field are in high demand, and the field offers many different kinds of career paths.
The more she listened and learned, the more she liked UW-Eau Claire’s CSD program and the CSD profession.
An undeclared major when she arrived at UW-Eau Claire, Tracy quickly shelved her tentative plans to major in psychology and instead jumped into the CSD program.
“I knew right away that I wanted to have this be my career path,” says Tracy. “Even though I enrolled in the wrong class, I ended up loving intro to CSD and declared it as my major.”
A Winterim immersion class that took her to Washington, D.C., where she worked alongside a speech-language pathologist in an elementary school, reinforced her decision to pursue a career in the CSD field.
The immersion experience was eye-opening, teaching her that working as an SLP in a large urban school may be very different than working in the same position in an Eau Claire school, she says.
But it also showed her that as an SLP she can make a big difference in people’s lives.
“The thing I love most about this career is knowing that I will positively impact an individual’s life forever,” Tracy says.
As a speech-language pathologist, Tracy will have opportunities to work in a variety of settings, including early intervention programs, hospital inpatient or outpatient programs, rehabilitation centers and nursing facilities.
She likes knowing there are so many career paths to consider, and so many different challenges to help clients overcome.
“You’re able to work with a diversity of clients with diverse needs,” Tracy says of her future career. “No two clients, despite having the same diagnosis, are ever the same.”
After she earns her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders this month, Tracy plans to pursue her master’s degree so she can work as a speech-language pathologist.
Her hope is to eventually find a job in a clinic setting, where she can work with children and adults.
While she’s not yet sure what she wants to specialize in, articulation, phonology and fluency are the CSD areas that interest her most.
One of the things that intrigues her about the CSD profession is that it’s a constantly changing field, so there always will be new things to learn and new opportunities to consider, she says.
“I really enjoy learning, and the learning never ends when you are an SLP,” Tracy says. “The field of speech pathology is wide and ever changing so SLPs have to continually read up on current best practices, attend conferences and learn new treatment methods.”
As she proved that first day of her freshman year, Tracy is always open to new ideas and to making the most of whatever opportunity comes her way.
So did she ever get around to taking the missed intro to sign language class that accidentally started her down the CSD path?
“In fact, I ended up going all the way; I received my certificate in American Sign Language and became part of the ASL Honor Society,” Tracy says.
While the path that led her to her major was unusual, Tracy’s thankful that through her mistake she found her passion and a future career that excites her.
“I guess everything really does happen for a reason,” says Tracy.
Photo caption: Tracy Bates will graduate from UW-Eau Claire in December with a degree in communication sciences and disorders.