My Experience So Far at The University of New Mexico Studying Speech-Language Pathology
I have been putting off this post for a while. I guess I was just waiting to see what it is like. After my first semester of graduate school, I finally feel like I have something to say about my program in Speech Language Pathology at The University of New Mexico.
I was very lucky to receive four admission offers. I selected The University of New Mexico (UNM) because they offered me the most funding (honestly, they were the only school to offer me funding). After a few months there, I would absolutely do it again even without the funding. Everything has come together in a way that has left me feeling so lucky to be in such a great place.
Disclosure: I am not an official representative of The University of New Mexico, the Department of Speech & Hearing Sciences, or the UNM Speech-Language-Hearing Center. All of the opinions expressed herein are my own and do not reflect institutional policies or positions. I am not receiving any compensation to write this post.
This is a bit of a longer post, so here is an outline just so you know what to expect.
- Specialty & Program Focus
- Location (Albuquerque)
- Campus in General
- Research Opportunities
- Clinical Opportunities
- My Classmates
At the heart of any program are the faculty who teach there. They are the specialists whom we trust to guide our learning in the classroom and build our clinical expertise. On top of that, we’re going to be spending ungodly amounts of time with them. The faculty at UNM are amazing. Both professionally and as people, I’ve been impressed with them all consistently throughout my first semester.
Professionally, all of the academic faculty hold a PhD. They’re challenging in the classroom but not unreasonable. The one time I needed an extension for a paper, I got it. Anytime I’ve needed extra support, I have been able to go to the professor (or even other professors) and they’ve gladly taken the time to explain concepts or point to where I can find the information I need. On top of the teaching, they’re all engaged in active research projects and publish regularly. Now, before you go thinking “that means they’re out of touch with the realities of clinical practice…” let me tell you that all of them except for one also have their CCC and lots of experience working as clinicians in a variety of settings. I really enjoy in class hearing about their research and how it is going to affect my clinical work one day.
Why does that matter?
In my opinion, it makes their research more relevant (and thus more interesting) to me as a future clinician.
As people, the faculty have been nothing but warm and welcoming. I moved internationally to come to UNM. Professors (academic and clinical) always greet me warmly. They continue to ask about my transition to Albuquerque, my family, and just in general how I’m doing. They’re quite welcoming and encouraging of diversity of all kinds. I guess overall I could say they seem to see and interact with the graduate students as real people.
I don’t start my first clinical rotation until this summer. Therefore, I haven’t interacted with the clinical instructors much. Most of them already know who I am and we chat politely in passing in the clinic. One or two have even been so kind as to seek me out to let me know about local events so I can get involved with Albuquerque.
Finally, I feel this is worth addressing. If you’ve been on TheGradCafé reading about programs, you have probably seen the post from 2014 criticizing UNM’s SHS program and faculty as clique-y and disharmonious. I don’t mean to invalidate their experience, but it does not match mine at all. In fact, I would say our faculty/department get along great! I’ve been repeatedly impressed by it. I did not go to undergrad here, but I can definitely sense there is some fierce competition among those students – which is normal given that they are competing for a very limited number of seats in the grad program. However, I haven’t seen professors encourage that behavior, in fact I would say the opposite: professors seem to really encourage collaboration and sharing learning.
SPECIALITIES & PROGRAM FOCUS
People often ask if a graduate program in SLP is “more medical or more education focused.” I think most programs are probably pretty balanced due to accreditation and eventual licensure requirements. This is especially true of UNM. There are ample “medical” and “education” opportunities.
One thing I did not know about UNM before I came here was how diverse our faculty is. We have bilingual specialists, AAC research, adult Neuro, swallowing, disfluency, voice, autism, voice feminization, accent modification, post-stroke, dysphagia, and so many other interesting areas. I am continuously surprised by the diverse specialities and experiences of our faculty both on academic and clinical sides.
I will say that UNM does “stand out” a bit more because of its multicultural / bilingual offerings. Not many programs offer this specific training. This is actually what drew me to UNM to begin with!
If I decide to work with children or adults in school or medical settings, I am confident that I’ll get the experiences I need to be prepared for clinical practice.
New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment.” They have stunning mountain vistas and bewitchingly beautiful sunsets. Most of the typical food is covered in green or red chile sauce and a hefty amount of cheese. I haven’t been truly enchanted quite yet, but things are growing on me.
Despite calling itself a city, Albuquerque feels much more like a small town to me. Everything is very spread out and the “downtown” is just a few “big” buildings. It feels small and slow to me. On the flipside though, I’ve found people to be welcoming like I’d expect in a smaller place.
One thing I am a little disappointed with is that Albuquerque is not a very pedestrian friendly place. Drivers are crazy, and there are not a lot of things you can walk to. UNM is a commuter school, and so there isn’t much of a college town feel although there is a lot of pride in the University and its sports teams. To be fair, the area I live in is called “the student ghetto;” I am sure there are nicer areas.
In terms of things to do, there is a lot of outdoors, nature stuff. There are several great state and national parks nearby. There is skiing in the winter and lots of year-round hiking. Camping seems pretty popular. For my thespians, UNM has a great theatre which brings lots of shows year-round. I’ve heard there is a good small-artist music scene, but I haven’t experienced it myself. There is a growing young, hipster, coffee-shop, artsy neighborhood called Nob Hill. Just an hour or two away is a beautiful town called Santa Fe filled with artists and beautiful architecture.
CAMPUS IN GENERAL
The campus is beautiful. It is very typical New Mexican style architecture (lots of adobe, beige, and squarish shapes). There is a lovely pond in the center of campus that serves as a meeting point or nice place to relax outside. This is the closest the campus has to a traditional quad. I usually spend a fair amount of time here between classes relaxing.
There are lots of great study spaces on campus. The main library is great, but also quite busy. There is a departmental Art library on the 4th floor of a building with huge windows and fantastic views of the mountains. There are also several small offices or centers with free coffee and cozy study spaces. The campus is probably about as liberal as most other college campuses.
I mentioned this above, but it feels worth restating. There isn’t much if a college town feel. The campus is busy but doesn’t feel crowded. Although I think as a graduate student, I’m disconnected from a lot of activities.
Since there are so many specialties in the SHS department there are a variety of research opportunities available as well. Obviously, some laboratories (and the professors that run them) need more volunteers than others. They often announce research opportunities in class, and there are also fliers up around the department about ongoing projects. Everyone I’ve seen who wants to get involved in research is able to do so in one way or another.
Outside of the department, there are a number of opportunities as well. I don’t know too much about them, but there are several interdisciplinary programs like LEND and others.
Full disclosure: I haven’t started clinic yet, so most of what I’m going to say here is hearsay.
I hear clinic is a lot of work, but the instructors are great. I have only interacted with them in passing really, but I’ve noticed they are all friendly and willing to help. I was working on a research project and my professor wasn’t available. One of the clinical instructors happened to overhear me talking about the project. She took me to her office and provided me with so many great resources that helped me finish my project.
The on-campus clinic pulls in a variety of clients from what I’ve seen. This means a variety of rotations are available to students. Instead of listing them, I’ve taken a snapshot of the listing from the clinic website:
These are the individual sessions:
These are the group ones:
I don’t know much about off-site clinic rotations. I haven’t met many of the students doing them, well because they’re off-campus and I spend all my time on campus!
As welcoming and diverse as the faculty are, my classmates are even more so. There are 27 students in my cohort. Many people are in a situation similar to mine: already finished a bachelors in a non-SHS area are completing leveling coursework as graduate students. That means lots of people have diverse educational experiences, and many of them also have some pretty diverse work experience too. Personally, I think this really enriches the experience in the classroom. People with different backgrounds and experiences ask different questions which really guide the conversations differently.
During undergrad, I liked to study alone. I felt like I could review the material better and faster. Now, I’m learning very quickly to depend on my friends and colleagues. We share resources and study guides, compare notes, and just help each other out. Sometime it is as simple as someone sharing their Quizlet and other times we work as a team to write and grade our own practice tests.
Outside of school, my classmates have been equally amazing. Different friends gave me a couch, table, and chairs to help furnish my empty apartment. We go out occasionally to a brewery or fun local event to get our mind of off class. And at the end of the semester, a small group of us went out to celebrate after our last final.
Obviously, the students change every year as new ones are admitted and the older ones graduate. In many ways though, student culture is passed down from cohort to cohort. Also, I have to give some credit to the faculty and staff for doing such a good job of building a cohesive cohort and creating an environment that encourages collaboration over competition.
There you have it!
Do you have any questions about The University of New Mexico? Feel free to contact me or post them below. Are you currently studying SLP at a University in the US? If you’d like to tell me about your program, I would love to turn it into a post for people to read here on TheSpeechBlog.com