How are Sycamores putting theory to practice?

From speech therapy to journalism, Sycamores get professional experience in an array of clinics, centers and programs — all while under the supervision of experts.

When Kathryn Liddell first started providing speech and language therapy for a 4-year-old boy with severe autism, he was unable to speak or communicate with gestures.

But after a semester of sessions at the Rowe Center for Communicative Disorders, the boy had successfully learned some sign language and was able to communicate requests by pointing at what he wanted.

“That was hugely rewarding,” said Liddell, a second-year graduate student in Indiana State’s speech-language pathology program. “Even the smallest gains were huge for him.”

From speech therapy to journalism, Liddell and other Sycamores have the chance to regularly practice their classroom knowledge in an array of clinics, centers and programs at Indiana State, all while under the supervision of experienced professionals who can help them overcome stumbling blocks they encounter.

While students are able to hone the industry-specific skills they’ll need to be successful in future jobs and advanced degrees, campus and community members also benefit greatly from the services these Sycamores provide, which are often more affordable and accessible than other options.

More broadly, these opportunities help the campus engage all students in experiential learning and career-readiness activities, which is one of six main goals laid out in the “There’s More to Blue” strategic plan that launched in 2016.

“It’s really beneficial to go directly from class to our clinic session so we’re able to apply what we’re learning with real people,” Liddell said. “It’s super helpful to be getting that real-world experience before we go out into the world as clinicians.”

The Grosjean Clinic

An Indiana State student works with a child at the Grosjean Clinic.

The Rowe Center for Communicative Disorders, where Liddell and her peers are working with clients to overcome a variety of speech and language issues, is housed in the Norma and William Grosjean Clinic at University Hall.

The Grosjean Clinic is also home to the Counseling Clinic, where students work with community members on mental health issues, as well as the Porter School Psychology Center, where Sycamores provide academic, social, behavioral and psychological services for children, teenagers and young adults.

Although the different services of the Grosjean Clinic are unique, Sycamores generally start by conducting an initial assessment of a client’s needs. With input from a supervisor and the client (or the client’s guardians), the student will develop a treatment plan for future sessions. Students may work with the same clients for an entire year, watching them progress and tweaking the plan along the way with help from their supervisors.

To ensure students are supported and that community members are getting effective treatments, supervisors play a large role in the Grosjean Clinic. During sessions, a licensed professional typically watches through a one-way mirror and provides real-time feedback and coaching to students as they work. At other times, supervisors and students may discuss ways to improve by reviewing video and audio recordings of the sessions together.

“We’re right there behind the one-way mirror, and we require students to take a break halfway through the session to come back and talk to us,” said Bridget Roberts-Pittman, coordinator of the Counseling Clinic. “If students feel stuck or if they have a question, they can come out any time and talk to us.”

In addition to applying theoretical concepts to diverse, real-life scenarios, clinical experience also helps students gain other necessary professional skills. Meeting with clients on a regular basis means students become more efficient at writing detailed notes about each session, as well as helping them to overcome any nerves they might have about face-to-face interactions.

A child jumps on a trampoline at the Grosjean Clinic at Indiana State.

Their experiences also teach them to be flexible and responsive to clients’ needs, which are likely to change over time — in clinic, Sycamores learn to think on their feet. Students also learn how to collaborate with other organizations, such as a school or a probation office, and connect clients with other beneficial resources and services.

From a more practical perspective, clinical hours help students meet licensure and degree requirements. Their hands-on experiences at the Grosjean Clinic are often supplemented by internships and practicums.

“As much as we try to teach them from the text about all the theories and developmental milestones and give them examples, it sometimes isn’t quite real until they’re actually sitting there with another person,” said Amanda Solesky, director of the Grosjean Clinic. “A lot of students will say, ‘Oh, I love clinic. It all makes sense now.’”

Working in the clinic can also be an extremely validating experience for students, Solesky said. When they see a client make real progress, Sycamores often feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that they were able to help someone improve their life.

Indiana State’s clinics serve yet another important purpose: helping Vigo County residents access much-needed therapies and treatments. Although the clinics charge fees, Solesky said no one is turned away for their inability to pay. Students also provide off-site therapy, events and outreach initiatives to meet community needs.

“Therapy is very expensive, and many insurance companies will only pay for a limited number of sessions, whereas we may be seeing clients for years,” Solesky said. “There is a need for more therapy services in the community, and we help fill that gap. They may not be able to get services anywhere else, but we can see them.”

Student Media

There’s another campus program that gives Sycamores hands-on, industry-specific experience: Student Media.

Students work in Studio B of Student Media.

No matter their major or career goals, Sycamores can write and edit articles or scripts, take photographs, produce videos, design graphics, sell advertisements, create radio programming, build websites and more through Indiana State’s diverse group of student-run media outlets, which also provide valuable information and programming to the campus and community at large.

The Syc Creations group, for example, produces videos, graphic design elements and websites for many campus and community groups, including Arc of Vigo County, the Terre Haute Women’s Club, the Indiana State University Foundation and academic departments. Many people listen to the two campus radio stations, read the student newspaper and watch Sycamore Video and the Indiana State Sports Network.

Sycamores get to practice valuable technical skills they can take with them into future jobs and hobbies, even if they don’t end up working in media (roughly half of the 175 students who participate in Student Media each semester are studying fields outside of communication). Beyond that, they’re learning how to be good employees, how to execute a plan from start to finish and how to be discerning consumers of information, among other things.

“We produce some tangible media product, whether it’s a newspaper or a yearbook or radio show or TV show, but in the process of doing so, we hope we’re teaching our students how to show up for work on time, how to dress appropriately for work, how to work in a group, how to have a common goal and how to have a plan so that you can meet a deadline,” said Philip Glende, Student Media director.

A student participates in the production of a show in Studio B.

Hands-on learning experiences can also help students figure out what they’re really passionate about. Case in point: Claire Silcox decided to try writing for the Indiana Statesman newspaper during her sophomore year and discovered that journalism, not fashion, was her true calling.

Silcox, now a senior, rose through the newspaper’s ranks and is now its editor-in-chief. Although she initially struggled with AP Style, a lengthy and complex list of writing rules for journalists, Silcox is now so familiar with it that she can coach and teach other students.

Along the way, she also gained valuable experience in how to manage and motivate employees and became more comfortable approaching and interviewing sources.

“My ability to interview people and just talk to people has grown,” she said. “I was a very shy kid and now I’m more comfortable.”

Silcox’s experience isn’t unique. A recent survey found more than 80 percent of students said they felt better prepared for work after graduation because of their involvement with Student Media, Glende said. More specifically, 65 percent of students reported gaining both technical and professional skills from Student Media.

As the university works to improve its retention and graduation rates, another data point stood out from the survey: More than 90 percent of students reported feeling more connected to the university as a result of their involvement in Student Media.

“The research indicates that students tend to be more successful, tend to finish college when they feel like they’re part of something, as opposed to feeling alienated,” Glende said. “We do see ourselves as participating very much in the university’s mission of career-readiness, of the goal of retention and the very broad idea of student success.”

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