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Arnold School of Public Health

August graduate completes distance education program to pursue career helping children as a speech-language pathologist

July 18, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Michigan native Mikayla Briggs knew she wanted to go to graduate school after completing her bachelor’s degree in biology at Hope College, but she wasn’t sure which field to pursue. Her mom suggested speech-language pathology as a way to combine her deep love of science and passion for working with children. She shadowed some local therapists and instantly became intrigued.

“I wanted to attend a university with an outstanding reputation in the field, but still have the flexibility to live in Michigan, a place I love dearly,” Briggs says of deciding where to apply. “When I discovered UofSC’s Distance Education path for the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology program, it felt like a sign from God. It felt like a gift to be able to study in my chosen field at such an amazing school while still being able to live in my desired state.”

During her program, the 21st Century Scholar connected with communication sciences and disorders (COMD) faculty Beth Barnes (graduate director), Crystal Murphree-Holden (distance education director) and Caryn Melvin (clinical associate professor) – who taught several courses in the program. Briggs credits them with solidifying her love for science (particularly anatomy and physiology), providing fun, supportive learning environments, and offering incredible guidance and encouragement. Most of all, they model a love for the field and a passion for helping patients that the August graduate hopes to emulate in her own career.

Through her clinical rotations, Briggs worked with pediatric populations in Pre-K, elementary and middle school settings. She also gained experience working with clients who have developmental disabilities, such as autism.

In her spare time, Briggs sought additional service-oriented and child-focused opportunities, such as tutoring Afghan refugees and creating a rich speech and language environment when volunteering in her church’s nursery. These experiences have confirmed her passion for working with pediatric populations, with a particular focus in early intervention as well as the role of the family unit in furthering growth.

After graduation, Briggs hopes to work in a home health setting while teaching undergraduate courses at her local community college. Long term, she’s considering a return to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in the field. The idea of teaching master’s level students to prepare for careers as speech-language pathologists is an appealing one based on her own positive experiences.

“Create a plan and stay organized!” she advises prospective students. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help; the faculty and staff care so much about their students, and they want you to succeed. It will be worth it all in the end if you approach studying with patient endurance. It’s also important to have fun hobbies/ways to unwind outside of school. Prioritize those things too, as they are important for your mental health as you journey through a challenging program - balance is key!”

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