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The Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders degree prepares professionals for academic careers, and therefore its emphasis is on research and the scholarly study of the science of human communication and its disorders.
January 4, 2024 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mona Wiatr is a physical therapist by training, and she’s currently working toward a Ph.D. in the field. She’s not a speech-language pathologist, but that has been her world for the past six months.
The University School of Physical Education Wroclaw (Poland) student has been immersed in the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) and COMD chair Jean Neils-Strunjas’ Aging Gracefully Lab since July.
As a physical therapist and a scientist, Wiatr was looking to build her research skills and expand her worldview – both culturally and scientifically. She also believed that exposure to the COMD field would help her adopt a more holistic approach to her work with patients.
Her time at USC, which was funded by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange’s Walczak Program, has accomplished those goals. But it’s also provided an opportunity to apply her expertise in new ways.
One of the lab’s projects, co-led by exercise science assistant professor Jason Yang, focuses on mindful walking (i.e., exercise and social engagement) to improve cognitive functioning for older adults. The study resides at the intersection of the fields and has presented an opportunity for Wiatr to lend her background to an intervention that aims to improve stress, depression, physical activity, social interactions, brain health, and other areas for participants.
“I have had the unique opportunity to contribute to research related to mind-body techniques, physical activity and cognition,” Wiatr says. “Dr. Neils-Strunjas opened my eyes to a completely new field of science and immediately made me feel like a part of the team. It’s been wonderful to collaborate on scientific research with outstanding scientists in the U.S.”
Outside the lab, Wiatr found enrichment in the classroom, with courses sparking a deeper understanding of her own field. USC offered a vibrant social scene for intercultural connections and helped her feel a sense of belonging while providing opportunities for personal and professional development.
“This experience has not only positively shaped my academic journey, but it has also developed a sense of community and opportunity that extends beyond the university gates,” Wiatr says. “To anyone who is considering studying abroad, take advantage of the opportunity to explore new horizons, create lifelong memories, and discover the endless possibilities offered by international education."