Undergraduate students in the NYU Steinhardt Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders come from a wide range of backgrounds and have varied interests. We talked with Mehak Noorani, a current senior in the CSD program who came to NYU to study something else, but was drawn to the many opportunities a degree in CSD could offer her. Combined with an array of minors, Mehak is just one example of how to make CSD undergraduate studies at NYU Steinhardt a truly unique experience.
What is your background, and what brought you to NYU Steinhardt to study in the CSD undergraduate program?
I am originally from Dallas, Texas, but my parents are immigrants to the U.S. from Pakistan, so I grew up in a bilingual household learning both Urdu and English, while also learning Spanish at school since kindergarten. I have always been interested in languages and the psychology behind how we use them in different contexts. I originally came to NYU to study linguistics, but I realized in my first year that I had always also been interested in health professions, due to both of my paternal grandparents passing away from stroke when I was a young child. When I first came upon the CSD program, I realized that it was the perfect intersection of these two broad fields I wanted to study.
What are your favorite aspects of the CSD program at NYU Steinhardt?
My favorite aspect of the program is the dedicated and inspiring faculty. I am currently pursuing the CSD Honors Program, and one of the requirements is to propose an independent research project and write a senior thesis under the mentorship of a faculty member in our department. This process is something that I never could have imagined myself doing when I first came to NYU. However, thanks to the support I’ve received from my faculty mentor, Dr. Sonja Molfenter, and the director of the undergraduate program, Dr. Susannah Levi, I have been successful thus far in collecting data and working towards writing my final paper.
Both of these professors have taught me to critically ask questions about what we learn in the classroom as well as come up with ways to creatively tackle them. Although my thesis is not due until the end of the semester, I already know that I will walk away from my education at NYU with a sharper mind and a higher sense of self-confidence than I came in with due to the unwavering encouragement I’ve received from the faculty.
Do you have any minors or other areas of study you are interested in? How do you think these relate to your study of CSD?
I carefully chose three minors to complement my CSD education: Global Public Health, Multi-Faith and Spiritual Leadership, and Nutrition and Dietetics. Each of these minors have integrated seamlessly into my training as a future speech-language pathologist.
For example, as speech-language pathologists, we are healthcare providers that fit into larger systems of health policy and it is to our advantage to be aware of the other issues that affect our clients, which is why I chose to study Global Public Health. In addition, each of the clients we see is more than simply a speech/language diagnosis. I chose the minor Multi-Faith and Spiritual Leadership in the Silver School of Social Work so as to better prepare myself to serve people of various faiths, ethnicities, genders, and other backgrounds. Lastly, many SLPs evaluate and provide therapy to patients who suffer from swallowing disorders, which is the area of research I have focused on for my thesis. The Nutrition and Dietetics minor has taught me the importance of safe swallowing outside the realm of speech-language pathology. Eating and drinking are very important to who we are as individual people as well as to our society, and any disruption in this skill can greatly harm a person’s physical and mental health.
I am incredibly grateful to have been able to pursue each of these minors as they have taught me to think critically about our field and the people we serve.
How do you hope to use your degree in CSD to further your career goals?
When I first became interested in the field of communicative sciences and disorders, I thought I only wanted to be a clinician. However, through being involved in research labs, creating my own research project, and what I’ve learned in the classroom, I have realized that I can make a greater impact on the people we serve through clinically relevant research and I hope to one day be a researcher in our field.
I have also learned, however, that the best research comes from clinicians who are aware of the most pressing needs of the populations we serve. As such, I am currently applying to graduate schools around the country to obtain my Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology. I hope to work as a speech-language pathologist for many years in order to become finely attuned to the realities in our field. My hope is that this experience will make me a stronger researcher when I return to university to pursue a Ph.D.
None of these realizations would have been possible without my professors, my volunteer and internship experiences, as well as the lifelong friendships I’ve built with my classmates. My undergraduate career at NYU Steinhardt has certainly built a very strong foundation for my future career aspirations, and I will always look back to these years as one of the most transformative periods of my life.