Jamie Mayer

Associate Professor, School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders

Jamie Mayer

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My original hometown is Munster, Indiana. I currently live in Naperville, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended Indiana University (Bloomington). I have a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D.

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders

What do you like about working at NIU?
What I've always loved about working at NIU are the students! I have met so many motivated, self-driven students through my courses, community service programs and research projects. They keep me motivated to never stop learning.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Get involved! There are so many ways to network with your peers and faculty and to give back to the community. Your college experience is a relatively short time in your life. Go to class, make it a point to meet your professors and classmates, and join student organizations that interest you. You will learn more than you ever thought possible.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I lead multiple engaged learning and research projects where we focus on strengths-based cognitive stimulation for people with stroke and dementia; that is, intervention utilizing the arts, reminiscence and/or spared reading skills to promote engagement, communication and quality of life. I initiated and am the faculty mentor for NIU's Music and Memory student organization. Currently, we are running two painting programs, two choirs, a brain education group and weekly one-on-one reading groups for residents at several local long-term care centers. I'm collecting data to examine outcomes for all program stakeholders, including students, people living with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, and long-term care staff.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
I love watching students make themselves (and their families!) proud.

What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
I want students to realize that learning is more than just absorbing information; rather, it's using that information to help others in some way. They should leave NIU realizing that there is always more to learn and do, and they'll have the tools to keep growing in their future work.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite NIU memory was when, with the help of a grant from CISLL (Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Learning), one of my graduate students and I collaborated to initiate the first-ever DeKalb-area choir designed specifically for people with acquired, neurogenic communication disorders from brain injury or disease (like stroke or dementia). We named it the Bridges Choir, because music can act as a bridge to help people with language or cognitive problems communicate their feelings. Our original choir was with residents of the Oak Crest Retirement Center in DeKalb, and for graduation that year, Oak Crest staff got the entire choir in a bus and drove them to surprise my student and sing at our COMD graduation celebration. Best moment ever!

What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
The number of opportunities to connect with administration, students and the community. Every time I think my plate is completely full, I find another program or opportunity I'm excited about adding.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
Learning, and then using that knowledge to teach and/or serve others.

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
All of them! I would say my values are most closely aligned with service and stewardship. I'm a huge proponent of using the massive amounts of talent we have here at NIU to support and serve the community.

Do you keep in touch with any NIU alums? If so, are there any doing something interesting and exciting that we should know about? Please share some information with us and we’ll consider them for a future feature. 
Yes. Elizabeth Lanza was the graduate student who started the original Bridges Choir with me; she helped me restart and run it virtually during COVID-19 lockdowns, which was an extremely difficult time for residents of long-term care centers. Tertia (Abby) Jeppson, an alum of both our undergraduate and master's (SLP) programs, works at the Shirley Ryan Rehabilitation Center and is very active in both research and as a clinician for adults with acquired communication and cognitive impairments. She and I published an article last year about her master's thesis, which involved creating a free-form painting program for people with dementia (Jeppson et al., 2022). Makenna Green, also an alum of our undergraduate and graduate programs, is now in the CHHS Ph.D. program and is planning to study the role of service learning to teach students about dementia. She and I recently published a paper examining speech pathologists' roles and needs in working with people with dementia (Mayer et al., 2023).

Who has influenced your professional path?
My mentor at Indiana University, Laura Murray. She and I still collaborate! She is now an associate dean and I am still learning from her.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
Ummm...an architect! I liked art and thought that would be a good way to harness that skill in a pragmatic and exciting way. But then I fell in love with neuroscience and psychology in college and realized I wanted to contribute in some way to the medical field. I was a work-study student at that time, and my first job at school was at a shelter for battered women and children. The combination of courses and my work at that point opened up a whole new world. Speech pathology ended up being the perfect blend of art, science and service to others.

Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Yes! I was a member of the Mid-American Conference yearlong faculty leadership group a couple of years ago, and also had the opportunity to participate in the ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholar program last year. I learned a ton from both of these experiences about being a more effective leader and teacher.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
Yes. I am the head of the Evidence-Based Practice Aphasia Writing Group for the Academy of Neurological Communication Disorders and Sciences. Our group's job is to disseminate literature regarding best clinical practices for people with aphasia (an acquired language disorder due to brain injury, like stroke) to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice. Our last two projects involved examining the role of aerobic exercise for stroke survivors (Mayer et al., 2022) and reviewing strategies for generalization of aphasia treatment (Mayer et al., in press). Our next project will involve an examination of assessment practices for people with severe aphasia. This organization keeps me connected to an international group of amazing researchers and has helped me establish a number of collaborative relationships that benefit my research and teaching activities at NIU.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I'm a member of the national Music and Memory organization, and as the faculty mentor to NIU's Music and Memory student association, I'm a liaison between multiple local long-term care centers and NIU students.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I try to spend my free time with my kids — they grow up so fast! I've also been a runner for many years. I've run the Boston Marathon a number of times, and I'm a member of the Naperville Running Company Track Club. I'm signed up to do a three-day, 35-mile trail race through mountains in Moab, Utah, this spring. It's supposed to be a beautiful course!

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