Sarah O’Connor

Clinical Supervisor, Allied Health and Communicative Disorders

Sarah O’Connor

What year did you start working at NIU? 2014.

Where is your hometown, and where do you live now?
Crystal Lake and Saint Charles, IL.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.S.; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, M.S. in Speech Language Pathology.

What do you like about working at NIU?
Building relationships — I love working side by side with my students in the clinic and watching their skills and confidence grow. Hearing back from them after graduation with triumphs and requests for guidance is always a bright spot in my week. Knowing that they are out there positively impacting lives with the knowledge and skills built at NIU is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Allow yourself to be curious, make mistakes, and build relationships.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
In COMD 605, the first-year graduate students participate in multiple hands-on labs in order to familiarize themselves with the impact of using augmentative and alternative communication as a means to speak for themselves.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I want my students to walk away from my course (or my supervision in the clinic setting) feeling capable rather than intimidated by complex cases. I hope they feel equipped to search out resources in order to find solutions to the problems they face as speech language pathologists.

What is your favorite campus event?
Homecoming! I have multiple family members who hold degrees from NIU, so attending homecoming events has been an important part of fall.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
December 2014 commencement — when my spouse graduated with a master’s in counseling.

Who has influenced your professional path?
Growing up I had a friend who had severe cerebral palsy and was not able to communicate on her own. She is the reason I was drawn to the field of speech language pathology in the first place.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I did not know what I wanted to be growing up. I went to college undecided. It wasn't until my college roommate told me I should go with her to an introductory communication disorders class that it clicked. The guest lecturer was presenting on AAC and I immediately knew that's what I wanted to do with my career.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional 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?
I am the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association continuing education administrator for NIU. This means that I help coordinate events that provide continuing education credits for professionals that we host.

What community organizations are you involved in?
Professionally, Open Door Rehabilitation Center; personally, Moms Demand Action

What do you do to relax or recharge?
Yoga and play with my two daughters. Better yet, yoga with my two daughters. They're only 2 and 4, so it's hit or miss how interested they are in an entire practice.

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