Vianca Ocampo

Vianca Ocampo

Vianca Ocampo is a speech-language pathology graduate student from Pasay, Philippines

Hometown: Pasay, Philippines

Year: Expected graduation: 2024

What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I was born in the U.S. but grew up in the Philippines. Traveling by myself back to the U.S. for graduate school was a huge adjustment and sacrifice. Receiving the Joan Erickson Clinical Award was a huge help. The award is given to support a student focusing on multicultural issues, hearing loss or cleft palate. It helped me pay for my tuition during my first year in graduate school. I also received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Students Preparing for Academic-Research Career (SPARC) award, which aims to cultivate student interest in pursuing a research doctorate and/or a career as a faculty-researcher in communication sciences and disorders. This has helped me present my master's thesis in conferences such as the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing-Association Annual Convention. Lastly, I am a graduate assistant for the Asian American Studies program, which makes me a recipient of the Rhoten A. Smith assistantship for minority students. This has really helped me pay for my graduate studies tuition.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
I wanted to be a teacher. I loved reading and learning when I was young. School was something I was really good at. I remember pretending to write on a blackboard to teach my dolls and stuffed animals. I suppose this love for teaching has fueled my passion in speech-language pathology, since I get the opportunity to teach or assist others how to communicate or better express themselves.

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
M.A. in speech-language pathology (SLP) with a multicultural certificate in SLP. I have always believed that we must find the intersection of what we are good at and where we are needed. In my case, I love helping others and speech-language pathology is a field in which I get to do that.

Tell us about the research you are doing and why it interests you.
I grew up in the Philippines and I am a Tagalog-English bilingual speaker. My current research focuses on my background in bilingualism and augmentative alternative communication (AAC). There is currently a lack of available research-based, non-English communication devices for individuals with complex communication needs. I aim to fill this gap by creating ecologically valid Tagalog and Tagalog-English bilingual communication boards to help others express themselves.

How has conducting research strengthened your education and experience at NIU?
Conducting research on bilingual speakers and AAC has opened up so many doors for me. First, it allowed me to bridge the knowledge I have gained into practice. I am now able to better digest and analyze information from scholastic journals. I am now able to apply theories we learned in class. I am now able to do evidence-based practice and create culturally appropriate materials. Second, it has led me to form connections with faculty and students in and out of NIU. I have presented in a state conference and was awarded a scholarship by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for my work. Last, it has developed my confidence and has equipped me with the skills needed to enter the field after graduation.

How will your research experience help you in the future?
As speech-language pathologists, we are expected to do evidence-based practice. Conducting research has trained me to think critically and analyze sources of information to apply it in my clinical practice. Moreover, it has trained me to identify the gaps of knowledge we have in the field and try to fill them in. We have so much work to do in terms of serving individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Conducting research is just one way I can advocate for them in the field of speech-language pathology.

Who at NIU has been important to your success doing research and why?
My thesis adviser, Dr. Milijana Buac, has been the most influential person in my graduate studies. She has been an amazing mentor who continually guides me through the research process. She has shared her expertise in multiculturalism in the field of speech-language pathology and is a great advocate for individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She is someone I admire and aspire to be like after I graduate from the program.

What advice would you give to an incoming student as it relates to research at NIU?
Don't let the stress of graduate school stop you from pursuing research. If there is a topic you are really passionate about, let your professors know and they will guide you in the right direction. There are many ways to do this, whether you do a master's thesis, an individual study or participate in a faculty-led research project. You will learn so much, and your professors are there to help you every step of the way.

What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I felt very welcomed and supported by my cohort, professors and clinical supervisors. Being away from my family was tough, but I found connections with the faculty and staff who have served as my second family here at NIU.

How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
As a graduate assistant for the Asian American Studies program, I get to meet new people through class visits, cultural events and recruitment fairs. I also meet other students through the Asian American Resource Center and the NIU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. These places provide an avenue to collaborate and spend time with other students.

Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I have served as a graduate mentor for my program in which I was paired with two first-year students to welcome them into graduate school. I am also affiliated with the Communicative Disorders Student Association (COMDSA) and the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy (CISLL). I have helped undergraduate students prepare their applications for graduate school, and I have attended events that promote literacy and different languages.

What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you feel safe, supported and successful? And how?
Some of my favorites are the Recreation Center for working out, the Huskie Food Pantry for groceries and the Huskie Closet for clothes. These helped me survive graduate school, given the limited finances I had. The Procrastination Cafe was also great in providing a space for me to study. Last but definitely not the least, the Asian American Studies Certificate Program provided me with a lot of support throughout my graduate studies. I was very fortunate to be a part of such a passionate, hardworking group of people.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
Without a doubt, Dr. Milijana Buac! She teaches AHCD 610: Multicultural Aspects of Speech-Language Pathology, COMD 607: Language Disorders in School-age Populations and COMD 775: Seminar in Language. She is also my thesis adviser. Being a minority student, it was hard for me to find people I can relate to. She has made me feel very welcomed and supported in her classes. She has taught us how to practice cultural humility and how to serve clients from diverse backgrounds. She always checks in with students and takes time to make sure we understand the lessons. She makes graduate school less stressful! She gives amazing resources for bilingualism, multiculturalism and dialects. She is a wonderful mentor, advocate and professor.

How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
By attending class regularly, I get the opportunity to ask questions about the topic, collaborate with my classmates and participate in discussions with my professors.

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
The NIU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. It is where we attend all our classes and where we see our first clients. The department makes such an effort to make sure we have everything we need in the workroom. They provide access to therapy materials, formal tests and computer stations for us to work on. I love studying there and spending time with students in the same program.

What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?
For minority students, make sure to research the university's efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion. Learn about the number of BIPOC students, reach out to students who are currently attending the program and ask what it is like. From there, you will get a sense of the school as a community. Being in a school that embraces and celebrates cultural and linguistic differences matters.

Why is a college education important to you?
Pursuing a graduate degree in the U.S. allows me to deepen my knowledge in my chosen field. It also allows me to expand my connections and develop my skills. Attending NIU also has opened up new experiences for me, such as teaching a class in the Asian American Studies program and conducting autism evaluations with the NIU ADOS team. It has definitely made my life more colorful.

What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?
With everything going on, I make sure to follow my calendar. I block off times and days to spend with family and friends, and make sure I get schoolwork done only during a certain time. I turn off my email notifications by 8 p.m., and I don't work past 10 p.m. I keep my calendar updated and block off times for football games, workouts and dinners. That way, I know I am balancing school and time with friends/family.

How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?
I make sure to check the NIU events calendar at the start of every month. This helps me inform students in the Asian American Studies program about relevant events happening on campus.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I go for a walk, read or binge-watch shows.

Please tell us about your job and hobbies.
Every other weekend I work as a receptionist in an independent living facility. I love talking with the older residents and hearing their stories. Whenever I can, I like to travel and explore different places.

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