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Recent Speech-Language Pathology master’s program graduates Ellen Swain (MA ’23), left, and Juliann Bardin (MA ’23), right, co-created the “Lived Communication Experiences” podcasts.

Recent Speech-Language Pathology master’s program graduates Ellen Swain (MA ’23), left, and Juliann Bardin (MA ’23), right, co-created the “Lived Communication Experiences” podcasts. 


The need to communicate is universal. Sometimes it’s easy to get your point across. Other times, it can be frustrating, humorous or even eye-opening. 

Maybe you or someone you know has experienced a stroke or other medical condition that changes the way you communicate. Maybe you’re transgender and are seeking congruence between your voice and your gender identity. Perhaps you develop laryngitis before a big presentation or you’re experiencing hearing loss. Maybe you are bilingual, trying to think in one language and speak in another. 

“There are no shortages of stories about human communication experiences,” suggests Leah Helou, assistant professor, Department of Communication Science and Disorders (CSD). “This broadly includes experiences relating not only to speech, but also language, hearing and more.” 

“People love to have their own experiences represented,” Helou continues. “That’s why we’re creating a new series within the Pitt CSD Podcast called ‘Lived Communication Experiences.’” 


Think of the podcasts as audio snapshots of how an individual reacts to a particular communications challenge or how they celebrate the communication abilities that they have.

This series was founded by two recent graduates of the Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) master’s program, Juliann Bardin (MA ’23) and Ellen Swain (MA ’23). They structured the series so that current and former students of Pitt CSD programs can contribute by conducting interviews and assisting with production. 

The first in the series features Steve, who has lived with bilateral hearing loss since his childhood. As he responds to questions from Bardin and Swain, the listener learns how bulky hearing aids made Steve the victim of bullying at school. They gain insight into how hearing loss affects his enjoyment of music and how it impacts relationships, both personal and professional. 

Helou says episodes like the one about Steve serve several purposes. “Many people in the community don’t really know what speech-language pathologists and audiologists do,” notes Helou. “The podcast introduces them in a way that makes them very accessible and points out the importance of their role.” 

CSD Professor and Chair Catherine Palmer 


CSD Professor and Chair Catherine Palmer explains further. “The ‘Lived Communication Experiences’ series supports students, patients, care partners and educators through its bold approach in providing a platform for student interviewers to explore the lived experiences of people who they will see in their clinical practices. This type of insight is invaluable, and we are very grateful to the individuals who are willing to share their stories.”

Helou adds that the Pitt CSD Podcast serves as a natural outreach vehicle. “When people find something that resonates with them, they share it with others. By creating this series of episodes, we’re hoping to build a library of stories that will inspire and educate, as well as support our department’s recruitment and outreach efforts.”

“Lived Communication Experiences” is not the only series within the Pitt CSD Podcast. Doctoral student Brett Welch co-founded the “Research Unpacked” series, now beginning its third season.  

Doctoral student Brett Welch says podcasts are a way to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice. 


“It takes approximately 17 years for research findings to be implemented at the clinical level,” explains Welch. “In each ‘Research Unpacked’ episode, we invite a researcher to take an article that’s recently been published and break it down, journal-club style, so that clinicians have access to the latest research findings.”

So far, the feedback has been positive. Welch believes the “Lived Communication Experiences” episode series will be equally welcomed. 

“As clinicians, we don’t always have time to sit down with patients and ask how their communication challenge impacts their lives. The podcast does that in a really conversational and genuine way.” 

 According to Palmer, “It takes a thoughtful educator like Dr. Helou to conceptualize this type of innovative approach to education that reaches far beyond the walls of the University of Pittsburgh.” 


For more information and to listen to the podcast, visit the Pitt CSD Podcast website. If you’d like to tell your own communication story, email

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Facets magazine.