Bracken with the Pitt Panther Statue from her graduation from the CSBA program
June Bracken (CSBA ’23) grew up in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and originally wanted to pursue a career in music. Her talents included singing and playing a variety of instruments, which led her to the music therapy program at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
She was enrolled for a year and a half until the COVID-19 pandemic left her cooped up in Nashville having a challenging time and conflicted about whether she loved music anymore. Bracken decided to come home to Pennsylvania and continue her studies at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) where she explored random classes that she found interesting. During her time at CCAC, she soon began to rediscover her path.
Bracken says, “I had multiple lightbulb moments. When I shadowed a Pitt alumna speech-language pathologist I found that I loved speech pathology. I thought it was very closely related to music therapy and was the right fit for me.” She continues, “I was also watching a video on TikTok of a woman who had aphasia and was learning how to say her name again.”
It sparked something.
The Pitt alumna she had shadowed mentioned how reputable the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ (SHRS) Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) program was and from there Bracken knew that she would want to eventually take a similar path.
Other university programs Bracken looked into were a locked path to SLP, meaning, she would have had to start as a first-year student and get specific classes and credits in order to complete the SLP master’s degree. With the help of her SHRS academic advisor in the school’s Center for Advising and Student Success, Bracken was relieved to discover that the pathway to the Pitt SLP graduate program would seamlessly accommodate most of her studies at CCAC. After taking a few summer classes, she transferred to the Bachelor of Arts in Communication Science (CSBA), an upper-division program, in the fall of her junior year. After completing the CSBA degree, she would then apply to their graduate program.
“Advisor Dave Bodnar was my guide,” says Bracken. “I never really had advisors that seemed to care a whole lot and Dave went above and beyond to set me up in my program. He had been instrumental helping me through the undergraduate experience and into my master's education.”
“It was easier than I expected it to be,” she continues. “I had a lot of credits transferring over that didn’t really have anything to do with the health sciences, such as business classes, and I expected that I would have to do an extra year as an undergrad, but it worked out perfectly for this major since it starts your junior year.”
Bracken shared that her first semester felt surreal.
“I was loving every class. ‘Introduction to Audiology’ was one of my standouts because Associate Professor Elaine Mormer was just amazing. That was also kind of a moment where I was thinking, ‘Wow! I’m doing well and really enjoying it.’ I found that I really loved anatomy, too. Professor Susan Shaiman was phenomenal,” says Bracken.
Bracken (second in from the right in the front row) among classmates in the Speech Science class, led by (fourth in from the right) Professor Susan Shaiman
“My transition seemed easy, too, because there were a lot of networking opportunities and clubs.” Bracken expressed that she took advantage of everything Pitt had to offer, such as getting involved in Audiology Club and The National Student Speech, Language, Hearing Association (NSSLHA).
Bracken, Outreach Coordinator for the NSSLHA attending the activities fair
Bracken and fellow Audiology club members at the National Audiology Association conference HearTECH Expo
Keeping up with her hobbies was also important so she joined the Ballet Club and Dance Club. She found other transfer students in her research class and really pushed herself to do things and meet new people to work and study with.
Bracken in Ballet Club, senior year
SLP Assistant Professor and Communication Science Undergraduate Program Director Ali Lewandowski says there is a lot of interest from transfer students in the SLP and audiology fields, but they don’t necessarily know that they can transfer to Pitt. “We (SHRS) have been working hard to strengthen our relationships with Pitt branch campuses and community colleges in the area to ensure that any interested student fully understands the process of transferring into one of our upper division programs, like Communication Science. Because all of the Communication Science specific courses are only available at the main Pitt campus, it is a common misconception that students cannot pursue this field/major unless they attend Pitt in Oakland for the entirety of their college careers, but that is not the case."
In spring 2023, Bracken completed her communication science undergraduate degree and this fall began the Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. Her first year will include clinicals one to two times a week, which will increase to four to five times a week in her second year. She has yet to choose an area of focus but is excited about the opportunities ahead. “I have so many interests and there are so many different paths that I could take in the field that I will go wherever I am placed. I want to get out and start experiencing it all,” she says.
Published September 25, 2023