As an undergrad, I attended a predominantly white institution—which often made me feel like I stood out in class. Being Filipina-American and one of the only people of color in my classes, I felt it was my duty to advocate and represent my minority peers. This often left me singled out to answer uncomfortable questions about my identity and other minority identities. Fortunately, I found my university’s Asian Pacific American Coalition and developed a passion for advocating for underrepresented and minority students, including myself. Through my involvement, I realized I wanted to find more ways to bring the work I was doing at the university level to a wider, more national level, as well as combine my passion for advocacy with my interest in CSD.
I first learned about ASHA’s Minority Student Leadership Program (MSLP) through one of my undergraduate professors—my only Asian professor. I didn’t realize how impactful it was to have someone who looked like me in my department, but that representation motivated me. I realized that MSLP was the perfect opportunity to meet other CSD students like myself . . . and my work with the Asian Pacific American Coalition aligned perfectly with MSLP’s mission.
So, I applied for the program! After learning I was accepted, I was most excited to meet other students from across the country. In my university bubble, I didn’t have many friends who could relate to both my cultural identity and my passion for advocacy. I was excited to have conversations with other students, learn about their experiences, and create a community with my cohort. I was also looking forward to gaining resources and leadership skills related to multiculturalism in CSD.
Setting Myself Up for Success
Typically, MSLP takes place in-person (Covid-19 travel restrictions aside) at the annual ASHA Convention. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but in addition to the program, I was looking forward to experiencing the ASHA Convention for the first time—which was in Boston in 2018.
Some of my favorite parts of MSLP were moments and events where we were able to chat and connect with MSLP alumni (now current professionals). I enjoyed learning how the program helped shape their professional success and how the skills learned from MSLP could be applied to my future career as an SLP. I continually wrote down advice, observations, and takeaways to remember later on. My biggest takeaway was how much work still needs to be done to support minority students in CSD.
That said, I didn’t realize how many resources ASHA already has to support multicultural and minority students and professionals. It was great to learn about ASHA’s Office of Multicultural Affairs—an office dedicated to addressing cultural and linguistic diversity issues related to professionals and people with communication disorders and differences. They provide resources about diversity, equity, and inclusion that all CSD students and professionals can use to learn and grow.
Becoming a NSSLHA Change-Maker
MSLP and the ASHA Convention is where I first met the National NSSLHA Executive Council (EC). I was a little intimidated at first, but when I spoke to the student leaders at the booth, they were welcoming and inviting. Speaking with them gave me a new perspective on leadership and being in MSLP gave me the confidence to apply for an EC position the following Spring. I wanted to use my experience to make an impact on students from across the country.
Through my role as the 2019-2021 Vice President for Planning, I used my seat at the table to advocate for myself and my minority peers. I helped develop National NSSLHA’s 2020-2022 Strategic Plan (with goals and objectives that focus on building a strong and diverse membership community) and had a role in launching National NSSLHA’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) Work Group. I never imagined that being in this role would lead me to enact change-making initiatives. I’m proud of the work I’ve done within National NSSLHA and I look forward to seeing the organization’s growth as I pass the torch onto the next term of EC leaders. This is just the beginning of great change.
Participating In MSLP
I’m proud of the amazing people in my MSLP cohort. It is, and always will be, one of my favorite experiences as a pre-professional. I now feel less alone in my journey to becoming an SLP and am encouraged to continue advocating for my minority peers and colleagues. Being in MSLP helped me to realize how much of an impact I can have on the CSD field and in others’ lives . . . and for that, I’m forever grateful.
While the traditional MSLP program won’t take place in 2021, there will still be a series of virtual student leadership development opportunities throughout the fall. If you’re interested in participating in this year’s amazing leadership development events, I encourage you to check out the ASHA website for details.