How to Attend the ASHA Convention as a Student . . . and Be Successful While You’re There

Pictured, from left: SUNY Fredonia undergrads Shirley Smit, Alexandria Visconte, and Amanda Keppel, at the 2023 ASHA Convention in Boston.

Did you know that there are multiple ways for students to attend the annual ASHA Convention? Often, those pathways include travel and registration waivers. We asked several students who attended ASHA 2023 to share how they got to Convention and insights on their experience. Whether you’re an undergrad, grad student, or doctoral student, this information will help you identify the right path, set goals, and decide what you want your Convention experience to be. It’s never too early to plan for ASHA 2024 in Seattle, Washington, December 5–7.

What was your path to the ASHA Convention?

Amanda Keppel, communication sciences and disorders (CSD) major, State University of New York at Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia)
Shirley Smit, Alexandria Visconte, and I were given the opportunity as a part of the executive board of SUNY Fredonia’s NSSLHA chapter. We received funding from the Office of Student Creative Activity and Research (OSCAR) and from the Student Association—both at SUNY Fredonia.

Shirley Smit, CSD major, SUNY Fredonia
I attended as a student volunteer and through funding from my university’s local NSSLHA chapter club account. I also received an award from the Office of Student Creative Activity and Research (OSCAR).

Alexandria Visconte, CSD major, SUNY Fredonia
I also applied to be a student volunteer. Then, we applied for a travel award through our school, which was a huge help in funding our trip! As part of the travel award, we are going to do a presentation on our Convention experience at a future university event.

Jordan Tucker, second-year speech-language pathology grad student, Auburn University
I applied as a volunteer after receiving encouragement from my professors and supervisors, who stressed the Convention’s value for graduate students. I also had unwavering support from my university. Our professors at Auburn highlighted how the Convention could open the doors in finding the right Clinical Fellowship. They highlighted the benefits of engaging with the ASHA Career Portal, networking, and discovering our specialized areas of interest. They encouraged our participation and detailed the Convention’s numerous advantages for academic, clinical, and professional growth. One professor informed us about travel scholarships and funding through the university for students presenting research or pursuing continuing education.

Understanding absences was a crucial element of faculty support that influenced my decision. Our absences were excused since the Convention was recognized as a form of continuing education. Initially, I had reservations about missing clinical placement days. However, my supervisor, reflecting on her own enriching experiences at ASHA as a student volunteer, urged me to embrace this opportunity. She underscored the direct benefits to my current outpatient clinical rotation and reminded me of the greater flexibility we have as students compared to later professional stages, where taking time off often involves complex logistics like requesting paid time off and potential loss of critical job components.

If you could summarize your Convention experience in one word, what would it be, and why?

Amanda Keppel
It felt like the SLP version of being a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do anything and everything. I found myself stopping and talking to people from a variety of different settings in the Exhibit Hall, from early intervention to bilingual SLPs.

Shirley Smit
It was wonderful to see an entire field of SLPs and audiologists excited and energized about the impact we are making. It encouraged me and made me excited about my future. I felt truly inspired.

Jordan Tucker
Convention was an incredible space where personal interests and professional dreams came together. I had so many opportunities to connect with others who shared my passions, and that helped reignite my own passions and reveal new career possibilities. 

Alexandria Visconte
I was able to explore so many different parts of our field. I realized what I was truly interested in and what wasn’t for me. I also met people who could help me to advance my career.

What moments, encounters, or sessions stood out to you, and why?

Amanda Keppel
Autism: Beyond the Binary, a session about how autism is missed in non-males and the reasonings behind it. Also, talking to SLPs that are already established in the field stood out! They are always eager to talk about their experiences and are excited to be talking to an “SLP2Be”! They gave me lots of encouragement for grad school admissions and tips for taking the Praxis® exam.

Shirley Smit
The networking. I met peers from across the nation, National NSSLHA staff and Executive Council, SLPs from every setting, different grad school representatives, nonprofit organization leaders, and well-known SLPs such as Catherine Crowley. I also met Deaf celebrity Nyle DiMarco. The advice I received from each person was invaluable.

Jordan Tucker
Participating in the NSSLHA Knowledge Bowl was one of the most memorable parts of the Convention. Representing Auburn was not just an honor but an exhilarating learning experience. Meeting other NSSLHA chapters from universities nationwide and engaging in a friendly competition was unforgettable.

We answered Praxis®-style questions, making it a fun and interactive way to prepare for the Praxis® exam. I recommend participating to graduate and undergraduate students. It’s never too early to start preparing for the Praxis®. Plus, it’s a fun way to showcase your knowledge and celebrate our shared passion for the field!

Alexandria Visconte
I talked with some of the presenters after their sessions, and I was able to get to know them a little better. The one who I am thinking about specifically is a graduate student presenting her research. I talked with her for 20 minutes after the session. I got to learn about a common interest—voice. We talked about grad school and a lot of other things. I was very happy that I made that connection with her.

Complete this sentence: “I was surprised by . . .”

Amanda Keppel
Being able to practice an endoscopic evaluation at an exhibitor booth! PatCom Medical was allowing people to practice endoscopic exams on one of the workers at the booth. They were very encouraging and pushed me to try it and didn’t allow for us to let our nerves get the better of us. I am very grateful that as an undergraduate student I was able to have this experience and am even more grateful for the encouragement I got not only from my peers but from the workers at the booth as well.

Shirley Smit
The amount of information and access to opportunities I was able to get as an undergraduate student! I gained invaluable knowledge from attending sessions, professional experience from volunteering, and so many connections from visiting both the Exhibit Hall and the sessions.

Jordan Tucker
How much FUN I had volunteering! Our team bonded so much over a few days. We enhanced our problem-solving and teamwork skills, ensuring attendees had a great experience. We gained real-life insights as we each built connections and learned from each other’s diverse perspectives.

It’s amazing how much you can grow and enjoy while volunteering. I left with valuable lessons and connections that will last a lifetime. For anyone considering it, volunteering is a rewarding adventure you won’t regret! 

Alexandria Visconte
How easy it was to talk to people. I was afraid that because I was an undergrad, no one would want to talk to me, but I talked with other students and professionals all throughout my trip. Everyone was really nice and made me feel like I was in the right place.

Pathways to Convention

There are so many pathways to Convention! We outline just a few in the subsections below.

Talk to Your Chapter Advisor
Many of the students who want to attend Convention, including the students featured in this blog, started the Convention conversation on campus. Chapter advisors, program directors, and professors can be great resources. They can tell you about funding opportunities and help you plan for class or clinic absences.

Present Your Research
Present your faculty-mentored research and share your knowledge with CSD peers and professionals during the Research Symposium at Convention. ASHA’s Call for Papers is open now through April 4, 2024.

Take Advantage of ASHA Funding Opportunities
The Research Mentoring-Pair Travel Award (RMPTA) provides mentor–protégé pairs with Convention registration fee waivers and a $1,000 travel stipend. The Audiology/Hearing Science Research Travel Award (ARTA) provides complimentary registration and a $750 travel stipend.

Become a Leader

National NSSLHA’s Executive Council (EC) amplifies student perspectives and governs over the programmatic and administrative policies of National NSSLHA. At Convention, the EC leads sessions and NSSLHA student events. Members of the EC receive Convention fee waivers and travel reimbursement. National NSSLHA members can apply for one of six open EC positions now through April 12.

Apply for ASHA’s Minority Student Leadership Program (MSLP). It’s aleadership development program held during Convention that gives you valuable networking, educational, and career opportunities. Each MSLP participant receives a Convention fee waiver and travel reimbursement.

Become a Volunteer
Student volunteers play an important role in ensuring that Convention runs smoothly, and ASHA needs hundreds of student volunteers to make that happen. Volunteers commit to a 10- to 12-hour shift and attend a training session. In return, each volunteer receives a registration stipend and distinct opportunities to connect with CSD students across the country.

What’s Next?

So, now that you have all of this information, which path to Convention will you take? Planning ahead is key. Be sure to watch for program enrollment and application updates on National NSSLHA’s Instagram. And, if you’re a National NSSLHA member, via articles in the NSSLHA Updates e-newsletter and discussions in the NSSLHA Online Community.

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