Nicole Ariza ‘16C, ‘20G
“If I had known in my freshman year at St. John’s everything I would accomplish by now, I would have been blown away,” reflected Nicole Ariza ‘16C, 20G, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology and Audiology with a minor in Spanish.
Along with her mentor, Associate Professor Patrick R. Walden, Ph.D., Ariza published the article, “Speech-Language Pathologists’ Perceptions of the Common Core State Standards: A Multi-State Study” in the American Journal of Undergraduate Research. Their study investigates the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from the perspective of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) providing services to students with communicative disorders in schools. It includes data from 87 SLPs who completed a survey focusing on four primary areas: the perceived impact of the CCSS on service delivery, student outcomes, professional workload, and continuing professional education.
Walden posted the survey to groups on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website. “The survey included both open- and closed-ended questions, and the open-ended questions opened my eyes to professional issues in the field,” said Ariza. “The findings gave me insight into the day-to-day life of a speech-language pathologist, as well as providing me with experience in research design and data analysis.”
As a junior in 2015, Ariza applied for Graduate Admissions Assistance Program (GAAP) funding after hearing about it from a friend and through University Career Services. GAAP’s annual summer research program awards up to ten research stipends in the amount of $2800 to enable students to work together with a SJU mentor on a research project. Under Walden’s supervision, Ariza designed, developed, and collected data for the study. “What began as an eight-week project turned into a two-year experience,” said Ariza. “Dr. Walden pushed me to make the most of the experience and publish.”
Ariza wasn’t always sure she wanted to make speech-language pathology her career. As a student at Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, NY, she planned to become an educator, but her parents pushed her toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. They settled on speech-language pathology as a compromise, and Ariza was hesitant about beginning her undergraduate major in the field, “but after two classes I was sold,” she said. “Learning about how language develops is fascinating, and communication is really taken for granted. Until you lose it or have issues with it, it doesn’t cross your mind.” Her family chose St. John’s because her brother, Richard Ariza ‘14C, was already here majoring in biology and she was awarded a generous financial aid package.
Ariza then chose to remain at SJU for her master’s degree because of the mentorship of department faculty and the opportunity to get a graduate assistantship to fund her education. “I feel comfortable here,” she said. “It feels like home to me.”
As an undergraduate, Ariza was a member of the Speech and Hearing Club, and served as both secretary and vice president of that organization in her junior and senior years, respectively. During that time, she also worked as a tutor in the Global Language and Culture Center (GLCC), and was co-president of Global Ambassadors in her senior year.
Ariza took advantage of study abroad opportunities as both an undergraduate and graduate student. She took a Global Passport course in Rome as a freshman, and returned to Rome in her senior year as part of the Dean’s International Opportunity Program. As a master’s student, she traveled to Guatemala for the course Management of Pediatric Dysphagia with Communications Sciences and Disorders Chair and Associate Professor Nancy Colodny, Ph.D.
She is currently doing the first of two internships required for the M.A. program at Transitions of Long Island, an out-patient rehabilitation facility for adult aphasia patients in Manhasset, NY. Ariza serves as a graduate assistant in the University Freshman Center, where she helps to advise first-year students in the Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
“Nicole is one of the hardest working and promising students I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Walden. “I very much look forward to her future contributions to our field