Western Washington University’s (WWU) opened its clinical doctorate in audiology program in September of 2018. Since the beginning, the joys and challenges of being involved in a new program have been plentiful.
After the WWU Master’s in Audiology program ended, Dr. Rieko Darling, the audiology clinic director, worked tirelessly to create the Clinical Doctorate in Audiology program at WWU. Not only is this the first group of doctoral audiology students from WWU, but it is the first doctoral degree in WWU’s history.
The first AuD cohort at WWU consisted of five students who earned bachelor’s degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders here. Knowing the caliber of our faculty and how much love and effort went into forming the audiology program, we each made the decision to apply to the AuD program at WWU.
Recently, WWU’s SAA chapter became nationally recognized. We are thrilled to have SAA as an outlet to connect with other students and new programs across the nation.
Although being a part of a new program is extraordinary in many ways, it has its fair share of challenges as well. One of the main hurdles we have overcome is understanding the financial component of a new program. As much as our department has tried to keep costs down, any graduate school program comes with great expenses. In many cases, it is nice to be able to ask students in cohorts ahead of you for advice on these issues and many others. Without that guidance, we have had to pave the way in sorting out tuition expenses and working with the financial aid office.
It has also been a work in progress to perfect the work, class, and clinic load. Finding the right balance among these can be a challenge in any program, but being in the first group of the AuD program has required grit and patience among the students as well as the faculty and clinical staff.
Despite the few barriers we’ve encountered along the way, being involved in a new program has been an enriching opportunity for each of us. As the first group, we were lucky to get a variety of hands-on clinical experiences from the first week of our program, including auditory processing disorder (APD), videonystagmography/electronystagmography (VNG/ENG), and electrophysiological testing in addition to adult and pediatric diagnostic testing opportunities.
Additionally, we have been lucky to form a close bond with our clinical educators and professors. In our small group of five, it seems to be a collaborative effort with our faculty to form the best curriculum for future cohorts.
Above all, we have formed lifelong friendships with one another. Graduate school has proven to be a rewarding, yet challenging experience. We are lucky to be able to lean on one another and are looking forward to entering the world of audiology.
Haley Prins and Nicole Vanderzanden are the current president and vice-president of the new SAA chapter at Western Washington University. They are finishing their second year in the WWU Au.D. program and are excited to begin their offsite internships in the fall. Haley has a special interest in pediatric audiology and cochlear implants and Nicole is passionate about all aspects of audiology, from newborns to geriatrics. Both Haley and Nicole were born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and are looking forward to practicing audiology in Washington State once they graduate in 2021.
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