Alumnus, Graduate Student Receives Speech Pathology Award

· August 20, 2013

Southern Virginia University alumnus Adam Whipple (’11) recently received the Mississippi Speech and Hearing Association 2013 Outstanding Speech Language Pathology Graduate Student Award from the University of Southern Mississippi.

This is just the latest award in Whipple’s post-graduate career. He has been recognized within his department with the College of Health President’s Award for Service as well as an appointment as a College of Health ambassador. He also received the 2013 College of Health Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences Outstanding Graduate Student Award at USM.

He is also currently finishing up a master’s thesis — a project that, according to him, was completely voluntary.

“I was comfortable right away with any writing assignments or research assignments and I was excited about the opportunity to do a thesis,” he said. “It was optional, but I signed up for that.”

Although he was the only person in his graduate program to do so, Whipple said that he decided to write a master’s thesis because of his confidence in research and writing. He credited Dr. Iana Konstantinova, assistant professor of Spanish at Southern Virginia, with helping him become a better writer.

“With Dr. Konstantinova, you do a lot of intensive writing in her courses,” he said. “Lots of papers. And she really takes a lot of time to work with you and show you specific things that you can correct. She’ll show you your mistakes, but she’ll also show you things that aren’t necessarily mistakes but are things that you can do better. Because of the training in writing I had with her I was prepared for all the writing that grad school requires. I felt very comfortable tackling a thesis.”

Whipple will graduate in December with a master’s degree in speech and language pathology from USM. With that degree, he hopes to work with elderly stroke victims in nursing homes.

“With speech and language pathology, a lot of people refer to you as a speech language pathologist, or speech therapist, and you can work in a school, or you can work in a nursing home,” Whipple said. “You can help the geriatric population who have had strokes and lost their language or speech abilities, or work with kids who have trouble pronouncing their ‘R’s.”

What started as a casual interest in the causes of stuttering developed into a career path. Whipple started researching stuttering and discovered the wide-ranging positive impacts of speech pathologists.

“As I looked more into speech therapy and speech pathology, I learned that you also help people who lost their language ability to stroke, and I looked more into it,” he said.

But the real surprise came once he was enrolled in the graduate program and discovered the advantage his education at Southern Virginia gave him. Whipple majored in Spanish with a minor in business, and found that the underlying concepts in the Spanish language applied to speech pathology.

“I was surprised how much Spanish phonetics and linguistics directly translated — it was like I started grad school the next semester and I was doing the exact same stuff,” he said.

Konstantinova said that during Whipple’s time at Southern Virginia he was an insightful student as well as a talented researcher and writer.

“It was always a pleasure to have Adam [Whipple] in class,” she said. “His insights would frequently cause me to look at the literature in new ways, which is what a professor wants from students. His senior paper on the use of negative imagery to express paternal love in José Martí’s Ismaelillo, was an original piece of research, which Adam had the honor of presenting at the Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium.”

Whipple said that he felt creativity and open-mindedness were important when looking for a career option with liberal arts degrees.

“During my first couple years as an undergrad I just thought my major had to be exactly what I want to do,” he said. “Whereas, now that I am in grad school, I look around and the people I sit in class with have lots of different degrees. There’s people with lots of different backgrounds sitting in the same class for a master’s degree in speech pathology.”

Instead of focusing on a single track toward a specialized career, Whipple suggests that the broad scope of research and writing skills he learned at Southern Virginia helped him realize the potential for a fulfilling post-graduate career that has already been rewarding.

“No one in my department had to show me how to research,” he said. “No one in grad school had to show me how to find a good article.”

To him, the close involvement with professors at Southern Virginia made all the difference.

“The semester before I was applying to grad school we had a seminar for seniors in the ballroom,” he said. “Multiple professors came in to talk to us about how to apply for grad school, how to get a letter of recommendation, preparing for the GRE. That made me feel pretty confident.”

His wife, Jessica Whipple — a fellow Southern Virginia graduate — is also pursuing a master’s degree at USM. She will begin a graduate program in library and information science this fall.

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