Faculty You Should Know: Jennifer Garrett

Jennifer Garrett has always wanted to work with individuals with disabilities.

"When I was in Girl Scouts as a teenager, my Girl Scout leader had a daughter born with Down Syndrome, and her daughter attended a fully inclusive preschool program, so I started volunteering at the program," says Garrett, assistant professor in the communication sciences and disorders department at UNI. Her work inspired her, and she soon became interested in sign language and deaf education.

Jennifer Garrett
Job shadowing one-on-one with a speech language pathologist confirmed Garrett's decision to work with kids with disabilities.

An unexpected job-shadow experience affirmed her passion.

"I had the chance to miss a day of school and shadow a professional at a hospital. I signed up to shadow a physical therapist, but they had too many people, so they asked if a few of us would be willing to switch to a speech language pathologist. I got to spend one-on-one time all day with the speech language pathologist, and it really confirmed my decision to work with kids with disabilities." Garrett also learned she could work with deaf children.

Today, Garrett specializes in working with school-aged children to develop speech-language skills in order to help other children like the girl who first inspired her.

Speech-language pathology, in which professionals evaluate and treat individuals with speech and language disorders, is a fast-growing job with many different career opportunities. UNI offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in communication disorders and speech-language pathology, so students can earn both a bachelor's and master's degree at UNI. The graduate program has a 100-percent job placement rate for post-graduate students.

The department also has its own on-campus facility, the Roy Eblen Speech and Hearing Clinic, where students can learn with a hands-on approach. The clinical lab gives students experience in a real-world setting and provides services to patients from around the community.

Helping others is a major focus of speech-language pathology, and an emphasis on community engagement can be found throughout the major.

"I try to add some sort of service component to all my classes," says Garrett. "I don't think our students need to just give back to the community, they need to be actively engaged within the community. For students, the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area is home while they're at school, and it's important that they're active and involved in this community they're a part of."