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Intellect

BYU graduate student ‘finds her voice’ in speech-language pathology

Last November, BYU McKay School graduate student Tristin Hampshire traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) convention. Hampshire was one of 25 students to receive ASHA’s Student Research Travel Award (SRTA) because the program committee considered her research proposal as the “highest-rated student-authored paper in its convention topic area.”

While Hampshire was excited to hear that she received the SRTA, her favorite part was the opportunity to present at the conference. Hampshire’s research focuses on how language intervention in kindergarten affects reading comprehension later in life. She presented to 15,000 attendees—many of whom were professionals Hampshire admires.

“It was super exciting to hear from researchers that I’ve annotated in my thesis and in my research and then get to see them in person and realize that they’re real,” Hampshire said.


While Hampshire thrives in communication disorders, she wasn’t always set on a career in speech-language pathology. She was first exposed to speech-language pathology work back in high school when she volunteered to tutor a student with special needs. The student, a senior in high school, couldn’t speak and only knew three words in sign language: chocolate milk, bathroom and more. Hampshire would communicate with her using an iPad that helped the student learn the alphabet.

When Hampshire’s student would learn a new letter, “she’d get really excited and clap her hands and smile so big,” said Hampshire. Hampshire said she thought, “Wow, she could totally use this device to be able to talk and communicate things that she hasn’t been able to for the past 18 years.”

Even though her tutoring experience was positive, Hampshire loved math and began pursuing a degree in engineering during her first year of college. She was sitting in a class when she decided to search “most fulfilling jobs” on the internet. Speech-language pathology was on the list.

That moment reminded her of how much she enjoyed working as a peer tutor in high school, and she switched majors almost immediately. Working with people—whether it be professors in her graduate program, her thesis chair or her patients—is now the biggest motivating factor for Hampshire: “In speech-language pathology, you can’t go wrong. You get to help people in every single setting.”

Hampshire graduates from BYU with a master’s degree in communication disorders this April. As part of her master’s program, she has done externships in both a classroom and a veterans hospital.

As she worked with patients trying to regain their swallowing, speech and cognition skills, she saw many a strong, tough veteran shed a tear.

However, what stood out to her was that “they were the ones in the room cracking the jokes, lightening up the mood and putting a smile on your face during therapy. It might be a hard, stressful day, but my patients who were going through really tough, life-changing things were always the ones to make me leave happier than when I came in.”

Although Hampshire’s postgraduate plans are not yet set, she wants to maintain the attitude her thesis chair, Doug Peterson, has taught her: a changing-the-world mentality. While she will miss her “incredible” thesis chair and her remarkable cohort whom she calls her “best friends,” Hampshire is excited to meet her future patients and be able to stick with them throughout their treatment.

Hampshire’s favorite part of her BYU experience is how much she has learned and how much her confidence has increased.

“Graduate school is no walk in the ballpark. There were many 12-hour days on campus, tears and a constant feeling of impostor syndrome,” she said. “I always felt like it was a mistake that I got accepted into graduate school because I knew so little coming into it.

“Two years later, I still feel there is so much for me to learn to be a competent, great speech-language pathologist, but when I realize how much I have learned and grown in the past two years, my mind is blown, and I realize that I am capable.”

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