Speech-language pathology student wins Helen Bierne award

by Jordana Newman  |   

Carol Mitchell holding award money and smiling
SLP graduate student Carol Mitchell is awarded the Helen Bierne scholarship. (Photo by Cameron Young/University of Alaska Anchorage)

Carol Mitchell, a graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) program, was awarded the Helen Bierne scholarship at the recent Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association (AKSHA) state convention.

“This award means a lot coming from the state’s speech-language and hearing association,” says Mitchell. “They see me as a future SLP who wants to make a difference and is dedicated to making that happen.” 

Mitchell received her associate's degree in 1997 and moved to Alaska in 2008 before taking a job with the Mat-Su Borough School District in 2011 as a special education assistant. She says her work in the school district is what ultimately motivated her to pursue a career in speech-language pathology.

“I worked with students in the Next Step Program and saw many with communication issues. I wanted to help them have a voice through verbal communication, assistive communication (i.e., devices, sign language, etc.), or even through gestures,” says Mitchell. “I needed a program where I could do my education while working. I also knew that it had to be something I could do while living in Alaska because I had a family and couldn't move somewhere else.”

Mitchell returned to school in 2015 and worked toward becoming an SLP while still working full-time for the school district. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Health Sciences from UAA with an emphasis in Speech-Language Pathology and applied for her license after receiving 100 hours of supervised work experience in the fall of 2020, but decided to continue her education.

Carol Mitchell accepting award
SLP graduate student Carol Mitchell is awarded the Helen Bierne scholarship. (Photo by Cameron Young/University of Alaska Anchorage)

“When I saw that UAA had a Master of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders through a partnership with East Carolina University, and I could do all my schooling in Alaska, I knew that was what I would do.”

Mitchell was accepted into the master's program and has made many great accomplishments since then according to UAA SLP program director Karen Gallagher. 

“I am so proud of Carol for all of her achievements as she works towards becoming a speech-language pathologist,” says Gallagher. “She is resourceful and resilient and very deserving of this competitive award. I know she will go on to serve Alaskans and elevate our field with her hard work and dedication.”

Mitchell is in her second year of the graduate program while still working for the school district as a speech-language pathology assistant. She says the award money will help her pay for school and is thankful to everyone who has helped her get to this point.

“Going back to school hasn't been easy, and it has taken many years, but I am thankful to my husband, who has always encouraged me to return to school and get a degree. I am also thankful for my four children, who have sacrificed much so that I could reach my dreams.”