Faculty Spotlight: Megan Bennett

by Jordana Newman  |   

Megan Bennett
Speech-Language Pathology term assistant professor Megan Bennett. (Photo by Jenna Amber/University of Alaska Anchorage)

Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) term assistant professor Megan Bennett discusses her excitement about teaching courses for the AAS in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant, a new degree option within the SLP program, and being a new faculty member at UAA.

Name: Megan Bennett

Email address: mbennett8@alaska.edu

Title: Term Assistant Professor

Unit: School of Allied Health

Hometown: I've moved a lot in my lifetime, so I have two answers to this question. The town I spent my childhood in is North River, NY. The town I consider home is Fairbanks, AK.

How long have you worked at UAA?

I am brand new to UAA! I just started working here in July 2023. However, I have been teaching at the university level since 2015.

Tell us about your job. 

I teach synchronous online courses for the speech-language pathology program at UAA. The courses are part of the AAS in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Speech-Language Pathology, and Minor in Speech-Language Pathology tracks. In the summers, I provide clinical supervision for graduate students in their SLP clinical practicum. My job is unique because I have the opportunity to directly prepare students for clinical practice at multiple levels of the profession.

What do you love the most about your work?

Working with students is always the best part of teaching at the university level. I love getting to know my students and guiding them through complex topics. I also love seeing my students' curiosity! Their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning are motivation to continue my learning!

Can you tell us more about the AAS in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant that is now available to students? 

I'm very excited to have this new degree option available to students! The AAS in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant provides a pathway for students to be eligible for employment as Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs). SLPAs are acutely needed in Alaska, especially in the public schools. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the overseeing body for SLPs, SLPAs, audiologists, and audiologist assistants, reports an employment outlook of 15%-21% growth for SLPAs nationwide. The employment outlook for SLPAs is much higher in Alaska. What is especially exciting is that we can grow SLPAs in-state! Our program is 100% online, so students from all over Alaska can complete the degree without leaving their hometown. This means that students can continue to manage family responsibilities and employment while simultaneously earning a degree. 

What are some of the opportunities students will have with this new degree option?

With this new degree option, students can pursue an in-demand career without leaving Alaska. SLPAs work in public schools, early intervention, private practice, and more! A career as an SLPA is a highly rewarding one for individuals who enjoy working with people, don't want a desk job, and have that desire to help others. If an SLPA wants to continue to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, a career that requires a master's degree, the SLPA doesn't have to start their education all over. They can apply their associate-level credits toward a bachelor's degree, then ultimately pursue a master's degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. 

What was your journey that led you to work at UAA?

I have a very similar educational path that many of my students experience. After working as a secretary / medical biller for a few years, I went back to school to be an SLP. I completed all of my prerequisite courses for graduate school while working full-time. In graduate school, I balanced coursework, clinical work, and two to three part-time jobs.

After graduate school, I worked as a clinical SLP and adjunct lecturer for eight years, including three years as a traveling SLP. I've worked in almost every clinical setting except for preschool and early intervention. Travel work brought me to Fairbanks, AK, where I ended up staying for four years. During that time, I supervised several UAA graduate SLP students during their graduate clinical externships. Those students created a connection with UAA, and the rest is history!

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a young child, I wanted to be an artist. It turned out that I was pretty bad at all things artistic. As a teenager, my goal was to be a literature professor. Adult me got pretty close to that teenage dream!

Bearded dragon sitting on leg
Megan's bearded dragon, Inara. (Photo by Megan Bennett/University of Alaska Anchorage)

What advice would you give to youth interested in pursuing a career in your field?:

I love working in the field of speech-language pathology, but it's not for everyone. Shadow multiple speech-language pathologists and take a few SLP classes before committing to grad school.

What is your favorite Alaska activity?

I love backcountry snowboarding, so Anchorage is the perfect place to be in the winter. I love the physical challenge that comes with skinning up a peak and the rush of snowboarding through powder on the way down.

What is your favorite quote? 

I keep a quote book to track all of the meaningful quotes I come across. My favorite quote changes all the time. Come see me and ask what the most recent quote in the quote book is!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

During my travel SLP years, I owned an 18-inch bearded dragon named Inara. We traveled between Washington State, California, and Alaska together. She may be the only bearded dragon to travel via car, ferry, and airplane!

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