Speech-language pathology, special education students set for two-week trip to Costa Rica

Speech-language pathology, special education students set for two-week trip to Costa Rica

12 May 2016     By Kelcey Buck

Eight graduate and eight undergraduate students, along with four faculty members from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders will travel to Costa Rica for a pair of study abroad experiences May 14-28.

Associate professor of practice Sue Kemp and professor John Maag will lead a group of eight undergraduate students – five in speech-language pathology, two in special education and one in early childhood special education – to Monteverde, Costa Rica. The group will work through the Monteverde Institute to spend time in both public and private schools in Monteverde, a mountain town about 100 miles northwest of San José.

It marks the second year that Kemp and Maag will lead a group to Monteverde. Last year’s group was the first hosted by the Monteverde Institute, and worked directly in the schools.

“Last year was a lot of relationship building and gaining trust within the schools,” Kemp said. “So now, going back for a second year, the teachers and everyone there have been much more open to us this year.”

In the public schools, their work will focus on practicing English. In the private schools, where English speaking is the norm, they will be giving assessments for English acquisition, as well as teaching the teachers how to administer those assessments so they can better monitor their students’ progress. In addition, the group from Nebraska will learn about sustainability and ecotourism while in Monteverde.

Alicia Davis and Diane Farrand, both lecturers and supervisors at the Barkley Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, will lead a group of eight speech-language pathology graduate students on a separate field experience in Heredia, Costa Rica, a small suburb of San José. There, the group will spend its days providing accent modification services to 67 employees at Fiserv, a financial services technology company headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., that also has an office in Lincoln.

In the spring of 2012, Nebraska’s speech-language pathology program began a partnership with Fiserv that involved students from the university working with associates in Costa Rica via telepractice. Three years later, Davis and Farrand took their first group of students to meet and work with clients in person in Heredia. Now four years after the initial partnership, students continue to work with clients via telepractice in both Costa Rica and India in the fall and spring semesters, meeting with them two times per week for 14 weeks.

“I hope what the students take away from this unique experience are the opportunities to improve professionalism and clinical skills that are applicable in a variety of settings,” Davis said. “Last year’s group enjoyed both being able to travel and accomplishing work in the process.”

While in Costa Rica, the students will work with groups of Fiserv associates in one-hour blocks from about 8-5 on eight workdays. The students will return to the United States with about 40-45 hours of clinical experience, nearly as many as they may gain in an entire semester. In addition, the Nebraska students will learn about corporate speech pathology services while experiencing realistic workdays.

In addition to their work in the schools, each of the eight students in Kemp and Maag’s group will live with a host family for the duration of their time in Monteverde. The speech-language pathology graduate students working in Heredia will have their lodging and food provided by Fiserv.

To follow along with the two groups’ trips to Costa Rica, visit their respective Facebook pages at go.unl.edu/yirq (Monteverde group) and go.unl.edu/sirv (Fiserv group).

Special Education and Communication Disorders