Finding language links

​For Lauren Lustek, who graduates this month, the chance to explore her passions led to majoring in both Spanish and Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Back to News
Photo by Sarah Morton, College of Letters & Science

How did you come to your majors?

As a freshman, I thought I wanted to study education because I enjoy working with children. I didn’t learn about the Communication Sciences and Disorders major until the middle of my first semester, and the idea of working individually with clients as a speech-language pathologist to help them reach their goals intrigued me. After an introductory language development course, I knew that this field was something I would love because it embodied a lot of my personal interests and values. 

I never thought I would actually major in Spanish. But as I entered introductory literature and culture courses, I knew I wanted to commit to learning a second language. It’s been a nice complement to my more science-oriented major because it allows more creativity and exploration of other cultures.

There’s a shortage of bilingual speech-language pathologists in the U.S., and I’m excited to use my knowledge of Spanish to help children get the appropriate services in schools.

What was a standout course you’ve taken at UW?

German 270: Language and Immigration in Wisconsin, with professor Joseph Salmons. He taught us about languages that have been used in Wisconsin, and their social implications and reasons that certain languages fell out of use. We also discussed more recent waves of immigration since the 1970s. I really appreciated becoming more educated in the history of Wisconsin. 

Over the course of the semester, we worked on individual language research projects, and I studied Norwegian language loss in Eau Claire, my hometown. Through this project, I met with individuals in their 80s and 90s and learned about their experiences speaking Norwegian as a child. I also toured a historical house in Eau Claire that used to be a printing press for one of the most popular Norwegian newspapers in the Midwest.

What’s surprised you most about your college experience?

My involvement in a research lab. I remember believing research would be “boring” because I saw myself working directly with people. I was caught by surprise when I discovered the Little Listeners Lab at the Waisman Center, where I have been a research assistant for the last two and a half years. 

The goal of the project is to better understand why some children with autism spectrum disorder have challenges learning language. When toddlers come to our lab, I video record sessions as the psychologist and speech-language pathologist administer standardized assessments. This has been instrumental in my learning as I will likely be giving some of those same assessments in a few years. 

Do you have plans in place for grad school or life after graduation? 

I’ve applied to graduate schools in the Midwest for speech-language pathology. After becoming a licensed speech-language pathologist, I see myself working in a school, but things may change.

Lauren Lustek works as a student peer advisor for Cross College Advising Services in Dejope Hall.

Why has having space and time to explore been crucial for you?

If I had not given myself a few semesters to explore all my interests, I never would have discovered the realm of Communications Sciences and Disorders. Taking time to enroll in a variety of courses, job shadow, talk with professionals in the field and get some hands-on experience was essential in discovering what I’m truly passionate about. I think there’s a misconception that you need to know what you’re doing your first semester of college, but there are semesters built in to allow you to explore different options you’re contemplating. The only way to really know is to try!

Any advice for other students trying to figure things out?

Talk to the advisors. They’re extremely helpful in linking your interests to careers and what that might look like as a major on campus. Also, join student organizations, volunteer and get involved. You will learn about yourself and what inspires you.