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Caitlyn Merkel
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Caitlyn Merkel

Graduation year: 2022

High school: Somonauk High School

Hometown: Somonauk, Ill.

Majors: Communication sciences and disorders (CSD); communication studies

Activities: Augustana Student Speech, Language, and Hearing Association, Epsilon Sigma Alpha service sorority, Relay for Life, Mortar Board honor society, Campus Ministries, Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society

Internship: Student clinician at Augustana’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic

Post-grad plans: I will be attending Northern Illinois University to pursue a master’s in speech-language pathology.

Why Augustana?

I chose Augustana because of the small class sizes, professors and CSD department. Small class sizes allowed me to get to know my classmates and professors on a personal level. The professors are always willing to help students and provide extra support.

Also, the CSD program is highly recognized and provides undergraduate students an opportunity to work with clients independently while being supervised. My sister graduated from Augie a few years ago, so I felt comfortable on campus.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

I’m not where I thought I would be four years ago. I have gained so much experience from volunteering and through the CSD program. My confidence has grown in my academic work and while providing therapy. Working in the clinic office has allowed me to gain transferrable skills and build connections with the faculty.

As a freshman, I definitely didn’t imagine myself attending an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in Washington, D.C.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

My professors and family have helped me get where I am now. The CSD department has helped me gain knowledge on various subjects, along with supporting me through my grad school search.

My communication studies classes have taught me how to be an effective speaker who is cognizant of others' backgrounds and comfortable speaking on difficult topics.

My clinical supervisors have instilled confidence in me that I will carry with me in graduate school. Most of all, my family’s endless love and encouragement have helped me persist through difficult classes.

Peak experience?

My peak experience was being a student clinician. Working with several different clients and supervisors has taught me new strategies, activities and how to adapt a session based on the client’s needs. I have enjoyed applying what I learned in the classroom to my clinical experience.

Watching my clients succeed over the semester has been a very rewarding feeling. I feel capable of researching, providing intervention and documenting my client’s progress.

What surprised you?

I was surprised by how open the professors were to meeting one-on-one and helping me with difficult assignments. There are many ways to get involved on campus, which allows every student to find a group that fits them. I was able to find lifelong friends and volunteer for organizations that mean a lot to me.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I went to the ASHA Convention in Washington, D.C., my senior year. I attended presentations and seminars to learn more about the field of speech-language pathology. I gathered research for my Senior Inquiry paper about language learning disabilities.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss my friends, professors and chapel the most. Coming home and talking to my roommate about our days was something I looked forward to and will miss. My professors challenged and always encouraged me.

Going to chapel on Wednesday nights allowed me to have a break in the middle of the week where I could re-focus and see friends. The pastors are also very welcoming and caring.

Advice for the Class of 2026?

Get involved in a variety of activities that you are interested in; you never know where you will meet your lifelong friends. One of my favorite quotes is “You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think” by Christopher Robin in "Winnie the Pooh" (A. A. Milne).

"It has been a privilege to work with Caitlyn as she has grown in her clinical skills during her practicum experience at the Roseman Center for Speech, Language, and Hearing. She cares deeply about the success of her clients with communication disorders and commits whole-heartedly to providing quality intervention for them. I am sure that she will continue to represent what is best about Augustana College and the speech-language pathology profession in her future."

– Terrina Gosa, clinical supervisor, communication sciences and disorders